As businesses continue to adopt artificial intelligence technologies to support more processes within their operations, many are seeing tangible benefits, including material gains.
The Global AI Survey from McKinsey & Co., released in November 2019, found that 63% of responding executives reported revenue increases thanks to AI, while 44% cited reduced costs as a result of the technology.
Not all reports, to be sure, have found the benefits of AI for business to be as immediate. For example, a study released in October 2019 from MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group, titled "Winning With AI," found that although 90% of respondents believe AI represents a business opportunity for their companies, the vast majority (70%) have seen minimal or no impact from AI so far.
While these are early days for AI in the enterprise, leading authorities have identified multiple areas where AI can bring improvements in organizations. Here are six key benefits of AI for business.
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6 key benefits of AI for business
- Efficiency and productivity gains. Efficiency and productivity gains are two of the most-often cited benefits of implementing AI within the enterprise. The technology handles tasks at a pace and scale that humans can't match. At the same time, by removing such tasks from human workers' responsibilities, AI allows those workers to move to higher-value tasks that technology can't do. This allows organizations to minimize the costs associated with performing mundane, repeatable tasks that can be performed by technology while maximizing the talent of their human capital.
"CIOs need to see where AI can help functions do more with less time and less resources, so they can [enhance] the experience for employees and users alike," said Beena Ammanath, AI managing director with Deloitte Consulting LLP.
- Speeding up the pace of business. As fast as business moves in this digital age, AI will help it move even faster, said Karen Panetta, a fellow with the technical professional organization IEEE and Tufts University professor of electrical and computer engineering. AI enables shorter development cycles and cuts the time it takes to move from design to commercialization, and that shortened timeline in turn delivers better, and more immediate, ROI on development dollars.
- New capabilities and business model expansion. Executives can use AI for business model expansion, said Chris Brahm, a partner and director with Bain & Company, and leader of the firm's global Advanced Analytics practice.
"As you deploy data and analytics into the enterprise, it opens up new opportunities for businesses to participate in different areas," he explained.
For example, autonomous vehicle companies, with the reams of data they're collecting, could identify new revenue streams related to insurance, while an insurance company could use AI on its vast data stores to get into fleet management.
- Customer needs. Customer service was No. 2 on the list of business areas where companies expect to reap value for AI, according to the MIT/Boston Consulting Group survey -- right behind operations/manufacturing.
Delivering a positive customer experience has become the price of doing business, said Seth Earley, author of The AI-Powered Enterprise and CEO of Earley Information Science.
"We're trying to embody everything we know about the customer, the customer's needs, our solutions and the competition and then present to the customer what they need when they need it," Earley said. "If we had a salesperson who could do that for everyone, that would be great, but we don't."
AI, however, can do all that and more, leading to more customized and personalized interactions between organizations and each individual customer.
- Monitoring. AI's capacity to take in and process data in real time means organizations can implement near-instantaneous monitoring capabilities that have the capacity to alert them to issues, recommend action and, in some cases, to even initiate a response, Ammanath said.
For example, AI can take information gathered by devices on factory equipment to identify problems in those machines as well as predict what maintenance will be needed when, thereby preventing costly and disruptive breakdowns as well as the cost of maintenance work performed because it's scheduled rather than because it's clearly needed.
AI's monitoring capabilities can be similarly effective in other areas, such as in enterprise cybersecurity operations where large amounts of data needs to be analyzed and understood.
- Better quality. Organizations can expect a reduction of errors as well as stronger adherence to established standards when they add AI technologies to processes, according to Madhu Bhattacharyya, managing director and global leader of Protiviti's Enterprise Data and Analytics practice.
The use of AI in financial reconciliation, for example, would deliver error-free results whereas that same reconciliation when handled, even in part, by human employees is prone to mistakes. "Can you maintain better quality with AI? Yes, you can," Bhattacharyya said.
In addition to the benefits listed above, AI can fuel numerous industry-specific improvements. Here are three examples, from Shervin Khodabandeh, a managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group and co-leader of its AI business in North America:
- Retailers can use AI to better target their marketing efforts, develop a more efficient supply chain and better calculate pricing for optimal returns. At retail companies where humans do the majority of the work, AI will help predict customer requirements and appropriate staffing levels.
- The pharmaceutical sector can use the technology to perform drug-discovery data analysis and predictions that can't be done with conventional technologies.
- The financial industry can use AI to strengthen its fraud detection efforts.