There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) has become a buzzword in the ever-changing technological world we now live in. The arrival of AI has set the bar to an unprecedented level for businesses – from driving innovation across a whole company, to improving customer experience and operational processes. Now, the successful deployment of AI brings vast opportunities on a global scale. In the UK, for instance, the impact of AI on jobs and productivity is being debated in Parliament as well as in businesses – and even now around dinner tables.
But it’s making that deployment ‘successful’ that is still causing issues. We conducted research of IT decision makers, and found that UK companies have a long way to go before they are successfully reaping the rewards of AI.
While many companies have embarked on their automation journey, spending an average of £3.1m per company on AI technologies – with large businesses investing over £6.5 million – those that try to jump on the AI bandwagon are also faced with a number of barriers to entry. These include a lack of expertise in the technology, difficulty creating the right infrastructure, and not having a long-term deployment strategy.
Plugging the gap
The UK’s investment in automation projects averages £1.2m per company, but the research suggests that an overwhelming 67 per cent are not educating staff on how to use it, with one in six claiming their business had no strategy in place or were not aware of one. This indicates a substantial automation skills gap in the UK. An increased focus on strategy would also benefit businesses struggling to make the most of automation and AI, as 61 per cent of businesses only have a plan for up to five years.
Enterprises must focus on improving education and strategy to avoid missing out on the automation solutions that will help them succeed on their digital transformation journey. Engaging employees from the offset will be crucial. This could include running training programmes around technology, to roll out widespread understanding of AI and automation, and at a latter stage even involving employees in decisions on which technologies will be deployed and why. AI and automation require as much of a cultural shift as a technological one – and one won’t work without the other.
Content-centric process automation
Content-centric process automation in particular beat businesses’ expectations, with over 62 per cent seeing improved efficiency and benefits from their automation investments. There are huge opportunities for early adopters of new-generation technologies – from productivity gains to revenue growth and business transformation.
Businesses who are seeing the best results from automation are those with the expertise and foresight to investigate further than just AI. Only 1 in 20 businesses are using the full automation stack, but any IT manager worth his salt will tell you that you’ll see the best results from a combination of technologies, working in tandem – mirroring the mixed-skill employee teams that are characterising modern workplaces.
AI beyond just IT
The need for specialised skills to work with AI and automation technologies is predicted to create a hiring spree for employees in IT departments and beyond. However, with departments like Finance and HR starting to become more automation-driven, the need for the right skills extends far beyond just the IT team. To accelerate tech offerings, businesses will need to invest time and money into sourcing the best talent with the best skills for the job, or risk falling behind the competition.
The finance department is a good example of where automation is already making a huge impact. Our future financial workforce will increasingly expect organisations to adopt innovative AP automation to remove mundane and repetitive tasks, and boost productivity. This will, in turn, put greater impetus on employers to recognise and embrace the higher value their employees can bring. Without automation, AP staff spend their working weeks performing repetitive tasks, including printing invoices from emails, coding data into systems, matching invoice line items to purchase orders, and managing approval workflow. All of this is prone to error, and increases the need for manual effort resolving issues later in the process.
This case extends beyond finance – to HR, for example, where automated CV screening through content IQ technologies can free up time spent on manual document processing. Instead, this time can be spent on educating employees around the use of these technologies – creating a long-term approach to automation that works for an entire business.
It’s clear, then, that making it work requires not only monetary investment, but also a watertight, long-term strategy and the right people with the right skill-sets.
Businesses must employ a long-term strategy to realise the full potential of automation, and seamlessly implement AI into the workplace. To ensure businesses remain competitive, AI solutions must be trained and customised to fit the company’s specific needs, focusing on accuracy, reliability, and speed.
In order to minimise complexity and reduce the dependence on IT experts for configuration, businesses need to develop platforms and solutions that are easy to use. It is imperative, therefore, that companies apply a more agile approach to AI and automation, and recognise complementary technologies such as content and process automation, to achieve their ambitious digital transformation goals. By implementing this, the impact of AI will be felt beyond just business, and make an impact on the whole world.
Neil Murphy, Global VP, ABBYY