Artificial intelligence is no longer only being used by the minority. As automated technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, more and more businesses are assessing their AI readiness, writes Wayne Butterfield, Director at Information Services Group.
As we enter an age where intelligent machines can more efficiently do the jobs of many humans, businesses face a key challenge – how to prepare their workplace, and just as importantly their workforce, for this seismic shift in business operations and working culture.
Research from Microsoft has recently revealed that although 1 in 4 business leaders believe they will have to dramatically change the way they work in the next 5 years because of AI, less than half have an AI strategy in place to address the challenges new technologies present to the workplace.
The reskilling and upskilling of workers is going to be crucial as businesses look towards the future, and while an AI transformation may be a while off, it is essential that businesses prepare and avoid being left behind.
For many people, the mention of bots in the workplace immediately conjures up fears of job losses and a changing status quo, but the reality of AI is quite different. While these new technologies will indeed be able to perform many of the tasks that human workers complete now, we are more likely to see a marked change in employee roles and skill sets, rather than mass job losses.
As a result, organisations should now start to define the skill sets necessary for success in this increasingly automated future, and re-skill their employees in preparation. Probably the most important capability that employees will learn will be the handling of data, be it data management, analysis or interrogation.
While AI can assist in everything from fraud detection to analysing sales margins, existing human employees will be invaluable in their ability to extract the data that machines produce, analyse the findings and apply these to their customers and markets, while collaborating with the machines to improve and optimise processes.
The Human Line Manager
The reality is that no matter how advanced it appears; artificial intelligence will always need to be managed to some degree. Human employees will be required to provide checks and balances, stepping in to evaluate and ratify machine-led findings or processes. As well as providing valuable oversight, these human line managers will also be a key component in allowing AI to learn and improve.
Take for example, the healthcare industry, a sector in which the use of AI is rapidly advancing. Recent years have presented a wealth of examples of how AI can transform the sector; from its impact on radiology and the identification of fractures, to cancer research and the ability to predict patient vulnerabilities to certain forms of cancer.
Developments in this sector present a good case study of how AI and humans can work together. In this case, human employees – doctors, nurses and other medical staff – are not replaced by machines, but have become interpreters and trainers, filling the gaps in knowledge, assessing machine deductions and therefore teaching the AI how to improve results going forward. This type of AI coaching is a skill that will become even more desirable by employers as AI gets to grips with an ever-increasing number of business problems across an ever-increasing number of industry verticals.
It is indisputable that AI in the workplace is here to stay and fast accelerating. The onus is now on businesses to prepare for this future and to create an environment whereby humans work side by side with AI in a way that brings out the best in both. The winners in this new world will be those who can best leverage the reliability, accuracy and cost-effectiveness of AI with the creativity and imaginative skills of humans.