Artificial Intelligence Tools Transforming Business World


(Business Consultant Marshall Snider (right) head of AuthenticUS, Expands on Artificial Intelligence (AI) as Guest Speaker at the Prineville/Crook County Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) Quarterly Mixer, Moderated by Chris Piper (left) Area Manager with Event Co-Sponsor BBSI | Photo by Simon Mather)

Prineville EDCO Speaker Tells How to Harness New Tech’s Revolutionary Power

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a key role in transforming efficiency and strategy in the business world, specialist guest speaker Marshall Snider told a recent Prineville/Crook County economic forum. Business and community leaders attending the local branch of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO’s) regular quarterly mixer at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Prineville, heard how the fast-growing next-generation AI field had the potential to revolutionize the future for small and medium-sized companies. Snider, a business consultant and leadership expert who heads AuthenticUS, is an early adapter to the benefits of cognitive technology for businesses eager to harness its evolutionary power and he himself uses it “on a daily basis.”

AI is already radically changing industries by simulating human intelligence in machines that have the capacity for “deep learning” through neural networks and encompasses a range of technologies and techniques that enable computers to perform tasks that typically require human cognitive functions. “AI is a disruptor in the business world, much like the Apple iPhone was after its introduction,” Snider said. “A big question is: how do we handle it as business leaders, because, whether we like it or not, it is here to stay. Those who want to delve into this area need to stay ahead of the curve, and we have seen AI schools popping up on a widespread basis, with MBA-level programs available. As businesspeople, what do we want to do with it? Are we going to embrace it for best use cases, and develop a relevant policy with team leaders? It may be wise to conduct an audit of current operations and assess at what level AI may be brought in and to see what scenarios it could help with, so business leaders can concentrate on other critical areas such as business development.”

The broad category of AI has two branches that serve distinct purposes. Generative AI focuses on creating new content, while predictive AI leverages historical data to forecast future outcomes. These technologies harness machine learning algorithms and deep learning to achieve their respective goals.

Generative AI refers to a type of artificial intelligence that involves training models to create original content. These models learn patterns from existing data and generate new data based on those patterns. In the context of images, text, or even music, generative AI tools produce outputs that are not directly copied from the training data but rather are unique creations inspired by the patterns it has learned.

Predictive AI, also known as predictive analytics, is a subset of AI technology that focuses on using historical data and machine learning algorithms to analyze patterns and make predictions about future events or trends. This type of AI technology aims to help companies and individuals make informed decisions by forecasting likely outcomes based on available data.

Recent surveys point to growing number of companies experimenting with AI.

An April 2023 poll of 254 technology leaders by professional services firm EY found that 90% of respondents are exploring platforms like ChatGPT and Bing Chat, and 80% are planning to increase their investments in AI in 2024.

Open AI’s ChatGPT is an example of generative AI in action, with this chatbot operating on the foundation of a large language model (LLM), trained on vast amounts of data to produce human-like text.

Due to its advanced features and functionality, ChatGPT has attracted over 100 million users worldwide and supports numerous use cases. These include real-time chatbots and virtual assistants, music, and lyric generation and more.

It has also been a valuable tool for drafting emails, crafting resumes and cover letters tailored to specific job descriptions, and assisting in various other writing tasks. “It is like having the smartest intern you have ever had!” Snider said, referring to ChatGPT. “Some people fear the rise of AI will lead to job losses, but it is not going to take jobs away from those who harness its potential. On the other hand, it could adversely affect companies that are not understanding how it can be used and integrated. “You can type in a text prompt and immediately create a minute-long video, or you can take data (for example, from Excel spreadsheets) and ask the software to analyze trends — indicating where performance is down and where to focus energy, as well as suggesting strategies for improvement.”

Snider added the marketing industry was getting “hammered,” as now it is easier to create campaigns in-house using AI capabilities rather than through external agencies. “A lot of people may be interested in or understand AI but are not using it in the right way,” he said. “We need to learn how to create the appropriate prompt to engineer the pulling out of relevant data, all while staying compliant and checking over results with a second set of eyes, such as Grammarly.” (Grammarly is a cloud-based typing assistant, headquartered in San Francisco which reviews spelling, grammar, punctuation, clarity, engagement, and delivery mistakes in English texts, detects plagiarism, and suggests replacements for any identified errors.)

“You can reverse engineer to some extent to create the appropriate tone, emotion and voice but need to be cognizant that the software will use everything that it is given in terms of input,” Snider continued. “For many people, the extent of AI may be putting on a headset and walking on a floor that moves with you, but there are endless useful practical applications — ChatGPT is like having a co-pilot for your business. It can be particularly applicable to customer service and indeed people report trusting a bot more than a human that may have a tendency to try to upsell. AI can help identify warm leads and opens doors to add value and significance.”

At the heart of generative AI lies deep learning, a subset of machine learning that employs multilayered neural networks to capture intricate patterns in vast amounts of data. These deep neural networks can generate complex data structures, making them foundational to generative AI. It can also improve decision-making by helping to identify new business opportunities, flag operational roadblocks, determine effective ways to personalize offerings and outreach based on customer data and prepare for potential challenges.

Executives have latterly indicated that they are looking at AI to increase efficiencies, boost productivity, lower costs, create competitive advantages and meet rapidly changing market expectations. Advances in AI tools have also been credited with making the technology more accessible to organizations. Data security, process automation and customer care are some of the top areas where companies have been applying AI, though the general trend is to widen its influence and adopt it into nearly every part of an enterprise.

Organizations for years have used AI to automate many manual tasks, such as data entry, but now increasingly are using next-generation intelligence such as generative AI to handle cognitive tasks such as summarizing reports and drafting communications. It is particularly adept in tackling so-called “grind” work as opposed to special experience tasks. Even when tasks cannot be automated, experts say AI can still assist workers by offering advice and guidance that helps “level up” performance.

It is also useful in accessing and organizing knowledge, enabling workers to not only search through large amounts of information but also organize and summarize those elements — though again it should be stressed that currently, the technology may not be reliable enough to use without human oversight or review. AI systems such as ChatGPT do not always have all the data sets needed to reach accurate and complete conclusions.

Optimization is another use, with AI-based business applications able to use algorithms and modeling to turn data into actionable insights on how businesses can optimize a range of functions and business processes — whether that be worker schedules or product pricing.

Another top reason, other than the automation of repetitive tasks, is to boost productivity and generate more efficiencies. Many organizations are exploring how to use intelligence software to customize educational plans and make learning more effective and tailored to each worker’s needs. In a related application, organizations are deploying AI-powered systems that coach employees as they work. The technology has the capability to monitor and analyze actions in near real-time and provide feedback, thereby coaching or guiding workers through processes or decision-making, like a workplace “co-pilot.”

Professionals already use such Decision Support System (DSS) software including one version that helps accountants wade through voluminous tax laws to identify the most beneficial tax strategies for clients. Improved quality control software with deep learning abilities can improve the speed and accuracy of quality control functions while keeping costs in check. Delivering personalized customer services and experience is one of the most prominent use cases for AI, using identifiers from multiple sources to understand motivations and create personalized experiences.

AI is being used to improve safety for a variety of industries feeding monitoring data into intelligent systems to identify problems and receiving suggestions on potential solutions. Meanwhile, marketing uses intelligent systems to understand customers and their buying patterns, so they can create targeted marketing campaigns with a relatively higher success rate. The supply chain function uses algorithms to forecast what will be needed when and the optimal time to move supplies, helping create more efficient cost-effective supply chains by minimizing overstocking and the risk of running short of in-demand products. Human Resources functions use AI-powered systems to help write better job postings, identify, and screen potential candidates and create personalized training programs.

The Harvard Business Review recently contrasted two approaches relevant to anyone planning AI initiatives. A survey of 250 executives familiar with their companies’ use of cognitive technology showed that three-quarters of them believe that AI will substantially transform their companies within three years. However, a companion study of 152 projects in almost as many companies revealed that highly ambitious “moon shots” are as yet less likely to be successful than “low-hanging fruit” projects that enhance business processes.

This may not be surprising — as such has been the case with the great majority of new technologies that companies have adopted in the past, but the hype surrounding artificial intelligence has been especially powerful, and some organizations have been eagerly seduced by it. Broadly speaking, AI can be seen to support three main business needs: automating business processes, gaining insight through data analysis, and engaging with customers and employees.

“For companies it may seem daunting to find how to begin with AI, but it is essential to have conversations about how to learn about artificial intelligence and how to effectively integrate it into operations,” Snider concluded. “Knowledge without understanding is just philosophy or ignorance.”

The EDCO mixer event is for current members to get together, along with new members, to learn more about EDCO’s work and partner organizations that impact the economic development market locally.

They are hosted quarterly at various local businesses — most recently in collaboration with lead sponsor BBSI, moderated by Area Manager Chris Piper — offering a casual setting to network with other business leaders and stakeholders and spotlighting different timely topics each quarter.


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