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Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace

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Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t just the stuff of science fiction movies. In fact, the ability for machines to learn from experience, recognize patterns and perform tasks in human-like ways has big implications for businesses of all kinds and sizes.

According to a 2017 report from MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group, almost 85 percent of the business executives interviewed think that AI will enable their companies to either get or maintain a competitive advantage. But fewer than 39 percent of companies have an AI strategy in place, and only about one in five companies has incorporated AI in some kind of way.

Reema Bhatia, co-founder of Stickboy Creative, a Fort Myers software development, website design and mobile app development company, says that Southwest Florida companies who don’t think about how they can use AI run the risk of falling behind. “If they don’t start predicting their customers’ behavior, they’re not going to be able to serve their customers better than their competition, and they’re in danger of becoming obsolete,” she says. “In order to stay relevant and survive in a competitive landscape, it’s very important that AI becomes a part of your growth plan.”

Not sure where to start? Bhatia shares her top tips and advice for incorporating AI into your business.

Understand why you want to use AI.

Do you want to use AI to better comprehend your customers, predict their buying patterns or create a recommendation engine? Or could AI help you automate processes and increase efficiency? “Just having AI for the sake of having it is very expensive and impractical,” says Bhatia. “Having a solid plan and knowing how it’s going to fit into your current IT or technology is extremely important.”

Don’t be a creature of habit.

“From my personal experiences, most people do what they do on a daily basis and don’t even realize what they could cut down on with the potential of technology,” says Bhatia. “How do you identify something when it’s so ingrained in your company culture?” Be willing to explore the different ways AI could work for your company.

Don’t think a small business can’t benefit from AI.

“The thing people don’t realize is that they can employ AI tools,” says Bhatia. “We do it all day long for our customers in the software we create for them, but they don’t realize they can have the power of AI for their business.” And for a smaller business, she says, it can not only increase efficiency but also potentially open up new possibilities for growth.

Start small and build from there.

Bhatia says many businesses are concerned about what using AI will cost them. But a small firm shouldn’t approach AI the way Apple or Facebook might. “Start off with a small project and see the ROI on it before going gung-ho,” she says. That’s also a great way to make sure the company providing your AI services can truly deliver on what it promises, especially since AI is still a relatively new field.

Don’t let your current employees stand in your way.

Staff members may express fears that AI will take their jobs away. Don’t ignore those concerns, but don’t let them scare you away from AI, either. And look at the data: According to a 2017 study done by consulting firm Capgemini, 63 percent of the organizations surveyed have not seen a negative effect on jobs from AI, and most execs said that AI has in fact resulted in the creation of new jobs.

“Your employees should want to be part of a team that is looking to the future,” says Bhatia. “The purpose of AI can be anything you want it to be. If you are using AI to serve your customers better and to make your business more efficient, why would your employees not want to be part of a better operation for your company? If someone wants to hold you back from progress, do they have the best interests of the company at heart?” 

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