AI will probably be running your business better than you in 2028
Rob Lith, Business Development Director at Connection Telecom
Many local businesses, especially SMEs, consider AI “Tomorrow’s problem.” Failure to prioritise its adoption, though, could hobble your organisation in an increasingly competitive, fast-moving and disrupted business environment.
The average South African may be familiar with AI (artificial intelligence) via virtual assistants like Siri, but the technology – where algorithms are applied to data for findings that greatly improve decision-making, customer experiences and products – is already at play in business locally.
In the financial services sector, AI is assisting investment bankers in their product recommendations as it’s unaffected by human emotional bias and memory lapses. The same analysis could be used by a cellphone retailer to pinpoint the best offer for a customer by cross-referencing their profile with the business’s full catalogue. In both cases, AI is not making the final decision, but deepening the decision-making process.
From a telecommunications perspective, AI chatbots can summon credit scores instantly and enable real-time automated transcription of phone calls. In future, it will be possible to detect customer emotion through voice analysis – using Google Cloud Natural Language API, for example – and alert call centre agents.
AI has uses beyond customer-facing interactions too. For logistics companies it effortlessly optimises delivery routes, helping to save time and fuel spend.
The future of business requires a balance of proactivity and rapid reactivity. Without AI to enhance operations, an organisation runs the risk of becoming too slow – giving advantage to more agile competitors as greater efficiency becomes the customer expectation norm.
What can you do to integrate AI into your organisation?
Use what’s available
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google have thousands of developers working on AI. You could invest in proprietary systems but there’s already a massive selection of micro services available from major providers and other developers. Leverage off them.
Even if you aren’t ready to fully embrace AI, any decisions you make now, especially around your CRM platform, should consider the ability to connect to AI services. A rigid standalone system will prevent you from taking advantage of AI functionality. And as each provider has specific strengths, your software should be able to integrate with multiple AI services.
Embrace the cloud
AI and its companion process, machine learning, crunch massive amounts of data. Unless your organisation is well-resourced, you may not be able to store and process all this information. The vast majority of analytics-focused solutions are cloud-based, removing infrastructure burden from your shoulders. To take advantage of this, you’ll need a reliable high-speed internet connection to transmit information to and from providers.
Educate and equip your workforce
Given the claims that AI will cause job loss, it’s important to get staff accepting of AI. In some spheres, it’s likely employee numbers will increase to handle the greater number of enquiries made possible by AI. Even in industries like mining and automotive assembly – where the integration of robotics and AI seems more likely to cost jobs – new positions will appear, and coding will become essential. The best thing a company could do today, then, is to start educating and upskilling employees for an AI-enabled future.
In short, there’s no reason to be intimidated by AI. As its analytical capabilities becomes more sophisticated, it’s likely to become even more beneficial in business, evolving from a useful tool to a reliable partner, drawing without emotion on a wealth of information to advise, but always leaving the final decision to the business owner. Companies right now should turn to solution providers to bring this invaluable colleague on board before it’s too late to catch up.