Wake up and smell the ro...bots. In an age of technological revolution where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is transforming business, computer scientist Alan Kay’s headline quote about the future is more relevant than ever.
Put simply, smart businesses today must either innovate or die. It’s the new digital economy’s survival of the fittest, and no industry will be left untouched.
Look at how far we have come in the last 10 years. The birth of social networks, rise of the cloud and proliferation of connected devices has completely transformed how we do business. We can work, connect with colleagues and access files anywhere at anytime.
We take wi-fi, smartphones and business tools such as Slack, Google Drive and Dropbox for granted now- but a few years ago they were just a twinkle in their developer’s eye. (No doubt while they were high on LSD in some garage somewhere).
This is just the beginning.
The Rise of the Robots
Think that artificial intelligence and machine learning is a thing of the future? Think again.
Just this week, Microsoft has united with Elon Musk on a breakthrough Open AI project seeking to ‘develop AI to benefit all of humanity.’And in September, tech titans Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft joined forces to form ‘Partnership on AI’ that aims to set societal and ethical best practices for artificial intelligence research.
Having invested heavily in this technology for some time, we are already seeing considerable developments.
Look at Google’s Self-Driving Cars for example. Originally, autonomous vehicles were limited to very controlled environments, based around the simple ‘if-then-else’ algorithms, eg. if another car approaches the vehicle, then slow down.
That is until prediction technology became cheaper and Google instead asked:
“What would a human driver do?”
This was revolutionary. By kitting the cars out with multiple sensors and cameras and collecting millions of miles of driving and environmental data, the cars now learn to predict how us humans react to every piece of incoming data.
Helping Blind People See
Self-driving cars are just the start. Facebook claims that they are helping blind people ‘see’ photos by using AI to narrate them via its iOS app. Zuckerberg is also reportedly using AI to further his mission of connecting the world to the internet by producing detailed maps that illustrate population density and internet connectivity worldwide.
Amazon already uses drones in its warehouses, and their Prime Air project is working on Delivery Drones to actually deliver consumer packages. While Apple is deciding, in typical fashion, to not join the alliance and go it alone after acquiring AI startups Emotient and Vocal IQ in the last year.
What Does This Mean for You?
Yes, this is all very cool, but how does this surge in innovation translate to businesses in other industries such as consulting, aviation or construction?
We don’t all have the budgets and technological aspirations of these tech giants. You may think that technology has little place in your company, not at this level anyhow. You want to concentrate on launching in that new market, overtaking that new competitor, smashing that new revenue target.
Your current business processes and operations are working just fine right? My message to you is- don’t get complacent.
If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. - Albert Einstein
Einstein was onto something here. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ simply doesn’t resonate anymore in this business climate. Too often we overlook the simple, more mundane business processes and focus on the bigger picture. Without realising that only by automating these processes do we actually free up the time to really innovate and be forward-thinking.
So look around you. Are there any processes in your company that can be automated in order to free up extra time, money and resources?
The Joy of Automation
Let’s start with your sales funnel. Do you really need to provide personal support to each and every customer, even the smaller ones, or can your sales’ team’s time be better allocated elsewhere?
We know that you pride yourself on customer support, but sales software has come a long way. Software such as Hubspot and Intercom enables you to automate, and track, your sales process while offering an incredibly high level of personalisation- to the extent that your end customer won’t even realise that it’s not a real human being behind that email or notification.
How about HR? Talent is crucial to your company’s success. But why spend time dealing with recruitment agencies and endless third parties when you can automate the process instead. Mobile platforms such as Job and Talent lets the talent come to you, saving you vital time, money and resources.
And then there’s finance. Of course. Just think of them sitting there surrounded by countless excel sheets and files and receipts. Poor lost souls. Imagine the time they could save if they didn’t have to chase client payments, and employee timesheets, and countless business expenses.
Time tracking tools like Toggl are a godsend when it comes to keeping track of your employee’s hours, and logging accurate data against specific clients and projects. Especially in climate where we hire more and more contractors and encourage remote working.
Speaking of remote working. When working from home, or travelling for business, expense management can be time consuming and demoralising. Just think of the time you could save if you got rid of those endless receipts and excel sheets, and your finance team didn’t have to double check and verify each and every claim.
SaaS platforms such as Xpenditure automate the whole expense process for you, taking the time and hassle out of expense management.
Ok, so automating your sales, financial and HR processes may not spawn you the next army of world-saving robots. But it does free up your time and resources for innovation, to keep you competitive in this digital economy.
After all, in the words of Lao Tzu, A Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts with a Simple Step.