A Capgemini exclusive: What does it take to be an AI-driven enterprise?
In an era being shaped by global economic, political and technological challenges, CEOs must confront many uncertainties as they map the future of their business. One trend is clear however: the growing importance of data in shaping critical business decisions. How CEOs handle, manage and utilise data will, to a great degree, define their own success as they navigate their digital journeys.
In an exclusive with Business Chief Europe, Zhiwei Jiang, CEO, Insights & Data at Capgemini, shares his insight into how CEOs can harness AI in order to drive a company's success.
The turn of the decade has sparked new questions around technological innovation, and more specifically, the pace of change.
Through the likes of blockchain, cloud and artificial intelligence (AI), technology is shaping the world at a speed we haven’t experienced since the dot-com era. While this level of innovation has transformed the entire enterprise, it has also created an increasing challenge for business leaders who are trying to use data as their most powerful asset and gain actionable insights in the process.
With the correct infrastructure in place, the effective management of data and its interpretation through analytics, businesses of all sizes can secure a significant competitive advantage. However, in order to achieve this, an organisation must be prepared to maximise its analysis of technology today, while simultaneously planning for the technology of the future. But where should businesses start when it comes to the latter?
In the realms of actionable insights and data, there are several trends for business leaders to keep in mind to inform their long-term strategy. These include:
The only constant is change
Technology within the enterprise is evolving so quickly that even key decision makers may struggle to keep up with how everything works. This is particularly true for AI - the most-hyped technology of the last decade but also being used as a very broad term for an incredibly colorful spectrum of solutions. Whether you’re implementing AI at scale or just experimenting with initial projects, it can provide highly valuable data and insights for your business - but only if the strategy is sound.
Business leaders need to understand the opportunities AI presents and openly discuss how they can harness this technology for the future. Nearly three-quarters of companies say that AI brings new insights, improves data analysis, and helps them make better decisions. Resisting the implementation of AI is no longer an option as this will have serious ramifications on how businesses progress. Leaders need to see AI as an enabler to help solve business challenges and apply compelling strategic vision to their overarching goal.
Decision makers will need to keep pace with this change if they want to stay ahead of the competition and look at where AI can be activated. That means reskilling people to ensure they can use it to transcend the current capacity of an organisation’s resources.
There will be uneven levels of progress
Last year AI was set to disrupt and improve multiple industries; however, different sectors are now innovating at different paces and we should anticipate an increased gap between the leaders and the laggards. Decision makers need to consider how this gap will affect their business - from their development strategy to their organisational structure - and where this will create more opportunities for them to thrive.
Those organisations that are still hesitant to adopt AI must recognise the higher-than-expected benefits of implementing advanced technologies like this. From stronger reputation and improved customer satisfaction, to a positive impact on revenue and business growth - these should encourage every sector to jump on board.
For those falling behind, there are valuable learnings to gain from those leading the charge. Understanding the limitations of what can and cannot be done with AI is imperative to business’ success, along with learning how certain processes and decisions work within the organisation before automating them. Decision makers who are looking to adopt AI into their business should first look at pitfalls others have already come across and resolved, as doing so will save valuable time and money.
A focus on data-driven AI
There are two key trends for AI in the enterprise at present: Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). These only touch the spectrum of what AI could present in the future and for businesses to understand and depict how AI can be beneficial for them.
We know that ANI is already being adopted across multiple industries, representing all the existing capabilities of AI with systems that perform a task autonomously using human-like attributes. With this technology, machines can do nothing more than what they are programmed to do and thus have a very limited or narrow range of competencies. However, with AGI, also known as human-level AI, machines can achieve complex goals in different environments without any computational limitations, just like humans can.
Organisations must not only learn how to utilise the AI technology, but, more importantly, how to use data from this to define their ongoing business strategy.
Leaders should be prepared for the AI landscape to continuously change as this technology advances with researchers already looking at the possibilities of implementing AGI within this decade.
The creation of a data culture
Finally, deploying the right technology is crucial to unlocking success with data. However, that’s only part of it. To build a truly data-driven organisation, business leaders need to create an environment where employees collectively value and encourage the use of data as a key strategic asset when making any business decision.
There has already been an increase in AI-focused roles within the C-suite in the last year for this reason. Organisations which are ahead of the curve are using this role – such as a Head of AI or Chief Data Strategist - to actively push a data culture that helps their business thrive.
As with most organisations, change is shaped by the leadership team, but also depends heavily on employee involvement and implementation from the grassroots.
The catalyst for success is for both leaders and employees to understand the various elements and benefits AI will bring to an organisation. This shouldn’t be seen as an add-on initiative or isolated project; it needs to be infused into the fabric of the business.
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Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”