Artificial Intelligence is bandied around the office. There’s plenty of information online, but is your business using it? If not yet, where could it be using it sometime soon?
Machine Learning, Biometrics, and Robotic Process Automation are in use right now and growing in popularity, not just with the big businesses but also startups, SMEs and everything in between.
Adext’s report included 19 AI Technologies to look for in 2019, and it’s well worth a read. In this article, we consider three types that mainstream business can no longer live without.
Listed in no particular order, you may have heard of these AL technologies, but you’re not aware of what they do, or how businesses use them.
Where Business Is Using AI
Digital marketing & advertising, research and administration, are key areas of business that see a massive change with AI, specifically, these AI techs: RPA, Biometrics and ML. It’s no surprise the outlook is bright for Data Scientists in these areas that companies need to build data science teams to convert their data into helpful business insights.
Let’s now look at the areas using AI in more detail.
A branch of AI, this tech has been around for a while.
Machine Learning (ML) develops techniques so computers can automatically learn and improve from experience. It’s used right now to predict and classify data; hence it’s been a game-changer for advertising platforms like Google Ads.
Analysis of vast quantities of data, in quick-smart time, all the while delivering accuracy has relieved many of us from jobs involving mundane, repetitive tasks.
ML gets its data from APIs, algorithms, of course, other machines, and big data tools; to name a few sources; but not all machine learning algorithms are the same.
Machine learning algorithms:
- Supervised – can apply what’s been learned to new data.
- Unsupervised – explores data and describes hidden structures within datasets.
- Semi-supervised – somewhere between the two mentioned above
- Reinforcement – allows software and machines to pick the optimum response within a specific context to improve performance.
More detail found here: ML algorithms definitions.
There are many platforms available now, and you’ll know many of the companies in this space: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and a few you may not know that well, including Adext and Skytree.
This AL tech is focused on improving communication and understanding between us and machines. It uses measurements and analyses human behaviour. Interactions, such as touch, speech, images and even body language are in its sights.
Like ML, this is a big field of AI with huge potential, particularly in market research.
Robotic Process Automation
Think AI workers, that’s this technology. Robotic process automation (RPA) is another area of AI that’s a game-changer for employment, and many of the jobs we used to do, still do and will no longer do. Already RPA has found its way into many industries, and AI workers (machines) have replaced humans in the workforce.
Humans used to do the prosaic and repetitive tasks, are now done in part or in full by machines. In areas of the business such as accounting, administration, customer support and help desks and websites, AI has found its place.
The ‘chatbot’ is now ubiquitous on websites for products and services and online sales support. Here is a good read on how using a chatbot could benefit business and change the customer experience.
Live Chat is a more human form of the chatbot, and when you’ve experienced it, as a customer, your level of appreciation goes up a notch or two.
There is a flip side for businesses using live chat and chatbot tech. Customers now used to it will expect your business to delivery immediacy and efficiency every time.
With RPA, businesses see lots of upsides, with reduced overheads and improve productivity.
There have been some clever marketing for it, mainly to dissuade negative reaction from workers fearful of job displacement. Business and workers are encouraged to see it as a solution that promotes better use of human workers; though new roles that are infinitely more interesting, and fulfilling, while also doing wonders to the company’s bottom line.
AI is everywhere and depending on how you view your business, career and life; the future is either exhilarating or maybe a bit scary. Whichever way you look at it, there’s no stopping these new technologies.
What The Pandemic Has Taught Businesses About Staff
Businesses can be optimistic about their future post-pandemic. Countries are opening up, and customers are leaving their homes to frequent their favourite stores. If your company was performing well before the pandemic and enforced lockdown, then it stands a great chance of a quick recovery and in time thrive again.
However, there is no hard and fast rule for success; there will be challenges ahead. If your business is in a sector drastically affected from closed borders, then your business will be on a slower recovery trajectory and in the meantime, rely on Government support.
As many businesses have never been tested, COVID-19 was a shot in the arm of a new reality. Not only did owners realise they failed to have a disaster recovery plan they also had no contingency funds to see them through three to six months of low or no sales. There is a new routine and pre-pandemic business, as usual, will never return.
Company boards and owners and management team will not make the same mistakes again. Albert Einstein famously said:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
The time has come to try different approaches to every aspect of the business.
Staff Resilience and Resourcefulness
Managers have learned a thing or two about their workers’ resilience and resourcefulness during the enforced ‘working from home’ aka remote working.
No longer will managers micro-manage their team as they did before COVID-19. Remote working has thoroughly tested self-management with accountability monitored online with tracking software, social intranets, video conferencing and other team collaboration software.
Workers now want to work part of the week from home, and businesses should encourage it. Why? Well, our best work happens when we are fully rested and relaxed. The workplace has many distractions, and some people don’t get along, which is stressful for them and the coworkers around them.
Therefore if the solution to keeping all your talented staff is remote-working part of the week and the outcome is your business has harnessed higher productivity that will deliver more value to the company. A happy team are more creative, and innovation is required in downturns, i.e. recessions.
Empower your staff to do their best work and to use their remote working time not stuck at their workstation but getting outside in the fresh air exercising. Being in the zone in a repetitive activity inspires new thoughts and inspiration.
The recovery of your business will need to lean on its workers to come up with the goods and also mix it up. They need to seek opportunities to improve on your company’s existing products and services as well as design and develop new tools and features to meet the needs of consumers today.
Invest in Online Resources
If ever there was a time for improving your online resources for customers – now is it. Even the most reluctant online user is now up to speed with online shopping, social media and video chat.
Make sure you a chatbot, so your visitors have instant access to your business support crew. Also, remember your front window is now many sites, not just your website.
Social Media Presence
Your business Facebook page, Instagram account and Twitter feed are just a few of the many sites available with millions of users. Find the social media platform that works for your business. For example, LinkedIn is typically the site for professional services, whereas Facebook and Instagram are perfect for hospitality and retail.
Dedicate ample time to these channels and delegate the task to the team members best suited to the role. Remember if you enjoy something you will spend more time doing it. Therefore give the responsibility of managing your Facebook page to the employee who gets a lot of satisfaction from it.
The pandemic has taught businesses to trust their workers while they work from home. Reverting to how it was before is not an option, so changing it up to meet the new normal is the path to success.
How To Grab Attention On Video Conference Calls
We are in the age of ‘COVID-19’, and our lives will never be the same again. We’ll be working from home more often and using video conferencing for meetings with colleagues, management and customers. In-person meetings allow for verbal and non-verbal cues. Body language can play a significant role in negotiation, for example.
Changes in body language or small facial expressions can provide observers, i.e. the meeting attendees messages on how to respond to get the right outcome. If you’re someone who uses non-verbal cues to sway discussion in your favour, then video-conferencing is a challenge. So how can we get what we need from these online meetings using what we have at hand, i.e. the small visuals of meeting attendees?
In this article, we provide tips on how you can get your points across, even when the other attendees are more extroverted than you.
Use The Camera
Focus on the camera and what it can do for you. There is a temptation to stare at your screen and the other attendees in the meeting. Get past this action as soon as you can. Allow yourself a few minutes to view all the other participants then turn your attention to the meeting’s contents.
Active listening is required and if it helps you to remember what is being discussed – take notes. To assist this action further say which participant explained the point, for example, Attendee John (Manager): “we will now always work from home two days a week”.
When you’re talking stare into the camera and not at the attendees faces on your screen. While this is very unnatural, and at first, you’ll think you’re rude or ill-mannered by not looking at the attendees like you would if you were in an in-person meeting. However, looking deeply into the camera not only focuses you on what you’re saying, but you also won’t get distracted with attendees non-verbal distractions.
Mastering the skills for video conferencing productivity will take practice. The multi-tasking of taking notes while actively listening and remembering to optimise the time spent looking into the camera will be your juggling act!
What you’re working against is human nature and the obsession we have with ourself. Dale Carnegie says if we’re not thinking about a project, we’re thinking about ourselves. A lot of time is spent and indeed wasted thinking about how we feel, what we want, and what other people think of us, so you can see what you’re up against to master video conference meetings as an active participant or meeting lead.
Use Your Voice
Understanding the basics of human nature can be gained from studying neuroscience or neurolinguistic programming. Introverts are less likely to sit tall or speak up than extroverts; however, they can practice doing both, and without the non-verbal cues getting in the way, video conferencing is a great levelling feature.
When you’re on a video call, always speak louder than your usual speaking voice. Plus use your voice to express yourself through using pitch, high and low, vary it to keep your audience engaged. For extroverts, they are experts in changing tone and adding volume to grab attention and express themselves. Introverts will also master this skill in the knowledge that they are in the room with the meeting attendees and that no one is spending much time thinking about them!
What is in the background when you’re on a video conference call? Take care to have a bland background, so your frame is not the meeting’s distraction! Ideally use a plain white wall for your background. If that’s not possible, make sure the shelves behind you have only the objects you don’t mind your work colleagues and customers viewing, i.e. do not place intimate or personal items on the shelves that will end up being the topic of discussion.
Even though you’re working remotely and most often from your home, avoid wearing your leisure apparel. Your appearance should be what your colleagues would expect to see if they were sitting next to or opposite you in a meeting room. Once again, the objective with your appearance is to avoid being the distraction.
If you’ve been reluctant to use video conferencing, these tips will boost your confidence to use the technology without distraction.
Business Innovation Saving The Day
Innovation in business is admired at all times, but none more so than when it saves lives. In this article, we have the technology that’s helping China and Spain during coronavirus and how eateries can survive by adapting their business model.
Taking Everything Online
There’s no room for hesitation; now is the time to take whatever you do online. Even the enterprises who up to now have resisted the ‘online movement’ have committed to the move even when it means they need an entirely different business model.
Starbucks, for example, in the US and Canada have moved to an online operation, and their decision is right timing as President Trump recommends frequenting pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants and keeping group gatherings to a maximum of ten people.
There is no precedent for what we’re experiencing with the measures to contain coronavirus and business owners are in shock. They need to act fast to have a business at all. Eateries, bars and clubs reliant on social gatherings are no longer viable unless they change their business model and give it all they’ve got to make it work and earn a profit.
Eating Out Is Now Take Out
Some restaurants are reportedly increasing the distance between tables called ‘social distancing‘ however with the recommendation to avoid socialising altogether it’s likely to be in vain.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom as we need to eat and in many regions eating out every day is the norm. For example, the French spend more time eating and drinking than any other nation and that’s not about to change overnight. Call it convenience, laziness, or lifestyle, dining out with friends and family is the norm.
In France, the average total time spent eating and drinking each day is more than two hours whereas in America it’s just over an hour. Americans eat at home more and have kitchens up to the task, as do the other nations including Australia, Canada and South Africa.
You’re more likely to find city-based properties with small kitchens, particularly in Europe where they prefer to frequent a restaurant and why wouldn’t they when there are so many and eating out is affordable.
However, in a crisis like a coronavirus pandemic, these eateries need to revolutionise their business and fast to stay in business now the foot traffic has all but gone. The eateries that have taken their business online have a better chance at survival and remaining in business.
With online orders replacing foot traffic and dine in patronage, menus need to change as do staffing requirements. Drivers who deliver the food replace waiters. Front of house staff are not required with the online model, and instead online, and phone order takers and food packers are needed. The business is leaner, but it can get through a downturn by changing what they do to meet buyer demand.
Ready-Made Meals Home Delivery
UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and many other food delivery service providers have seen a big jump in demand recently. UberEats provides technology and a system that allows the eateries to focus on what do best, create the meals while they do the rest.
With lockdowns, and, less social gatherings and self-isolation demand is predicted to grow further with contactless deliveries.
Innovation in Technology
Step up the tech innovators; your call-up is needed. Never before has there been a time where we’re reliant on AI, robots and drones. China is showing it’s innovation might, and Spain has found a novel way to keep people at home.
Spanish police are using drones with speakers in public areas to warn people to stay at home, and it’s just like what you’d see in a fictional movie, but it’s happening in real life.
China is also using drones as well as QR codes. The innovative use of colour-based QR codes, people are checked and stopped from entering public places if they’re infected says Reuters. Once you’ve completed a questionnaire providing your details, and temperature you’re in the system, and it’s used to track your travel and health history.
Also in China, the ongoing task to remove coronavirus off surfaces in public spaces is a mammoth chore but helping out with the operation are robots who can not catch the virus, nor need rest, or sustenance, unlike their human coworkers.
AI Face Recognition Software
Though the true hero appears to be AI face recognition software which is part of China’s surveillance operations. Artificial Intelligence software firms are upping the stakes with heat detection in the face recognition software, and some can detect the temperature of anyone within a five-metre radius. The delivery of the software is mobile too as it’s embedded in helmets worn by epidemic control personnel.
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