Eighty-four percent of businesses see the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as “essential” to competitiveness, while half view the technology as “transformative,” according to Tata Consultancy Services’ Global Trend Study released in March 2017. AI, once limited to experimentation within large enterprises and R&D labs, is becoming an accessible and cost-feasible tool for all market segments — including entrepreneurs and the businesses they run.
But, as was the case with cloud computing and big data, broader availability of AI does not by default translate into productivity gains, better customer service or operational efficiency. As vendors bake AI into existing workforce communications and collaboration solutions, they must keep an eye firmly fixed on areas where AI can improve productivity. Here are five ways AI can do just that.
AI ends the “paper chase.”
OK, so it’s not physical paper anymore, but employees are struggling to manage an avalanche of emails, messages, tasks, files and meetings. It’s little wonder the typical worker spends nearly 20 percent of their week just searching for and gathering information. The good news: Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities through bots are helping to shift the burden away from workers struggling to manually filter the influx of content, communications and notifications.
AI helps reduce the amount of time workers must dedicate each day to the “orchestration” of work, and more time on the work itself. For example, the ability to search through all a user’s cloud applications to find the documents, messages, social profiles and any content relevant to the conversation or meeting they’re having enables workers to collaborate effectively and leads to a more efficient workforce.
AI cuts into wasted meeting time.
300,000 hours a year: That’s how much manpower consultants from Bain & Company estimated one large firm was losing as a result of just one weekly executive meeting. Drilling down further, professionals attend more than 60 meetings per month, and consider more than half of these meetings a waste of time.
A key reason meetings are so unproductive is that employees spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for them. Trying to find the right files, notes and tasks associated with each meeting eats several additional hours every week, and if an employee misses a meeting the problem becomes even worse. AI doesn’t have the power to get rid of meetings altogether, but it can make meetings more productive by identifying additional information, triggered by workflow demands, that is derived from a deeper understanding of relationships — with people, entities and information. This includes past collaboration with meeting participants, additional potential stakeholders that should be included, and relevant information from cloud applications.
AI eases mobile chaos.
Consider this common scenario: An employee in your increasingly mobile workforce is asked at the last minute to hop on a conference call with an important client. She’s at the airport, dialing in from an iPhone. Typically, in this scenario, it would be next to impossible to quickly locate past emails, messages and files pertinent to the client and the topic of the call. But, AI flips that script, searching in real-time to present the employee only with contextually relevant information for that particular call.
Most businesses provide workers with tools to communicate while working remotely, but that is not the same as tools that keep them engaged and fully productive. Entrepreneurs must extend beyond just hooking employees up with email, internet and network access to technologies specifically designed to foster collaboration and recognize today’s work teams are often virtual ones that want to engage and interact from any location, at any time, and using any device.
AI reduces distractions.
Knowledge workers are interrupted every 3 minutes on average, and it takes up to 8 uninterrupted minutes to re-establish focus. With the average employee suffering through 56 interruptions per day, it is easy to see why these distractions are adding up big time for businesses in the form of lost productivity and efficiency.
Distractions come in many forms, and a major culprit is that employees are getting hit by communications coming from all sides, be it through apps, emails, chat, video, tasks and yes, in-person. From 2014-2016 the number of applications that employees use grew 25 percent. Equally problematic is the time spent toggling back and forth between each app and work task.
By reducing the time employees spend moving between apps to communicate, collaborate and retrieve information, AI can reduce these types of distractions and in turn, boost productivity.