Machine Learning: The Future of Business
With 60 percent of businesses across the globe expected to use A.I. by 2018, South African companies are championing how machine learning can manage business operations
Artificial intelligence, or A.I., is already used by 39 percent of businesses around the globe in some form, according to Sage’s latest analysis. Be it to scan and organise vast amounts of data quickly to free up an employee for other tasks, or to help a customer answer common questions on a website, A.I. uses programmed requirements and machine learning to reduce the time taken to complete mundane tasks, improving business efficiency and operating costs.
Yet, despite CNBC reporting that smart technology boosts productivity, many companies are still to factor A.I. into their business model. Fortunately, South African companies are leading the way by adopting machine learning programmes to increase efficiency in numerous areas of their businesses.
With the internet opening new opportunities for employers to hire highly skilled workers from all over the world, as well as the ability to post job postings to websites and social media, businesses are receiving more résumés and CVs than ever before. Naturally, this can make hiring new personnel a tedious affair as someone needs to read each application word for word in their effort to find the perfect candidate.
Smart software can reduce this task in minutes. Whether it is scanning thousands of profiles on social media sites, or looking for keywords and phrases in the hundreds of applications on the company server, A.I. can narrow down a list of key candidates in minutes. Not only does this allow interviews to take place faster, but it frees up employers to focus on more important tasks.
One of the primary reasons that so many companies are already using A.I. is because they have a business page on Facebook. “Insights” is the free learning software which runs in the background, collecting data on the users that interact with a company’s social media page. Every time a potential customer watches a video or clicks a link on the page, Facebook records it. Over time, it uses the data to make predictions about the best times of day to engage with customers, makes recommendations as to which demographics the business should target, and can even draft adverts based on the media page managers have uploaded to attract more customers.
Business borecasts and direction
Identifying patterns and advising on business decisions isn’t limited to intelligent candidate matching software or social media. Companies like Isazi Consulting are developing consultancy software that can organise enormous amounts of data to identify patterns in all company departments, from sales and marketing, to operations or research & development.
This software will not only use predefined parameters to present complex data into easy-to-understand graphs and charts, but is increasingly able to offer suggestions for appropriate responses to improve efficiencies and cost-savings. This might include advising when to start specific operations to ensure a project is completed by a deadline, or where cuts can be made to improve profit margins.
Chatbots are messaging software which utilise machine learning to converse directly with customers. Absa is just one of the numerous organisations to now use a chatbot on its website as the first-line of customer support. The A.I. analyses customers’ words and style to interpret their questions. It then matches those keywords to a database of information, forming a personalised reply which most users agree reads as though a person had written it.
Maintenance and safety
While smart software always needs data to analyse, this data can come from physical hardware, provided apparatus is installed to convert the data into an electronic format. With sensors to record the integrity of mechanical parts or the obstruction or presence of foreign materials, A.I. can take control of heavy machinery to prevent accidents, monitor equipment, organise maintenance checks, and even order replacement parts when they are needed; keeping business operations running at maximum capacity.