Why business leaders should invest in AI to help their pandemic recovery

November 8, 2022 | 5 minute read
John Menhinick
Senior Director, Product Management
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This is a syndicated article. Read the original story here.

What a pickle we’re all in. Over two years since the pandemic gripped our planet and a global shutdown followed, things are said to be “slowly returning to normal.” But is this the case? Is “normal” what we knew it to be for business in 2019?

Post-pandemic context for business

Pent-up demand driven by an expectant consumer and business population as the world emerges from the global pandemic where it also finds itself dealing with a depleted workforce, a global semi-conductor shortage and rising energy costs, has all put massive pressure on margins. All this of course, after two years of what for many were absent or severely depleted revenues. A global recession is seeing many businesses fold, and many in a less profitable state.

With survival being upper-most in their minds, business leaders are often required to make difficult decisions regarding discretionary spend. Innovation and investment are often curtailed as they inevitably carry with them a level of unquantifiable risk and crucially, no matter how compelling the business case, a lag in ROI. Case-closed then. We should forget about all things innovation-related including investment in AI capabilities; for the time-being at least.

However, there is long-standing evidence that brands which continue to invest and innovate during such turbulent and recessionary times, emerge stronger and fitter than before they faced such difficult circumstances. Increases in sales and market-share have been observed in multiple sectors over the years including consumer packaged goods, automotive, retail and technology. Kellogg’s, Toyota, and Walmart all followed this trend in years gone by for example. However, what can we expect here and now? More specifically, what can we expect when it comes to AI?

Could businesses be turning to AI to help them innovate their way out of trouble?

Interestingly there is research to suggest that businesses are remaining bullish about AI and are not only set to maintain their investment levels, but to increase them in this post-pandemic economy.

Healthcare Systems

Figure 1: Change in investment level of artificial intelligence (AI) in organizations worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, by industry. Source: Statista 2022.

So, what does this mean? Where is AI spend now and what is the forecast for AI spend levels in the years ahead? IDC shows the following trend:
Worldwide Artificial

Figure 2: Worldwide AI Systems Spend. Source: IDC – Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Spending Guide (September 2022)

A useful data point for sure, but not one that in isolation that is likely going to convince everyone to “power through.” What business leaders need is some evidence on what types of innovation deliver a tangible return, a short-time to payback and ideally, a low cost-of-entry.

Enter AI—or, more specifically, new ways that businesses can acquire AI capabilities simply and cost-effectively. Technology vendors have been working hard on this front, providing the tools as well as pre-built outputs that deliver AI in ways that avoid the need for high levels of investment and in some cases, require no investment at all.

Simpler is better

The fundamentals still apply, of course. To generate a tangible return, AI needs to be embraced and adopted across right the organisation. To do this in a frictionless manner, solutions need to be suited to your business model and complementary to your workforce. Naturally, the simpler the solution is to implement, the better. Simplicity correlates nicely with a lower cost of entry and mass adoption.

For those organisations wanting to commence or amplify their use of AI, there are often concerns related to the skills required to build and maintain machine-learning models as well as the changes to the infrastructure and capital investment required to run resource-hungry calculations and deliver outputs (often in real-time).

Nowadays, organisations wanting to leverage AI can utilize secure third-party infrastructure that provides all the components required to build and manage fully rounded AI solutions (including a machine-learning production pipeline). Using their own data science team, they can “rent rather than buy” the necessary infrastructure to keep costs to an absolute minimum and protect the security and performance of their main infrastructure that powers their core business.

Further, with many vendors now offering highly competitive payment options, the cost of entry is far from prohibitive. Shop around and choose the best mix of security, performance, and cost-effectiveness for a solution that works for you.

The value of embedded AI

Technology companies are also helping organisations acquire AI capabilities at no cost by embedding it into other products. AI has in many cases, moved from a chargeable extra into a “value-add” set of capabilities within broader business software. Vendors focused on customer value are paying particular attention to the workflows of their core user personae and embedding AI to help them expedite these workflows more efficiently, and to surface valuable information so they become more effective in their daily roles.

Such capabilities are being embedded in both front and back-office software so that businesses can improve performance right across their organisation. With AI outputs surfacing automatically in software environments already familiar to personnel in finance, recruitment, talent management, procurement, sales, and marketing, embedded AI is providing a clever way for organisations to acquire fully operational AI capabilities precisely where they’re needed; at the precise time they’re needed and, in many cases, at zero incremental cost.

A myriad of AI-powered capabilities is now available in this way, providing a range of useful information tailored to the role of the user. For example, in finance, manual data entry is a significant consumer of bandwidth in an account payables team. Providing full or partial predictive data entry to ensure the right client account codes are input can create double-digit time-savings for each AP clerk. In recruitment, the protracted and often manual nature of the hiring process is the subject of frequent debate. Here AI is making it possible to assess every single candidate resumé comprehensively via a fully automated process to help front-end screening prior to face-to-face interviews. In service, being able to leverage AI to counteract how customers submit SRs (often via email rather than via the ticketing system) is a great example of how AI can counteract the realities of human behaviour when engaging with a company. Finally, in sales and marketing, AI-powered scoring models are providing organisations with an alternative way to rank prospects and customers as well as offering practical guidance in the form of on-screen recommendations on the next best action they should take to close a sale.

To counteract the current economic and commercial headwinds, AI can be a useful antidote. It may not be a vaccine as we’ve come to know them, but it enables businesses to increase automation, optimize service levels, reduce cost, and increase revenues—so, perhaps it’s the medicine we all need now to help us become more resilient next time around. AI is an area of innovation that businesses cannot afford to put on hold.

Learn more about Oracle Artificial Intelligence.

John Menhinick

Senior Director, Product Management

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