2023 has undeniably ushered in the era of AI, and the resounding buzz surrounding this technological marvel shows no sign of waning. In less than a year since the debut of ground-breaking generative AI tools like CHATGPT, AI has transcended its status as a topic confined to the realm of tech enthusiasts, to the board room, where it now commands the attention of company leaders, prompting them to ponder the crucial question:
How will AI transform my business?
It's widely acknowledged that AI possesses the capacity to deliver substantial business advantages across an array of critical domains, including:
Improving Productivity: AI can streamline processes, automate tasks, and enhance overall workflow efficiency, ultimately boosting productivity across departments.
Reducing Risk: By leveraging AI for data analysis and predictive modeling, organisations can identify and mitigate potential risks more effectively, safeguarding their operations and investments.
Enhancing Profitability: AI-powered insights can help businesses make data-driven decisions, optimise pricing strategies, and identify new revenue streams, all contributing to improved profitability.
Lowering Costs: Automation and intelligent resource allocation can lead to cost savings, allowing organisations to allocate resources more efficiently.
Like a business, AI has different uses for different situations, for example, you have your financial department to track any financial assets, costs, or increase in revenue. You may have HR to help onboarding/offboarding colleagues, and manage payroll or Marketing to advertise your products and services to generate new business.
AI has the potential to be implemented into all departments to drive higher business performance, but the big question is how?
To help answer this, let's explore several common instances where AI is already demonstrating its indispensability within the functions of typical organisational departments.
Starters, Movers, Leavers
When a new employee joins, changes roles, or leaves, there's a substantial amount of manual work involved in updating records across HR and finance systems, as well as ensuring compliance documentation is up-to-date. AI steps in to automate many of these processes, identifying and making the necessary updates to HR and finance system records, compliance documents, and more.
For instance, AI can pinpoint the records associated with an individual employee and add, modify, or delete data in line with the personnel change. This automation is particularly valuable for GDPR compliance when handling employee departures. By reducing the operational overhead on HR teams, AI enables organisations to manage growth without requiring additional headcount or even reduce headcount to lower operational costs.
AI can simplify the often-cumbersome task of updating internal documentation and system records when organisational changes occur. Whether it's altering Standard Operating Procedures, revising Organisational Charts, or amending legal Terms and Conditions, AI identifies all the documents that need adjustments based on organisational changes.
For organisations holding accreditations like ISO9001 orISO27001, AI also ensures that incremental changes to audited documents can be implemented as needed, eliminating the need for manual updates before the next audit cycle.
In both these examples, AI offers opportunities for cost reduction and efficiency gains, allowing HR departments to operate more effectively without the need for additional personnel. With AI-driven automation, HR can focus on strategic initiatives and employee engagement, fostering a more productive and agile workforce.
Inbound Documentation (Invoices)
Managing inbound invoices is a significant time overhead for any Finance department. The manual process of verifying invoices against purchase orders, obtaining approval from budget holders, and updating relevant systems often necessitates dedicated full-time resources.
AI can systematically handle these tasks, with human intervention limited budget holders providing approval for payment, approves that can also be streamlined through technology-driven approvals. By reducing human involvement, AI not only lowers headcount and associated costs but also expedites the payment process for suppliers. As invoices are received, AI can swiftly analyse them, cross-reference purchase orders, and validate senders for legitimacy before routing invoices to the appropriate approver for payment.
Management of timesheets
Organisations operating on a time and materials basis (e.g. IT, Legal, Accounting) or employing contract/temporary staff often grapple with timesheet management. This is a critical aspect of profit and loss (P&L)management in such domains. Finance departments often bear the responsibility of manually inputting data for human resources engaged in contracted or time and materials work.
AI can be deployed to empower these human resources to take charge of declaring their time, with AI handling the updates in relevant systems. Additionally, AI can serve as a vigilant guardian, identifying human errors intime declarations and flagging them for management attention. This means that only data anomalies require any level of human intervention.
Incorporating AI in these scenarios presents compelling cost and time-saving opportunities. It streamlines financial processes, reduces manual labor, enhances accuracy, and ultimately frees up Finance teams to focus on strategic financial management rather than routine data entry and verification.
Client Engagement encompasses Sales, Account Management, Customer Services and any role that is responsible for customer management and securing revenues. Human resources within these roles typically exchange customer documentation in the form of quotes and proposals in order to secure renewals and new revenue. Manual creation of these types of documents is often completed manually, resulting in a significant time overhead and human error.
AI can automate the creation of customer sign-off documents, a human will need to input some metrics into a CRM system to populate the customer data (one-time exercise) and ensure the correct metrics are entered that are specific to the proposal or quote that is being released.AI can be used to then automate the creation of a customer-facing document as well as identify any potential errors that have been inputted by the human during the start of the process.
The utilisation of AI in these quota-bearing departments allows for significant time efficiencies to be recognised. It also allows organisations to reduce headcount or have the same number of human resources managing more customers.
Depending on the size of organisation and the potential impact of a decision, the process of approvals can be a lengthy endeavour which leads to the delay of decisions being made, therefore slowing down positive momentum(and potentially restricting the speed of growth). There can also be occurrences where the correct approvals process is not correctly followed due to human error, leading to negative outcomes and lack of awareness for those individuals who need visibility. Examples of typical approvals are operational changes, contracts, investment decisions and internal documentation(legal, governance and compliance).
AI can be used to streamline this process by analysing the approval type and identifying who needs to be involved in the approval for any decision and delivering the approval notification systematically, thus removing the need for human intervention (chasing for approval via email as an example). Using AI in this manner reduces the time overhead required for approvals across the business.
General Process Automation
Manual processing of heavy workloads and large usage of email and excel in the workplace can lead to a number of challenges including slower task performance and errors caused by simple mistakes that maybe as a result of boredom or reduced alertness caused by monotonous tasks.
AI can help mitigate the challenges of manual processing of heavy workloads and large usage of email and excel in the workplace. For example, AI-driven schedule optimisation can bring greater speed, flexibility, and intelligence to bear on the problem of optimising schedules, so companies can deploy the people they need when they need them and unlock new levels of efficiency. This can help reduce the amount of time employees spend on low value, repetitive tasks such as searching for information, attending unnecessary meetings, and communicating about work.
The above provides just a few examples of the many ways AI can be used to deliver tangible financial advantages to your organisation. It achieves this by streamlining operations, reducing time-consuming manual and cognitive tasks, thereby accelerating task processing times. Additionally, AI enhances employee productivity by augmenting human decision-making capabilities, yielding more effective and efficient results.
In certain scenarios, these time and productivity gains may also lead to a reduced reliance of workforce requirement for the same workload, ultimately generating further efficiencies. The cumulative effect of these benefits translates to time freed up and quicker, more precise solutions. This, in turn, sets in motion a chain reaction that culminates in increased revenue, enabling business growth.
It's worth noting that numerous businesses worldwide have already initiated plans to bolster their revenue streams and fortify their operational flexibility through AI implementation. Nevertheless, it's imperative to conduct thorough ROI and payback period calculations prior to investing in AI. This meticulous planning ensures that the adoption of AI aligns with your organisations financial goals and strategic objectives, facilitating a well-informed investment decision.