Artificial Intelligence (AI) is shaping the way the world is run. This new technology is making waves in the world of business, with thousands of companies jumping on the bandwagon using AI tools in their daily operations. AI uses computer algorithms to replicate the human ability to learn and make predictions, requiring large quantities of data to find patterns and make inferences. AI is touted as creating efficiencies and reducing costs to accelerate growth in your business. I sat down with Lisa Schwarz, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing at Oracle NetSuite, at SuiteWorld in Las Vegas, as she talked to me about the advantages of AI – and how this new technology can help give your business a boost. NetSuite, a cloud-based software, has recently launched a series of new AI-powered products embedding generative AI services across its suite.
Schwarz explained how NetSuite’s new AI products are essentially designed to make “jobs easier”, converting once tedious manual processes into automated tasks. “From a development point of view, we’re looking at how we can solve issues businesses face,” she tells me. “We want to use this extra technology to enable businesses to run better. For example, we have product recommendations for sales representatives, generating a sales quote for customers, and more… These are all automated and are intelligent product recommendations. This seems like a logical place to put added intelligence, making the job of a sales rep much easier. It seemed like a logical decision to take traditionally manual processes and apply some added intelligence to reduce the manual typing and keying in.”
Not only can AI help make employees’ jobs easier, but it can also save on costs. A once labour-intensive tasks that required several workers is now an automated process. This can reduce the expense of outsourcing these jobs, allowing you to invest that money in other parts of your business. For those who already have in-house teams, your employees can then use that extra time to analyse the data and make informed business decisions – rather than spending time on manual tasks. For example, NetSuite’s Bill Capture helps organisations intelligently capture and categorize expenses based on historical data, so they can eliminate manual bill entry and increase the productivity of accounting teams.
“Processing invoices is busy work,” Schwarz said. “Besides automating, which NetSuite already has, the AI we’re using now takes it to another level. We’re taking more of that manual process out. If you are paying for that service, you can use that money in other places of the business. Or if you have an in-house accounting team, you can use some of that extra bandwidth that frees up to do more value-added or customer-facing tasks. Such as analysing data more, so you can start making more informed business decisions rather than relying on a gut feeling.”
Artificial Intelligence is essentially a data hog – you need lots of data for it to work effectively. A machine learning algorithm depends on large volumes of data to draw relationships, clusters and algorithms. You need lots of data to train deep learning models because they learn directly from the data. AI and machine learning models are only as good as the data you have. That is one downside of AI, but if you do have all your data under one roof in a unified platform suite like NetSuite, that can eliminate the problem. A new exciting feature NetSuite has rolled out is Benchmark 360, a brand-new tool that helps organisations compare their performance with their peers in the same industry, getting AI-driven recommendations on where to improve through analysing key operational and financial metrics.
SMEs who cannot afford data scientists will be able to analyse their data with higher precision and clearer insight with such new and exciting AI products on the market. “With any new technology, there is always apprehension about adopting it. We’re not looking to eliminate a CFO’s job when it comes to making business decisions. One of the advantages of NetSuite with AI, you’ll have your data under one roof. You don’t have to take your data or export it into an AI-embedded application, all your data is in the platform itself. Benchmark 360 aggregates all the data of NetSuite users anonymously and with permission to run benchmarks with your peers. So, you can compare what other similar companies are like, in terms of metrics, KPIs, etc and AI can make recommendations to say these companies performing at a high level are using this type of module to help.”
At the heart of AI is data. The more complete the data on which an AI is trained, the more valuable the output. An AI gains insights from the data and can make predictions, automate processes and perform other tasks that it is trained to do. Schwarz explained: “AI is only as good as the data you have. That’s really what it comes down to. Having your data in a unified system is essential, so you do not have to gather data from all over the place and then question if your data is accurate or not. It cuts that inaccuracy. And then you can make effective decisions based on that.”