Guest blog by David Lewien, CEO – Go West IT

NOTE: The composition of this blog post was AI assisted.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way businesses operate. From providing superior customer experiences to automating repetitive tasks, AI is changing the face of industries across the board. In this post, we will explore some creative ways businesses use AI to improve their operations. We will also explore some of the obstacles to leveraging AI and how companies are overcoming these obstacles.  First, a brief history because understanding the development is important for knowing how to leverage AI.

AI is not new. The term “artificial intelligence” was first coined by John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude Shannon at the Dartmouth Conference in 1956. This conference marked the beginning of AI as a field of study and research. Early development focused on mimicking human thought processes, followed by using algorithms for machine learning, where computers were trained to identify and predict patterns and then make decisions based on the data analyzed. Machine learning algorithms were continually developed throughout the 90s and 2000s when computing resources were the most significant constraint on the pace of development.

The rise of cloud computing made computing resources relatively abundant, resulting in deep learning, a subset of machine learning using neural networks. A neural network is a type of artificial intelligence modeled after the structure and function of the human brain. It comprises interconnected nodes, called neurons, which process and transmit information. The network is designed to learn from data and improve its performance over time.

Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and Bard resulted from deep-learning neural networks that learned to predict the next word in a sentence after analyzing enormous data sets. These relatively easily consumed language models commoditized AI and sparked creativity and innovation throughout the business community. It is highly likely that most businesses already have at least a handful of employees using LLMs in their daily workflow.

One of the most significant ways businesses use AI is by improving customer experience. AI-powered chatbots converse with customers and provide fast insight into customer needs. They can be trained to streamline the first part of customer interaction to get the consumer to the right person or place faster, without waiting in a queue, while reducing the staffing need for well-trained personnel. Chatbots can also provide automated services outside of typical business hours and personalize interactions using historical data about the individual consumer.

AI can also be used to automate and improve repetitive tasks. Go West IT is working hard to use AI to review labor entries to ensure they are correctly classified and identify problematic trends in customer care before labor invoices are sent to customers. This endeavor has the potential to save hundreds of hours per month for highly skilled people who can put their skills to better and more fulfilling use in caring for customers.

Collecting, organizing, and using data is crucial for businesses looking to derive value from AI. Without data, AI algorithms have nothing to analyze and learn from. A large language model may already have the algorithmic logic to predict the next word, but if the data used to train the model is invalid, the model will produce sub-par results. This is where many businesses falter as they endeavor to use AI.  With big ideas aloft, they struggle to collect and organize the data in an AI-ready state. Preparing data takes time, skilled resources, and computing resources in storage, databases, and, typically, data streams that constantly update the data set.

Small and medium-sized businesses often lack experience with the amount of data collection and organization necessary to leverage AI. They are often shocked at the effort, time, and money this requires.

So, what should a business do about this opportunity, challenge, and potential threat? Grapple with it. The best place to start is with discussions. Have discussions in your company about what might be possible. If you don’t know, listen to AI podcasts, watch some YouTube videos, or attend a panel discussion (Colorado Thought Leaders Forum ReThink Happy Hours are great for this).

When the ideas start flowing, ask your teams how we might move forward. If nobody on your team knows, look for a business or consultant who can help. Ask many questions and be prepared to stop and reverse course often because things are moving fast, and the answer today may not be the answer tomorrow. If you are nervous about the investment your AI idea might require, focus on the data gathering and organization first. That will likely continue serving you regardless of where your ideas take you.

Last, prepare yourself to be an AI adopter. Learn about the risks and grapple with the complexities. Don’t be the person who doesn’t understand. Learn, just as we have taught the AI models to learn.  Gather and process the information and leverage technology as your understanding grows.

Join us for our next ReThink Happy Hour hosted by David and Tom from Go West IT on February 6th from 3-6pm at CiviCO. They’ll be showing practical applications for AI! REGISTER HERE