Was this the legal sector’s “Kodak moment”? The event that signalled the beginning of the end: “The people of Darwin can just about take the law into their own hands, with a new legal firm going lawyer-free,” ABC News reported recently. “With a few clicks of a button, a client can enter their details and will then be asked a few simple questions by Ailira, before the robot generates a fully certified will, using the Ailira system.”
Artificial intelligence in professional services may seem a vision reserved for futurists and it’s a change most people in the industry are in denial about, however, you should be planning to incorporate AI in your workplace in the next six to 12 months, if you are not introducing it already, or face the same fate as Kodak (the camera and photographic film maker, founded in 1888, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after failing to address the disruptive effects of digital photography).
AI has been slow to disrupt professional services, unlike the speed at which blue-collar industries are being disrupted by robotics: think of manufacturing, the car industry and bricklaying (watch out for Fastbrick Robotics).
It is understandable that many CEOs are fearful or have yet to be convinced about the benefits of AI. It is also true that AIs will need to have greater capacity to handle complexity than they do currently, to convince Australian companies of the business case.
Here are four examples of Australian industries that are successfully embedding AI in their business processes:
Security: In partnership with Vision-box Australia, the federal government is spending $22.5 million over the next three years to install facial recognition technology in Australian airports, which will eliminate the need for passports. The systems will be linked to a national face verification service.
Finance: National Australia Bank launched an AI virtual assistant in October 2017 to deal with 200 types of queries normally handled by call centre staff. ANZ Bank also launched voice authentication technology on mobile, which allows customers to authorise funds transfers using voice biometrics. These technologies are driving an increasing personalisation of services. Big four accountant Ernst and Young has 200 bots it uses in tax operations, and for its own core business functions, including finance and performance management.
Marketing: Redballoon has launched a business focused on delivering AI-powered digital marketing services after striking an exclusive reseller agreement with AI digital marketing platform Albert. Albert has had great success for Italian lingerie firm Cosabella, which has grown its customer base by 30 per cent after employing Albert to buy ads and manage personalised promotions.
Insurance: A great focus in this industry has been on robotic process automation (or RPA) for processes that are highly repeatable, regular and routine. Software robots (bots) are also hard at work – supporting management decisions, facilitating transactions and even managing aspects of office security. Allianz is an early adopter and is testing the ability of cognitive bots to make routine business decisions in areas such as finance and claims management.
If Australian business is going to ride the AI wave it needs to redeploy and upskill staff so they can perform more complex, cognitive tasks and roles. Bots and AI will allow those who embrace to lead in their industry while others rapidly fall behind.
Nick Deeks is managing director of property, project and cost management consultants WT Partnership.