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Skip the sexy talk on AI and tackle the lower levels of engagement first before forging ahead5 min read

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Posted date February 28, 2019

AI, robotics and automation are common buzzwords in conversations about the workplace. With rapidly advancing technology, organizations are increasingly leveraging on such technologies to rethink work architecture in order to maximize value from both human and machine. Although expectations for AI and robotics have increased, a report by 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends have found a “readiness gap” – while 72 % of senior executives felt that this area is important, only 31% feel ready to address it with only 17% reporting a familiarity with both the concept of AI and its applications at their companies.

Eric Dadoun, CCO of Silverstreet and serial investor

Automation is not a new topic for big corporations and multinational corporations (MNCs) as they already had a head start in adopting the technology. The challenge always comes down to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as they lack the proper knowledge and resources to embrace the technology. I had the chance to speak to Eric Dadoun, a serial strategic investor (Guavapass and Monopond) and Chief Commercial Official of Silverstreet, an international specialist in mobile messaging and cloud communication services, about the role of AI in chat bot, automation in the cloud and telecommunication space and insights into the challenges faced by business leaders when it comes to adoption of AI.

The challenges faced by business leaders in redesigning today’s work and workforce configurations

When it comes to implementing advanced and complicated technologies, many SMEs business owners often get carried away by science fiction and futuristic imagination, having the entirely wrong expectation of what AI should be. They get disappointed when the technology they need is not super hi-tech like what they saw in movies. Another challenge is the gap in required skill towards implementing these technical solutions. AI is not any sort of magic that can just have everything automated all at once. In fact, AI is like a new born baby, and it will learn each time we feed in more information onto it. Hence, human intervention still plays a big part and some essential skills like basic understanding of coding are needed in order to make the implementation work. Taking a step-by-step approach while keeping things as cost-effective and as simple as possible is key to the age of automation.

In Southeast Asia, there is a high appetite for adoption of AI: this generation has smart phones in their pocket and the governments are also active in encouraging the adoption of tech and automation. This makes it even more important for business owners to have a proper understanding of AI in order to take a step forward in implementing AI technology into their products or services.

Keeping up with AI in multi-channel communication industry

With the rise of AI, many people in Southeast Asia are starting to enroll in basic coding courses in order to keep up with their career demand, but, is coding skill really that important? Many of the analytic tools available in the market these days require basic understanding of coding, but that doesn’t really require people to be completely adept at coding. According to Eric, familiarity with coding is sufficient enough for a person to understand chatbot and AI. Then it comes the part where we integrate communication and make use of omni-channels. Inquiries from customers come in from every direction, from Facebook, Instagram and WeChat, to Website or email. For businesses that are growing, it’s too much of a hassle to keep track and respond to each channel, let alone to each customer. This is the area where automation can significantly save time and repetitive work for humans. Since integrated platform is not that common yet, there is a need to centralize channels of communication so that essentially there won’t be a need to deal with each different chat platform separately. How do we merge this and how do we measure the performance accordingly? That’s where the role of human comes in handy with the advancement provided by data analytics.

The next big trend of automation for SMEs in Southeast Asia

Customer service can benefit from AI more than any other industry. With the repetitive tasks of answering the same type of inquiries, through AI, computers can now “learn” to be smarter. One Indonesian delivery company which is also a client of Silverstreet now has 90% of its inquiries automatically responded by chatbot.

With increasing support and initiatives taken by the government into investing in AI and deep tech, the first level of automation should be automating the engagement with customers – omni channels. It is very important to get those SMEs to be comfortable using those tech. Once this happens, both the businesses and consumers will benefit through this “technology education” phase, making the nation more tech savvy and “smart”. This implementation also goes beyond omni-channels, extending to cross platform and cross language provision.

To completely revamp your business, it will take a few years and require step-by-step approach. Healthcare and education are some of the industries that will undergo huge progress in communication. In the future or even now, patients can already inquire on symptoms or medication via a chat bot.

Conclusion

All in all, the term “automation” tends to be conflated by the technology we see in sci-fi films and TV. However, we don’t need to let our imaginations get too ahead of us. Automation does not need to be unnecessarily complicated and can bring about practical benefits. Ultimately, it is about demystifying the word “AI”.

A journalist who loves writing about business, startup, and tech for Techsauce Global. Catch me hopping around South East Asia and China or reach out to me at vanessa@techsauce.co

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