The new business of AI and why AI is not enough

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Which ones of our own businesses will be the most dramatically changed in the next 10 years - and how? This is part 2 of a blog series about AI at Barona, focusing on new business we can create by using AI.  See also the first part of the series: Using AI to improve our work.

When talking about AI, people seem very intrigued at the idea of creating a completely new business. Everyone talks about the new frontiers. 

Not so fast there. Even though the working life is changing rapidly lots of work remains in improving and tuning the current businesses. Some of the domains will be completely changed by the new ways of doing things, and some may disappear. 

New business and completely new frontiers are coming for sure, but they are much harder to implement, even imagine, than to talk about. In fact, often we only realize a new business model has emerged afterwards.

So, what new businesses are already rising in Barona?

Shaking up the financial department

Snowfox is our latest startup which has created a scalable machine learning solution that automates and facilitates the work at the financial departments. It started with the accounts payable process, but has already exploring beyond. We’ve used it internally at Barona for three years already. Snowfox aims at expanding the number of large-scale external customers to 30 by the end of the year. Snowfox’s offering removes a lot of the rote work done in financial departments, as well as work from people handling bills as a small part of their job. 

It is critical for companies’ finances that people add correct postings to invoices. However, this is troublesome, especially for people whose main task is not to handle invoices. Snowfox pretty much removes this part of the process; I’ve been happily using it for a couple of years already. Typically, I just need to quickly verify the prefilled postings and let the invoice move forward. No legwork necessary to figure out which 6-digit code is correct for a particular dimension. 

In addition to incoming invoices, we’re also predicting the workflow of the invoice and looking into things like contract matching. Next, we might bypass the inspection phase completely. There are also other areas in financial departments where machine learning will be very useful. Soon we will be able to provide bookkeeping the ability to close the books “minute after midnight” - with the advances with data and predictive and validation techniques, this highly sought after function is already within reach. 

Digital assistants are coming

A new digital kind of workforce is coming. The digital workforce will perform tasks people previously did: sometimes automating these tasks completely, sometimes simply removing the burdensome details.  

Logistics of shipments is one example where supporting algorithm is very useful. The algorithm can be used in calculating the needed space for packing the products that get shipped and in the route planning of these packages. This is something that people have tried to estimate, but not very effectively. Using an algorithm will help reducing the space packages take and in planning an efficient delivery route. 

Handling salaries and contracts, and many other important but error-prone human resources work is another place that can benefit of digital workforce. Why to spend half of the day checking hour markings when those can be pre-checked by a reliable digital assistant? The time left over can be spend working with the team and in development. 

A lot of this simple-sounding (yet difficult) automation is not that mindblowing on its own. The real catch will be when the simple solutions get productized and widespread, become a new product domain, and change the content of the work itself.

AI is just a part of the puzzle, not the end goal 

In spite of all the hype surrounding AI in the recent years, and our investment in the technology, AI is nothing else but a small piece in this thing we call digitalization. Even in our most AI-driven solutions, the algorithm itself is only a small part of the overall solution: the rest of it is consumed by ordinary software, integrations, and user interface. 

Even though we are already facilitating work in the financial department, in order to completely revise how the financial department operates we need much more than AI. To create a completely new, more efficient and robust financial department requires putting together AI, software robotics, traditional automation, good domain knowledge and creativity. This is something we already are working on internally with the help of technology experts such as our software robotics company Aitomation.

For all the promise (and threat) of AI, we need to stop treating it as an entity separate from the rest of the digitalization. Do we need ethical guidelines to guide AI solutions? Yes (at Barona, we already have them). Does that mean the rest of the digitalized process is exempt from ethical ponderings? Of course not. 

We are onboard of a train that is speeding up. AI is an umbrella technology that permeates all digitalization, and using it wisely is our best bet in creating the best possible work life. We invite you to join our journey. 

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Topics: Future of workAIfinanceFör företag

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