With People Front and Centre, AI Has the Potential to Radically Improve Strategic Planning – Insight Consulting

By Shanna Jardim, Senior Business Intelligence Consultant at Insight Consulting

Any discussion about artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on business would be incomplete without taking a moment to reflect on the technology’s impact on people. However, far from a doomsday outlook where humans have no future in the workplace, AI leveraged correctly has the potential to massively support strategic planning which would have a direct impact on sustainable growth, as well as the job-protecting and job-creating potential it brings.

Make no mistake, technology broadly, and AI specifically, will change jobs and businesses. Employees need to adapt and upskill themselves accordingly. Jobs and roles across industries will be disrupted, forcing a shift in how humans are deployed. To protect jobs, continuous learning is non-negotiable in our digital age, but despite this, humans need humans. In other words, technology will radically improve processes and allow humans the ability to refocus their attention on strategic, human decision-making.

In the case of AI-enhanced predictive analytics, business leaders can quite literally anticipate tomorrow’s success today, giving businesses the potential to secure their long-term growth. A growing business not only protects jobs, but it creates jobs both within the organisation itself, as well as up and down the value chain.

However, businesses can’t simply go to a vendor and buy a predictive analytics solution and expect it to deliver the promised value. Algorithms are only as good as the data they are fed, and so a business needs to appreciate that the single most important aspect of its digital transformation strategy is working on the quality of its data. While data maturity doesn’t happen overnight, a good data specialist partner will work with an organisation to bring it to a point where it is able to unleash the immense potential of its data. This applies not just to historical data but also to real-time data.

As such, there is no fixed timeframe for integrating predictive analytics into a business – it can take a matter of months in some businesses but up to a year in others. Once a business has worked to bring its data up to par, it can revolutionise its planning, forecasting and budgeting. These processes are traditionally built on a hindsight model, whereas technology enables a predictive and proactive model.

At its simplest, a predictive analytics solution leverages algorithms and machine learning to analyse both historical and current data to make informed predictions about the future. CFOs and other finance executives lose an inordinate amount of time gathering data and preparing reports and so beyond the actual ability to forecast accurately, the skills within a business are able to focus their attention on key activities and decision-making as opposed to being bogged down in time-intensive, mundane tasks.

This is transformational for a business because it is far better placed to anticipate challenges and then plan accordingly to mitigate their impact. Similarly, it gives leadership teams confidence to make proactive decisions to capitalise on opportunities, whereas before, many of these opportunities may have been missed.

Let’s have a look at some of the ways predictive analytics can transform a business:

  • Improved revenue forecasting accuracy
  • Improved expense prediction
  • Improved data quality due to models being able to pick up data discrepancies
  • Improved resource allocation
  • Improved efficacy of scenario planning
  • Improved ability to manage costs in real time
  • Improved ability to recognise and mitigate budgetary risks in real time
  • Improved ability to predict customer churn, patterns and lifetime value
  • Improved decision making because of the actionable insights gained

It is clear that predictive analytics can fundamentally change the way in which organisations do business. It is also evident that it empowers executives to make the right decisions, quickly. Perhaps the most exciting aspect, and one that hasn’t garnered much attention until now, is that an efficient, agile and competitive business becomes more robust and resilient, which is good news for the future of jobs.

Looking towards the future, it is difficult to predict with certainty just how far technology will evolve and how it will change the face of business, but what is certain is that businesses need to be preparing now. Working with a specialist partner that appreciates that every unique business is at a different stage in its own data journey is crucial because it will prime a business to be able to take advantage of the immense power of its data. Keeping people front and centre of digital transformation is vital as it enables the skills within a business to leverage AI effectively to future-proof strategic planning.