AI: The Next Big Technology Inflection Point & How to Humanize It

Dale Phillips

A few years ago, as the pandemic was ramping up, as companies and individuals worked to navigate this new environment, this new reality in front of us, I wrote a blog that touched on how there had been in the recent past technology inflection points that ended up causing major shifts in the business landscape.

Past Inflection Points: Internet & iPhone

The internet was my first example of a technology platform inflection point that changed the way business was done. The ability to sit at a computer and connect to other businesses, customers and vast sources of information from around the globe was unfounded before it. From that, new business models arose, transforming the fundamental modalities organizations would use to connect and provide services to its customers. 

The next example must be the iPhone, right? It was the first “smartphone” that’s now 16 years old, and a true game changer that put the power of a computer in our pocket and catapulted people into a world of mobility. With the power of the smartphone, almost any information was available to anyone at any time, anywhere, with the ability to act, whether standing still or on the move.

Shift Towards Efficiency: The Cloud

Some would say the next platform inflection point was “the cloud”. It provided businesses a more efficient way to manage applications and the mountains of data they generate, changing the paradigms that drive decisions around IT infrastructure, data management, resources management and much more.

Pandemic Stress Test

When the pandemic started, it tested whether or not these technology platforms were up to the task. In this case, the task was supporting employees as they were sent home to work. Thankfully, it [mostly] worked! Businesses were able to pivot relatively quickly to more digital processes and workflows. Employees could work from home and be productive. Companies could keep servicing their customers through these challenging times.

Emergence of Generative AI

The latest technology platform inflection point is generative AI. And man, is it coming at us fast. Of course AI has been with us for many years, handling chores in the background that we have come to take for granted. But platforms like ChatGPT seem different — something more concerning for many. Whether it be a general discomfort with the abilities, potential abuses or other more threatening aspects, like the possibility of AI taking human jobs.

From that perspective, AI in all its forms is the potential culprit — not just the generative, large language models of AI like ChatGPT. The question has been hanging out there for a while now: Will these advances in AI be used to replace humans or augment their abilities? Naturally, both of those outcomes can be true. It ultimately will come down to how organizations look to utilize this powerful set of technologies.

Positive-Sum Growth Philosophy

At Esker there is a concept we call “positive-sum growth”. The idea that a company exists in an ecosystem that includes customers and suppliers along with employees and the planet. To thrive within this ecosystem, to grow in a smarter more sustainable way, your business needs to be in the service of all these groups.

  • Employees and customers. Your employees want impactful, meaningful work. More purposeful jobs that are ultimately more productive and rewarding. Your customers want great products and services, plenty of TLC and to know they matter. Fortunately, employees who feel they operate in human-centric work models and feel empowered deliver higher levels of customer service, which makes for happy customers.
  • Suppliers. Relationships with a company’s suppliers are more important now than ever. Think about what we have learned about the fragile nature of supply chains. Suppliers make choices in situations where inventory is challenged. You want your company getting its share of TLC expressed through the understanding that the supplies will flow, and that your company is getting the attention it needs due to your supply chain resilience and business agility.
  • Planet. For the planet, it all comes back to sustainability initiatives and doing what you can to lower your carbon footprint. Cloud platforms support these efforts by encouraging digital processes that use less paper for transactional documents like invoices, cutting down on waste cause by letters and account statements while also supporting work from home models that reduce travel.

This holistic view to running an enterprise assures that achieving business success does not come at the expense of an individual, department, company or the planet.

How does AI & positive-sum growth work together?

You might be asking yourself, “How does it or will it fit into positive-sum growth? The answer is simple — by organizations deploying the technology in ways that augment human performance as the key driver verses replacing it. AI is great at doing the dirty work here, aka the laborious, manual, error-prone tasks that humans do not enjoy doing and that they frankly are not that great at. AI-driven solutions arm staff with the information they need to be superhuman problem-solvers.

Esker offers cloud solutions powered by AI to solve back-office process issues in Accounts Payable, Customer Service and Accounts Receivable departments. I’ve personally seen the results directly through the eyes of customers — the conversion of AR departments into profit centers for companies, uplifting of staff as they off-load manual tasks and raise their focus to providing great service to customers, happy customers that feel the difference in services levels. All adding to the fact that digital transformations of AP, AR and customer service is reducing the carbon footprints of companies as they improve their organizations from the inside out.

The planet benefits, and the businesses using these solutions benefit from an increased velocity of the invoice-to-cash cycle, bringing in payments faster and leading to a stronger working capital position — not to mention being able to take advantage of early payment discounts, eSourcing and supply chain financing on the AP side.

Yes, AI technology will be massively disruptive. But, despite the turbulence, the technology offers the opportunity to transform in ways that can still be human-centric. Artificial intelligence can help to strengthen a company’s place in its own business ecosystem, relationships with employees and resilience in order to be ready for the next economic disruption.  

Author Bio

Dale Phillips

Dale’s career in the technology arena spans 25-years, where he has worked with a diverse set of technologies that include telecommunications, OS security software, business process improvement and cloud-based solutions.  Over that time staying curious and finding ways to improve his understanding of marketplace dynamics, industry trends and technology developments was imperative to understanding how those forces impact organizations and the individuals that work for them.

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