Every business needs to consider themselves—at least partly—a technology business. If your company isn’t leveraging technology, you risk losing valuable business to competitors who are. Finding solutions for business challenges has become harder now that machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to affect how we work. This challenge may seem ironic—technology is meant to make life easier—but unlimited options can increase the difficulty of making informed decisions. The cost of discovering and selecting solutions grows when you consider the increase in time, a loss in productivity, and potential confusion as you sort out the information. What’s a business to do?

Artificial Intelligence Isn’t That Smart, Yet

AI is not a replacement for critical thinking and decision making. AI is, for now, very simple and can only help inform decisions, not make them. AI will prove to be a useful tool for filtering vast amounts of data as we make informed business decisions. The core of AI is machine learning, which helps with enhanced pattern recognition of data. Only now are systems sophisticated enough to recognize voice commands, do facial or image recognition, or help with prioritization from data.

Plan Locally, Think Globally

For businesses of any size, whether you’re starting out as a one-person startup or you’re an employee in a large organization, you need to think big. Think globally even if your company is a local business. When you envision your company at a higher growth point, or even after a solution has been implemented, this ideal future state considers the desired outcome, not the software you use. This in turn establishes your strategy, or your “North Star.” When you have defined your North Star strategy, focus on today’s needs and set expectations to consider where you are today and what you need to achieve to obtain that North Star in a realistic timeframe (say 2-4 years). This constraint helps us filter the choices we make by forcing us to acid-test the promise of software against the measurable results we desire. If the business need is to get closer, more valuable relationships with customers, then the implementation of a customer relationship management (CRM) solution needs to be measured on those metrics.

Leverage Intelligent Market Intelligence

Everyone uses Google. While Google can list millions of pages for a search you enter, statistics tell us that less than 5% of people ever go to page two and less than 1% go to page three. Considering that up to the first half of page one search results consist of advertising purchased through Google Adwords (receiving only 10% of clicks), you’re not getting much new information outside what you may already know.

Research solutions are excellent systems, but they lack timeliness and scope. Typically, those lauded reports only arrive every 12 months and, sadly, the same players continue to show up, reducing the value of the paid report. Worse, some reports may be advertising masquerading as research, which adds further bias to the big players.

New solutions, like Sidekick.co, use big data and ML (on the road toward AI) to help businesspeople make more informed decisions by providing solutions and services based on the category, or business challenge, that you have. After all, it’s about learning what you don’t know rather than reinforcing what you already know. Sidekick goes further with contextual suggestions for products and services to meet your business challenge based on your behaviour and requirement. This scenario is where AI begins to help by sifting through the data and providing you with curated information. Where ML can automate large tasks and simplify information, it will succeed.

Prioritize Challenges Against Friction

Friction is the barriers we face when new solutions launch in an organization. If a new solution is complicated or involves a high degree of setup or training, or involves process change or development to “work right,” then the corresponding business value must be higher. Conversely, if your business challenge is a small problem (i.e., cost savings rather than revenue generating), then the cost of time and money need to be correspondingly smaller; otherwise, the initiative may not succeed in terms of ROI or operational effectiveness.

Grow Local Connections

Most large software companies—the ones with offices around the world—have partner networks who provide expert services supporting those products. These local business partners have tremendous expertise in the software they support and can bring much-needed experience into your business. It’s important to consider using these local geniuses as they can be a very cost-effective, timely solution to addressing your business challenges today and tomorrow, without paying for the expense of time (training, onboarding, etc.) or travel costs. There is the added benefit of strengthening local business relationships. 

Plan for Automation at Scale

Plan for success. When evaluating solutions, give consideration to opportunities to automate processes when you reach a certain threshold of operation. Nothing has to be written in stone, but consideration towards automation, or even integration to other systems, can save countless hours and money in developing or replacing systems.

Technology is essential in today’s businesses. Evolving solutions and technologies become more important to accelerate growth, realign processes, increase efficiency, and reduce cost. With proper consideration, research, and planning, you can stay on top of your game and manage your solutions without the pain or frustration. AI is merely there to help organize and filter the information to help you make a better decision.

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