AI Captures Public Imagination While Driving Business Automation

artificial intelligence

As loosely defined as artificial intelligence may be, the technology’s impact may be even bigger.

The gray area surrounding what, exactly, AI is or could be, has largely captured the public imagination. Think all things science fiction, robots coming for jobs, the infamous singularity moment and much more — while simultaneously the realities of AI’s myriad business-use applications have marched on in the background, autonomous and unseen.

This, as two new internet sensations have taken social media by storm and put AI in the headlines once more. One is a free AI chatbot, ChatGPT, from the Elon Musk-funded nonprofit OpenAI. The other is Prisma Labs’ Lensa product and its made-for-social-media Magic Avatars.

Both are garnering lots of popular use as consumers flock to play with the ChatGPT chatbot’s humanlike conversation capabilities, while at the same time producing artistically rendered selfies using Lensa that are, in fact, so artistically rendered that their very existence is getting artists up in arms.

Hype vs Reality

While these fun, meant-to-be-shared initiatives from OpenAI and Prisma Labs are spurring a debate around the ethical implications of artistic license and prompting calls for regulation around the data sets used to train AI systems amid fears that AI might even mark the end of the “knowledge worker,” the reality is far more mundane.

To be sure, AI has been around for a while — the first successful AI program was written in 1951 — and the term since has been used in reference to a very broad spectrum of processes that encompass most machine learning algorithms trained on large data sets to complete specific tasks within a closed system.

For years, companies have been using AI tools to support both front-end and back-end business processes. Google’s entire search business relies on its proprietary AI program RankBrain, and a vast array of other businesses both large and small, legacy and emergent, leverage the technology for their hero products — even unexpected ones like John Deere.

Business Applications

As it relates to document digitization and workflow automation, there is no better tool than AI for running algorithms and parsing large sets of data.

Recent PYMNTS research shows that 80% of content management system firms without an automated, non-payroll spend management system are highly interested in using one, and firms of all sizes and business types show interest in consolidating all non-payroll spend management into a single, intelligently automated system.

AI has been the silent workhorse powering digital transformation across the contemporary business and commerce landscapes, arguably doing just as much if not more than the pandemic-era lockdowns to enable eCommerce’s staggering rise over the past few years.

Transportation, shipping and logistics firms have similarly been essential to the rise of eCommerce, and amid soaring demand they are increasingly turning to automated AI tools to replace manual processes overloaded by this new volume.

Nearly half of transportation and logistics companies tell PYMNTS that accounts payable automation is very or extremely important for handling these increases in monthly payables. And among the transportation companies that identify insufficient payment options as their most significant challenge, 67% say automated accounts payable (AP) systems are the answer.

What’s more, all transportation and logistics companies that identified payment visibility and transparency issues as a key challenge tell PYMNTS that they consider AP automation to be highly important.

Making It Easy

AI is, generally speaking, embedded everywhere today and will only integrate further into daily life as consumers’ day-to-day becomes more digital.

The futuristic connotations surrounding the technology may make business leaders view adding AI tools to support or replace manual processes as a big lift, but the truth of the reality couldn’t be further from that perception.

All it takes to leverage AI for business is a little training. PYMNTS research shows that 9 in 10 SaaS firms are just a month away from onboarding new software into their existing AP systems, with two-thirds of surveyed executives saying the process takes just two weeks.

Automated, intelligent software and AI tools have proven to be a great boon to the CFO office. The more automated a company’s processes are, the more likely that their executives will be satisfied with their accounts payable platforms — and the more satisfied their suppliers and vendors are too, as payments are sent reliably, efficiently and in the expected manner.

Perception Gap 

Due to the broad, sweeping title it has been given, there is a perception gap between what artificial intelligence technology is believed to be able to do, and what it actually does.

What it does not do is behave as a real person or contain any semblance of original creative thought, emotion or belief.

What it does do is act as an increasingly valuable, next-generation tool for companies and executives to leverage within specific use-cases to remove friction, inefficiencies and redundancies within their business operations, while optimizing those processes it is applied to.

After all, an AI system cannot exist outside of the data set it is trained on. But within that set, and when intelligently and strategically applied, it can make all the difference.