According to a recent Gartner survey, only 37% of CEOs and other senior managers rate the efficacy of machine learning as being transformational to their enterprise. This isn't too surprising, really. We commonly hear about tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix who are applying machine learning solutions to problems faced by hundreds of millions of people and so the notion somehow makes more sense when considered in that mass-market context.
As with most cutting-edge technologies, however, adoption tends to go from a trickle to a roar. Consider, for example, the automobile, the personal computer, and the cellular telephone. These were all technologies that seemed over-the-top at the time of their creation with few thinking that these things would be useful to a business, let alone a household. But of course, history has told us a different story. It turns out that the problem isn't with the technology, the problem is with our ability to envision the use of the technology which leads to the point of this article: How is machine learning actually useful to most enterprises? In this article, we will answer that question, but it is helpful to start with an analogy.
Machine learning is great at detecting patterns in unstructured data and then formulating conclusions. This is the kind of thing that humans are generally good at doing. For example, if you go to a car dealership and notice that there is only one car remaining from the previous model year, and it's the end of the month, you somehow realize that you can probably negotiate a great purchase price for this vehicle. But how did you know that? You knew it from prior articles you have read and advice your friends have given you with regards to getting a great deal on the purchase of a vehicle. You might have also picked up on visual cues at the dealership such as a "Must Sell!" sticker on the car.
This is what machine learning does except that instead of drawing only on individual experience, it can draw on the experience of hundreds or thousands of people who have been through similar scenarios in order to formulate positive insights and conclusions.
There are troves of data containers collecting dust at every enterprise stored by your CRM, ERP, email servers, and documents as well as external data sources such as news stories, weather events, commodity prices, etc. Implementing machine learning algorithms across this data can help you to develop insights about shortening your sales cycles, the communication cost around certain internal processes, employee and customer sentiment, customer buying habits, new product recommendations, and so forth.
Consider a machine learning algorithm that draws upon this information to help prompt you with tips on when to close a deal (and at what price). Or consider a machine learning algorithm that can help you spot communication gaps that are leading to quality defects on the production line. These things may seem like uniquely human problems, but they aren't. Machine learning is excellent at detecting patterns, optimal timing for events, and even emotions. How would it impact your enterprise if you could predict the optimal time to launch a product, close a deal, raise your prices, discontinue a product, or even liquidate bill-of-materials stock?
Areas in which machine learning can help your enterprise
Here are a few other areas where machine learning can be readily applied to the enterprise:
Fraud detection via machine learning is already widely adopted for credit card companies and insurance companies, but what about putting that same pattern recognition technology to use in your enterprise to help resolve and steer customer service and return matters or perhaps where sales or productivity is being over or under reported by employees?
Machine learning is excellent at classifying documents. You already use machine learning based classification if you have a spam filter on your email client. This is no more than an algorithm that has learned to detect patterns in email text that has a high probability of being spam. What if you applied the same logic to help your employees classify and organize emails, comments, documents, Slack posts, etc by project, or recommend that they should not copy people to whom the information would be unnecessary while copying others who may have the ability to answer questions in their emails.
Machine learning can also make short work of crawling hundreds of thousands of historical documents, parsing their content, and storing them in a database for further analysis. This is not only true for word processing documents and spreadsheets, but it's also true for images, video, and audio as well.
Machine learning can help to automate many processes within the enterprise by consuming unstructured data, such of scanned bills-of-lading, and taking the appropriate action to update your systems. What's more, machine learning can even help you to identify which processes can easily be automated in the first place.
The medical community is using machine learning for diagnosis more and more frequently but what about diagnosing equipment failures, detecting conflicts in a set of building design documents, and finding manufacturing processes that are the root cause of defects? Machine learning handles and solves this kind of diagnostic problem very well.
Machine Vision & Shape Detection
Machine vision is a trait enabled by machine learning wherein streaming video or images can be processed and certain objects within them can be recognized. This can help you sort through thousands of hours of footage when looking for a particular event, recognize installed quantities on a construction site, keep tabs on deliveries, and even let you know when the lawn should be tended to for a rental property.
Product recommendations are sort of old hat at this point, but is your enterprise using a good recommendation engine? You should be--targeted recommendations to your customers based on conclusions drawn by machine learning algorithms can increase sales by 50%-60%. Even if you don't run an ecommerce business, you can use these algorithms to tip you off as to when to send regular mailers to certain customers.
There are some who believe that the next wave of enterprise software will be powered by machine learning and here at Polyrific, we agree. If you are interested in exploring the possibilities offered by integrating machine learning into your enterprise, we are here to help. We can be both a creative force driving your team towards greater heights with this ground-breaking technology and we can also handle the implementation. Working with us doesn't have to mean that we are building software for you, though we'd like to; we can simply be a source of ideas and direction.
Please contact us today to learn more.