It used to be a maxim that expanding too fast was the quickest way to kill a successful business. Rapid growth brings risks as well as opportunities. But utilizing augmented intelligence, an already-popular technology which surfaces patterns in data without humans having to look at it, means that organizations can avoid some of the bear traps that lie in that uncharted territory. Businesses using this take opportunities to grow with more confidence. Below, are four ways that augmented intelligence can support businesses growth.
Bringing on new staff
Growing headcount is one of the main ways in which a business expands. Many small businesses operate in so-called “high-trust networks.” They are made up of people who understand the company’s culture and share its goals. Bringing new people on board who are not part of this network, especially if this is done swiftly, carries a number of risks. The new staff may not be as familiar with the business’s way of working. Bringing on board several new staff at once can have the effect of shifting the culture towards a more “low-trust network,” where there is a lot more supervision. That can be difficult for existing staff who may dislike the change, become disaffected and leave, compounding the problem.
Utilizing augmented intelligence can help create what is effectively a high-trust network, but one where the new staff work in a structured environment in which their decisions and actions are visible and where they understand they will be held accountable for their contribution. Within this structure, they can be encouraged to take responsibility for running their own areas of the business.
Avoid decision-making bottlenecks
In expanding companies, managers sometimes create bottlenecks where only certain people can make decisions, in an effort to maintain consistency and control. The company where the CEO makes all the decisions is the company where the CEO doesn’t sleep – and it is also one which is going to run into difficulties as it grows. This situation arises because of fears that people further down the company are going to make mistakes that will impact performance.
Using augmented intelligence to make suggestions to staff, and to record their response, means that humans and the machines can work together to come up with the best solutions. There is less need to worry that people are going to miss important actions or take wrong decisions because of the visibility of what’s going on.
The package delivery service UPS uses augmented intelligence called ORION to shave millions of miles off drivers’ routes – but they also believe in trusting “boots on the ground” and getting drivers to use their own judgement in tandem with the system. In one often-quoted example of human smarts, a fifth grader at a school demonstration questioned a route ORION suggested. The computer planned a list of collections according to location, picking up from a grocery store first. The child pointed out that ice-cream could melt during the rest of the route so it would be in fact better to stop at the grocery store last. Augmented intelligence isn’t a replacement for human problem-solving and decision-making but it can, as its name suggests, augment it.
Managing customer relationships
Another issue that can rear its head as a business grows is the difficulty of managing customer relationships. In a small business, customers naturally build strong relationships with senior staff. But as the business grows and more customers are brought on board, the complexity increases and it becomes harder to get this right. Customer satisfaction can drop.
Tools in use today like Salesforce’s ‘Einstein’, demonstrate how augmented intelligence can be used to manage customer relations in a sustainable and consistent way. Advances in technology create the possibility of monitoring all interactions with customers across many platforms, using this information to make predictions, highlight issues, and to help staff to prioritize their time effectively. This means customers will find that their needs are met at an early stage, and that drives increased satisfaction. Happy customers who come back for more and pass on good messages to others drive business growth, so it is important to manage this to the highest standard.
Keeping track of the financials
Keeping track of the revenue situation is an area that can slide in a period of intense growth. When a business is small, it is relatively straightforward to keep on top of the expected profit and loss and to see if it is headed in the right direction. The chief executive may be able to do the math in his or her head.
But in a growing business, an element of chaos can creep in. There is more revenue coming in, but it is possible that, when the smoke clears and the dust settles, the business might be heading toward the red. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as the inability to invoice fast enough, inaccurate bills, or offering services that are no longer profitable.
For example, a consulting company may agree to a fixed-price engagement requiring four business analysts, but then discover the company does not have the appropriate staff available. The business resource team might then send in staff who do not have the proper skill set. Ultimately, this engagement could end up costing more to deliver than it was sold for. If this sort of mistake happens often, the company’s profitability will soon be affected. Using augmented intelligence allows the business to have a much better idea of what resources will be needed for the work that is in the pipeline, and this creates a valuable window for the human resources team to pull together the best teams to deliver each engagement.
In conclusion, augmented intelligence offers many ways to stay in control of a business as it grows, using powerful tools to manage staff, money and customer relationships that help the company continue to scale.
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