Readying Mid-Market Businesses for AI
Part 2 of a 2-part series on artificial intelligence for mid-market businesses. Read Part 1 here.
Data is the critical piece within AI and machine learning. When readying a mid-market organization for an AI strategy, it helps to start on a smaller scale. You will want to begin by engaging the internal team and gathering line of business leads that will be part of this strategic initiative. The importance of creating an analytics culture cannot be overstated, the team must be focused on challenging the status quo. This internal team will be using AI to look for patterns within the data and make predictions around how to improve business processes.
Dynamics 365 and Office 365, Infused with AI Capabilities
There are a number of ways to begin thinking about and planning for an AI strategy. First off; you can look at the pre-built AI solutions in the market right now. Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics 365 come already infused with AI capabilities. Leveraging these platforms, especially if you have already invested in them, is a great way to start small and get some quick wins.
Three Examples of Pre-Built AI:
- In the Office 365 suite, leverage the AI capabilities within PowerPoint and Word by using the designer functionality. This functionality helps you create high quality slides by providing suggestions and critiques on the writing of that presentation.
- Excel has AI features: Ideas helps identify trends, patterns, and outliers in a data set—helping users analyze and understand their data in seconds. You can take a picture of a printed data table with your mobile device and convert that analog information into a spreadsheet with a single click. New image recognition functionality automatically converts the picture to a fully editable table in Excel, eliminating the need for you to manually enter data.
- The focused inbox in Microsoft Outlook helps you spend less time searching through emails and surfaces up targeted emails so you perform your daily functions more efficiently.
So, you see, taking advantage of pre-built AI capabilities is not nearly as daunting as developing new specific products and services using Microsoft AI.
The predictive analytics in Power BI are absolutely critical for analyzing big data. If you have data coming in from multiple sources, Power BI as the output for that data will provide valuable insights and knowledge to your organization. What is driving AI right now is the massive amount of data in the market, and the amount of computing power that is available through Microsoft Azure.
Starting Small in AI
There’s no need to start off your AI journey making huge, drastic changes to your business. Start small and get a quick win by solving a business problem like CRM adoption. Have your analytics team work with your salespeople to pull data from multiple sources in order to get detailed information on your customers. That information could come from LinkedIn, the core of CRM itself, from your ERP system or from business news out in the market. These multiple sources can be pulled into predictive analytic solutions to then dramatically improve your customer service. The Relationship Assistant in Dynamics 365 for Sales can be utilized for activities like alerting when a pipeline needs to be updated, or certain steps need to be followed to move an opportunity along.
Rolling Out Your AI Strategy
We’ve established that data is the fuel for AI and machine learning, and encouraging a data culture within your organization is quite important. Being able to access that data is critical to the success of an AI strategy for mid-market businesses.
The three big trends in the market right now are:
- Access to massive data from multiple sources
- Massive computing power
- A wide array of algorithms available to analyze that data
So how does a mid-market company roll that out?
- Identify specific business problems in the organization
- Create a small team to do discovery with, either internally or with a Partner
- Start small and identify some quick wins before branching out cross-functionally
Say you have dug into pre-built AI applications like Cortana, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 and leveraged the existing capabilities in the solution you already own. Once you’ve identified and achieved some quick wins with AI, you can then look at scaling out with other tools like AI Builder, a low-code approach within the Power Apps framework. Developers can build specific solutions for their customers with the use of AI Builder. IoT (Internet of Things) sensors are a great fit for a business with equipment in the field who are looking at ways to reduce cost and transportation.
An AI strategy is not just a project, it’s really more of a journey. We’re all inundated with data these days, so figuring out the patterns behind the data, promoting a data-driven culture and how to make that work for your organization is where the world of business technology is heading.
Encore has a broad range of expertise across Dynamics ERP, CRM, Office 365 and BI. Please connect with Encore to show you how to leverage the AI capabilities in your existing ERP and CRM solutions, as well as look at new ways to analyze your company’s data with BI.
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