A practical guide to getting started with Business AI

Business AI can help unlock data-driven insights, personalise customer experiences and drive innovation, writes UNSW Business School's Mary-Anne Williams

Imagine a world where your business can predict customer needs before they arise, design innovative products at lightning speed, and make data-driven decisions with unprecedented accuracy. This isn’t science fiction – it’s the power of Business AI.

Safe and responsible Business AI is revolutionising how organisations create business value, turning ordinary operations into extraordinary opportunities. It’s not just about applying AI to business functions like marketing, management, finance, banking, accounting, taxation and risk management; Business AI leverages AI to create business value, unlocking ROI and driving and aligning actual, measurable business outcomes.

At its core, Business AI involves creating systems requiring human intelligence, such as recognising speech, using data/information to make decisions, and solving problems to improve and align business processes, enhance customer experiences, and drive sustainable growth. The beauty of Business AI is that it’s not just for large organisations like CBA, Telstra, Apple or Amazon; businesses of all sizes and across industries can harness AI to stay competitive and innovative. Many small and medium-sized enterprises have the most to gain from generative AI.

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UNSW Business School's Mary-Anne Williams says that Business AI is creating more value in radiology workflows than AI is impacting medicine and actual patient care. Photo: supplied

Beyond the hype: practical applications of Business AI

A common misconception is that AI solutions are only for high-tech applications or cutting-edge research. Business AI is already embedded in many everyday business operations, often in subtle yet impactful ways. For example, AI was better at medical digital diagnosis than expert doctors. However, Business AI is creating more value in radiology workflows than AI is impacting medicine and actual patient care. Notably, the workflow transformation Business AI is making possible is also laying the groundwork for AI to drive medical innovation. These are theoretical possibilities and real-world applications of Business AI that are already making a difference.

Let’s explore some other examples.

1. Customer service automation

AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants revolutionise how organisations interact with customers. These systems handle routine inquiries, respond instantly, and escalate complex issues to human agents. Australian telecommunications company Telstra uses AI-driven chatbots to manage customer queries, significantly reducing wait times and improving overall customer satisfaction. AI chatbots can handle common customer inquiries, freeing human agents to tackle more complex issues, thus enhancing efficiency and customer satisfaction. It’s time to experiment with generative AI and learn how to use it safely and responsibly to improve the customer experience. A chatbot prototype used to take months; today, a proficient chatbot can be developed and iterated for improvement in hours.

Read more: Rolls-Royce's Aletheia Framework: pioneering safety-critical AI

2. Enhanced data analytics

Business AI’s ability to process and analyse large volumes of data quickly and accurately transforms how large and small organisations approach data analytics. They use Business AI to uncover and utilise insights from data that would be impossible to detect manually, and that can generate significant value. For example, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) employs Business AI to analyse transaction data, helping detect fraud patterns and improve risk management. AI-powered business analytics tools to gain deeper insights into customer behaviour and operational inefficiencies, driving more informed and strategic decisions.

3. Predictive maintenance

In manufacturing, predictive maintenance powered by AI minimises downtime and extends the life of machinery. By analysing data from sensors embedded in equipment, Business AI systems predict when maintenance is needed before a failure occurs and determine the response based on the value created. Sydney Water uses Business AI to monitor its infrastructure, ensuring a reliable water supply by predicting and preventing equipment failures. Implementing predictive maintenance solutions to proactively manage equipment health, reduce downtime to maximise value creation and save costs associated with unexpected breakdowns.

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Telstra uses AI-driven chatbots to manage customer queries, significantly reducing wait times and improving overall customer satisfaction. Photo: Adobe Stock

Unleashing innovation with Business AI

Business AI is not just about efficiency and cost-saving; it’s a catalyst for uplifting human creativity and driving, accelerating and scaling innovation. AI can augment human creativity by generating new ideas, optimising creative designs, and creating new content. This is not just a tool for streamlining operations but a powerful force that can drive your business to new heights of innovation and creativity.

1. Product design

Generative design is a fascinating application of AI, where algorithms generate a wide array of design options based on specified criteria. Nike, the sportswear giant, uses AI to create customised shoe designs based on individual customer data, optimising performance and comfort. Airbus, the aerospace company, uses AI to design lighter and more robust components for its aircraft, enhancing fuel efficiency and reducing material costs. Stanley Black & Decker employs AI to develop more ergonomic and efficient power tools, improving user experience and performance. Try exploring generative design tools to accelerate product development cycles, improve design efficiency, and innovate beyond conventional methods.

2. Marketing and content creation

AI revolutionises marketing and content creation by generating high-quality content at scale. AI-powered tools can produce blog posts, social media updates, and marketing materials tailored to a brand’s voice and audience preferences. AI is commonly used to create personalised marketing campaigns, delivering targeted content that resonates with diverse audience segments and boosts engagement. Explore responsible AI-powered content creation tools to maintain a consistent and engaging online presence, increasing brand visibility and customer engagement. Use your prototypes to learn about and achieve safe and responsible Business AI design, implementation and execution.

Read more: Steer it – don’t fear it: navigating AI with confidence

Enhancing human-AI collaboration and teamwork

Business AI redefines how teams collaborate and integrate AI agents into their workflows. Human-AI collaboration combines the strengths of AI’s data processing and analytical capabilities with human creativity and decision-making skills.

1. AI agents and teamwork

AI agents can work alongside human teams to automate routine tasks, manage workflows, and provide real-time insights. For example, in project management, AI agents can track project progress, allocate resources, and predict potential bottlenecks. Atlassian, an Australian software company, integrates AI agents into its project management tools to enhance team productivity and streamline workflows. Deploy AI agents to automate routine tasks and support team collaboration, allowing human workers to focus on strategic and creative activities that use these tools to accelerate the process of understanding customers’ current and future needs and improving their experience.

2. Enhancing workflows

Integrating Business AI into organisational workflows can lead to more efficient and effective operations. Business AI can analyse workflow data to identify inefficiencies, recommend and evaluate improvements that generate value, and ensure that processes capture and deliver value. Australian mining company Rio Tinto uses AI-enabled autonomous vehicles for mining and Business AI to optimise their operational workflows, improving efficiency and reducing costs. It’s time to explore how to integrate AI tools into your workflows to identify and eliminate inefficiencies, ensuring more valuation generation from operations.

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Cloud-based AI services and user-friendly AI tools allow businesses of all sizes to implement business AI solutions without requiring significant technical capabilities. Photo: Adobe Stock

Breaking down barriers: AI accessibility

Another myth is that AI is prohibitively expensive or complicated for smaller businesses. However, the democratisation of Business AI means these technologies are increasingly accessible and easy to use, helping people quickly solve problems that they could not solve without them. Cloud-based AI services and user-friendly AI tools have levelled the playing field, allowing businesses of all sizes to implement Business AI solutions without requiring significant technical capabilities. 

1. AI as a Service

Companies like Open AI, Google, Microsoft, and others offer AI-as-a-Service (AIaaS) platforms, providing businesses inexpensive access to powerful Business AI capabilities through the cloud. Australia-based fintech startup Airwallex uses cloud-based AI services to enhance its payment processing and fraud detection capabilities. Leverage AIaaS platforms to access advanced Business AI capabilities without heavy upfront investment in infrastructure and expertise.

2. No-code AI platforms

No-code AI platforms are another game-changer, enabling business users with no technical background to build and deploy AI models. Platforms like DataRobot and H2O.ai offer intuitive interfaces where users can drag and drop datasets, select algorithms, and train models, making AI accessible to non-experts. Implement no-code AI platforms to empower non-technical staff to develop and deploy AI solutions, fostering innovation across all levels of the organisation.

Read more: Three steps for leaders to harness AI-powered decision-making

Addressing ethical considerations in Business AI

While the benefits of Business AI are substantial, it’s crucial to address the ethical considerations associated with its use. Ensuring transparency, fairness, and accountability in Business AI systems and human-AI interactions is paramount. Businesses must be vigilant about biases in AI algorithms, data privacy, and the potential for both intended and unintended misuse and abuse.

1. Ethical AI frameworks

Implementing ethical AI frameworks helps businesses navigate these challenges. Organisations, including corporations, peak industry bodies, research institutes like the UNSW AI Institute and CSIRO’s Data61, regulators standard bodies and others in Australia, are developing guidelines and tools to promote and reduce the effort of executing ethical AI use. These frameworks help to ensure that Business AI systems are designed and deployed responsibly, balancing innovation with societal impact. Develop and implement ethical AI guidelines to ensure your AI applications are transparent, fair, and accountable, building trust with customers and stakeholders.

2. Continuous monitoring and auditing

Continuous monitoring and auditing of AI systems are essential to maintain their integrity and effectiveness. Regular reviews help identify biases, correct errors, and update algorithms to adapt to changing circumstances. Establish a regular review process for AI systems to identify and mitigate biases and ensure ongoing compliance with ethical standards and regulatory requirements.

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Rethinking Business AI

Business AI is not just about applying AI to various functions like marketing, management, finance, banking, accounting, and taxation. It’s about harnessing AI to generate substantial business value, transforming industries in practical, creative, and accessible ways. Business AI is redefining what’s possible, from automating customer service to enhancing product design, facilitating human-AI collaboration, and optimising workflows.

By embracing AI responsibly and creatively, businesses can unlock new levels of human productivity, efficiency, creativity, innovation, and customer satisfaction. As Business AI continues to evolve, it’s essential to remain curious and agile, open to novel ways of working and new applications, and committed to ethical principles. In doing so, organisations can harness the full potential of Business AI to drive sustained growth and success in the digital age.

Business AI is not what you think – it’s better. When understood and applied correctly, it’s a transformative force that can propel businesses into a future filled with innovation and opportunity.

The UNSW Business AI Lab is led by Professor Mary-Anne Williams and works with its partners to discover new business opportunities, overcome challenges to AI adoption and accelerate the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. For more information, please contact Professor Williams.


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