PBJ How Oregon Works: How Companies are Employing Artificial Intelligence

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This article was originally published January 31, 2020, as part of the Portland Business Journal’s “How Oregon Works” series.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be used everywhere these days as it continues to transform the ways we conduct business. Yet many companies have been reluctant to implement or expand the use of AI, both for legal and ethical concerns and due to difficulties in identifying appropriate business use cases.

For those companies still skeptical of AI, it’s useful to identify the variety of business processes in which AI is already being utilized. For example, companies are successfully using AI in the automation of many administrative and financial tasks, such as updating customer files and handling customer communications. This can be particularly useful for businesses that don’t have a full-time customer service or sales team.

AI is further being used in the information and technology sector to detect and deter the types of security intrusions that can have a tremendous impact on a company’s bottom-line. For example, AI can be trained to help identify even the smallest indicators of ransomware and malware attacks before they happen. Advances in AI have also revolutionized data analytics. Nearly every company has data of some kind. AI is now permitting companies to monetize existing data sets, opening up new potential product offerings and revenue streams. This is in addition to the ways in which AI is being used for data analytics purposes to improve a company’s products and to predict customer behavior.

Finally, one of the most rapidly growing uses of AI is in human resources and employee management functions. Uses of AI in this space include assisting in recruiting and hiring, employee onboarding and retention, and managing employee performance. In particular, AI can be used to automate the screening of applications and scheduling interviews, and in answering new employee questions and directing them to applicable corporate resources.

These are only a few ways in which businesses have successfully employed AI. As part of any plan to implement or expand AI into its workflow, however, it’s essential that companies closely monitor the ever evolving AI legal, regulatory and ethical landscape.

At the federal level, for example, House Democrats recently introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2019, which would regulate AI systems. Though the Act is unlikely to be passed into law, legislation of this type will almost certainly follow in future Congressional sessions. States are also increasingly entering the AI regulatory picture; Oregon recently created a task force on autonomous vehicles and Illinois enacted a first-of-its-kind bill that regulates employers’ use of AI in job interview videos. As use of AI continues to expand, it’s virtually assured that the federal government, states and even cities will seek to pass AI legislation.

Given the tremendous strides made in the field of AI in recent years, companies would be well-advised to examine how AI can create efficiencies for their business. As with any new technology, however, use of AI should be monitored closely and implemented with the flexibility to adapt with the ever-changing legal and regulatory framework surrounding its use.

Key Contributors

Kevin S. Crosman
Matthew R. Wilmot
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