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The first step in determining whether AI could pay off


August 12, 2019   by Greg Meckbach


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Thinking of investing in artificial intelligence so you can automate tasks that are wasting workers’ time?

Many brokerages have processes that could be improved through machine learning, suggested Christopher Wynder, director of product marketing for capture and original equipment manufacturing at OpenText Corp.

But before spending money on IT transformation, you need to ask what you value as a company and how much some manual processes are costing your company.

“To break it down and say ‘this is how many minutes, seconds that X takes to do, this is what’s involved,’ there is a fair amount of analysis involved in that,” said Wynder. “You have to talk to the people who are actually doing it, in a way that they don’t feel like they are going to get their hand slapped. If we don’t know what they actually do, we are never going to get it better.”

Wynder spoke Friday to Canadian Underwriter about the challenges of measuring return on investment of information technology transformation projects.

“We often don’t understand how much we spend on a process. So when we do this, there is a lot of, ‘Are we crazy? Do we actually spend this?’”

Where brokers often encounter friction is when employees need to use one system to get data, and another system to do something with that same data.

“They may think the right answer is, ‘take the document from here, I press the button here and it just shows up in our processing system.’ They know that’s the answer you want to hear, but if that’s not what actually happens, and 99% of the time it isn’t, we need to know that.”

So to figure out what’s really going on, you need to have “boots on the ground” and pretty much ask workers what their day looks like.

“It requires trust on both sides and that’s one of the main reasons these kinds of [automation] projects fail. No one wants to be automated out of a job, no one wants to give you the tools to automate them out of a job and no manager wants to be the bad guy who is automating their prized employees out of a job, so there are a number of soft skills in getting enough information about a process.”

Waterloo-based OpenText sells a variety of business software products, including applications intended to make it easier for firms to manage their computerized documents.

Intelligent Capture, for example, is designed to collect data from scanned paper and chatbots and route that content to other systems.