How To Incorporate AI Into Your Business

How To Incorporate AI Into Your Business

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming how business works—rapidly.

What was once a complicated and expensive technology to implement is now accessible to the average user through tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. Even if you've never written a line of code in your life, you can use AI to make your business operations faster and more efficient.

In this guide, we'll go over the potential benefits of AI in the workplace—and discuss what to consider before launching a full-scale digital transformation.

Understanding AI and its potential

One thing that makes AI remarkable—compared to innovations that have come before—is the speed at which it develops. The computer models that power AI tools learn more and more about the way we work each time we interact with them.

These models can also feel eerily human-like. Communicating with a generative AI tool like ChatGPT often seems very similar to chatting with a person.

This experience is created through the use of natural language processing (NLP) and large language models (LLMs).

An LLM is a computer program that's trained on vast swaths of online data. When you use an AI chatbot, you're interacting with the internet as it's existed up to this point. Thanks to NLP, these computer programs can predict how humans will communicate and respond accordingly.

As a result, it may seem that a tool like ChatGPT can make independent decisions—but it can't. At least, not yet.

Right now, AI is a tool just like any other software you might use at work … albeit a powerful one. In order to use it most effectively, it's important to remember that AI is a complement to human creativity and attention to detail—not a replacement.

By combining your skills with the processing power of AI algorithms, you could see workplace benefits that include:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Enhanced decision-making
  • Increased competitiveness

Improved efficiency

Think about the most routine and time-consuming task you do at work. Perhaps it's checking email or running a specific report every Friday morning.

Now consider how much time you spend on this task—including thinking about it, talking about it, planning for it, executing it, and following up on it.

Chances are, it takes up a lot of your workday. You aren't alone in this. In a survey conducted by Asana, knowledge workers reported spending 62% of their time every day on repetitive and mundane tasks. Tasks that keep them from working on more high-level and profit-driving initiatives.

Using AI tools to automate part of your job can free you up to focus more time on creative and strategic work. Once you understand how to prompt, or interact with, your AI tool of choice, you could use it to do things like:

  • Build workflows for repetitive tasks
  • Process data
  • Summarize long documents
  • Generate reports and charts
  • Assign customer support tickets to different team members
  • Collect information from customers
  • Run calculations
  • Check and update lines of code
  • Write the first draft of LinkedIn and Twitter post copy
  • Employ predictive analytics to help with problem-solving

While the AI takes care of those tasks, you can work to launch new products faster, hire new team members, improve your marketing strategy, or explore something that interests you.

Enhanced decision-making

AI tools are trained using data—and they're great at processing more of it at speeds that outstrip human capabilities.

An AI company called Anthropic fed its Claude AI language model the complete text of “The Great Gatsby”—over 47,000 words. Claude processed the entire book and identified an error the Anthropic team inserted into the text … in 22 seconds.

You could harness this kind of processing power to identify the following in your company's data:

  • Duplicates
  • Errors
  • Trends
  • Patterns
  • Outliers

From there, you might ask the AI tool to classify and organize your data further—even to the point of predicting future outcomes based on existing patterns. This can help your company:

  • Make more data-informed decisions
  • Identify new business opportunities
  • Better understand factors influencing operational performance
  • Prepare for potential challenges

You could use these types of insights to improve your product launches, marketing, hiring strategy, business development, and more.

Increased competitiveness

There are also a few ways that AI can help your company keep its competitive edge. The speed at which AI tools can process data means that you can more easily:

  • Develop new social media marketing initiatives
  • Create products and services
  • Predict potential supply chain slowdowns
  • Personalize user experiences
  • Provide after-hours customer support

It’s also possible to train a custom-built AI tool on your company's internal data. This may help you better understand why certain products failed to launch or what makes a customer satisfied with your brand.

Assessing your business needs

If you're getting excited about the potential business benefits that AI can bring, you might want to get started and integrate this tech as quickly as possible.

But you’ll want to pause and take a moment to consider your business needs. The capabilities of AI are so vast—and continually evolving—that having a game plan and goals in place is a good idea.

Analyze current processes

Integrating AI into your business functions can come with a price tag, so make sure you're maximizing the return on your investment. One way to do this is by identifying the areas in your business where AI can boost efficiency or cut existing costs the most.

First, think about sticking points in your business—processes and operations that may be impacted by bottlenecks and delays. Next, think about tasks that are data-heavy, routine, and even done in duplicate throughout your company.

These are all good places to start experimenting with AI. For example:

  • A growing startup's marketing team may use AI automation to send emails to new inbound leads and then move the contact to a new pipeline stage.
  • In a manufacturing environment, teams may use AI to help collect and interpret data that shows how well their equipment is working.
  • The human resources manager at a small business may use AI process automation to review, sort, and categorize data about how quickly their team can fill open positions.

Set clear objectives

Once you know what you’d like to optimize with AI, consider what you intend to achieve with the tool. You may not hit this mark the very first time you employ AI, as there’s a learning curve—but you can have a clear outcome to work toward.

Think about:

  • What’s the best-case result of incorporating AI? This could be something like a certain amount of money saved in a quarter or time shorn off of routine processes.
  • How will you measure its success? In order to assess how helpful an AI tool is, you’ll want to come up with a quantifiable way to measure its performance. This is similar to how you might set key performance indicators (KPIs) and benchmarks for your team members during annual performance reviews.
  • How does the tool align with your business strategy? When you develop a list of AI tools to consider, evaluate how each tool aligns with your company's vision—as well as your existing tech stack. You'll want to feel confident in a tool's data privacy practices, mission, and integration capability before making an investment.
  • How can you establish guidelines around ethical use of AI tools? UNESCO’s 10 ethical AI principles include data privacy, ensuring no harm to others, non-discrimination, and transparency among other key points. Their list can be a good starting point for other organizations seeking to establish AI ethics guidelines.

Choosing the right AI solutions: off-the-shelf vs. custom

When integrating AI into your business, you have two main options: use an off-the-shelf tool that already exists, or work with a machine learning engineer to create a custom AI solution.

Off-the-shelf AI tools

An off-the-shelf AI tool may offer some level of customization—but their capabilities are largely fixed. You won't have to build anything from scratch, and the company that sells the tool can most likely provide customer support if you have questions.

Pros Cons
- Easy to use
- Reduced setup time
- User-friendly interface
- Customer support options
- Crowd-sourced support through community forums
- Available at different price points
- Can't be completely customized
- Features may be limitedIntegration capabilities may be limited
- No control over how the tool processes and stores your data

Custom AI solutions

A custom AI solution may serve many of the same purposes as an off-the-shelf tool. In this case, though, you've worked with an engineer to build the tool to your specifications. It’s tailored to your company's exact needs and wants.

While you won't be able to find a community of users who also rely on this tool—you're the only one who has it—you can work with your engineer to troubleshoot and add more features in the future.

Pros Cons
- Highly customizable
- Offers more control over data usage and processing
- Can be expanded and scaled as you grow
- Development engineers can provide support
- Incurs a higher cost than off-the-shelf products
- Longer wait times while the tool is in development
- May have a steep learning curve
- No community of users for support and documentation

Evaluating AI vendors and engineers

Whether you opt for an off-the-shelf or custom solution, doing your due diligence to find the right vendor or service provider is key.

Choosing an off-the-shelf tool

According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, one of the most important factors you can consider when evaluating an existing AI tool is how the AI has been trained. The AI model's “ground truth”—what it understands to be the correct answer to a problem—influences its other outputs.

While vendors might not be ready to let you have a peek at the entire inner workings of their AI system, you'll want to be satisfied with their answers to questions like:

  • What LLM is your tool using?
  • On what types of datasets was your tool trained?
  • How is our input data processed, stored, and used?
  • What data security measures do you have in place?
  • How much can we customize this tool?
  • How easy is it to customize?
  • What kind of initial and ongoing support do you provide?
  • Who owns the copyright to the AI's outputs?

You may also want to conduct your own research online to see what other users of the tool are saying about their experiences—and how satisfied they are.

Working with an engineer

If you feel that a custom solution is the best option for your business, you'll need to hire an artificial intelligence pro or machine learning engineer to help you build it out.

When chatting with potential candidates who can help, ask questions like:

  • How long have you been working with AI?
  • What are some projects you've worked on that are like what we need?
  • What LLMs and machine learning algorithms do you use when building a custom solution?
  • Will our data be stored and processed locally? Who can access it?
  • What data security practices do you follow during your work?
  • Are you able to help us integrate the tool with our existing tech stack?
  • Can you offer any ongoing support after the tool is complete?
  • What's your expected timeline to complete a project like this?
  • What's your pricing structure for this work?

And, if you aren't sure whether an off-the-shelf or custom solution is best for your needs, you can always book a consultation with an AI professional to get their opinion on the best course of action.

Preparing your team for AI integration

Successful AI integration isn't just about picking the right tool—it also involves preparing your team members to use the AI most effectively. Without the right prep, your team may not know how to prompt the tool or they may wonder just how much of their jobs will be handled by AI.

Clear communication and training can help to offset these concerns and create a more productive experience for everyone.

Change management

To start, communicate the reason behind the AI integration to your team. Let them know:

  • Your goals for using the tool
  • Why you selected this particular AI software
  • How AI can help to make their jobs easier
  • What you're excited to focus your team's attention on while AI handles some of their more routine tasks

Make sure that you also let your team know where they can turn with any comments, questions, suggestions, or concerns about AI use in the workplace. Because there's so much that's yet to be discovered about what AI can do, it can be a significant benefit to your company to maintain an open dialogue around uses and best practices. You may find that your team uncovers new uses for AI that you never anticipated.

Employee training and development

You'll also want to make time to train your team on key aspects of both the specific tool you've chosen or built as well as guidelines for AI prompting.

For example, a customer service team may need to know:

  • The key phrases AI is searching for in call transcripts
  • When and how the AI tool will flag, move, or otherwise identify customers and tickets in your system
  • How they can structure their requests to the AI software to receive the best output
  • What AI can't do—tasks that still require a careful human touch

Similarly, a writing team may benefit from guidelines around:

  • How much of an AI tool's written output they can use in their work
  • The ideal use case for AI, such as creating outlines or writing headlines
  • What information they're allowed to feed into an AI tool

While it may be tempting to upskill your entire team to become AI experts, in reality, this often isn't the best way to approach your integration.

Your team members have jobs they already do—devoting more of their working hours to AI upskilling could reduce output, not add to it.

Starting your team with a solid foundation in AI usage basics—and creating a culture of continuous learning through study and experimentation—is a good place to start.

This way, you can all learn more about how to best use and interact with the specific AI tool you've chosen as you work. And, if you need further support for either AI training or usage, you can look at hiring an independent AI professional to help your company achieve AI mastery.

Monitoring AI implementation and measuring success

Ultimately, integrating AI into your business isn't a “set it and forget it” experience. As AI technologies are evolving, you'll want to be involved in monitoring AI use and progress, measuring its success, and finding new ways to use the tools you have at hand for improved output.

Reviewing key performance indicators (KPIs)

Ideally, you'll have created a list of initial KPIs and goals to achieve when first implementing your AI tool. If you've already implemented a tool without doing so, that's okay—this is going to be an ongoing process, so you can start now.

Set aside time each month or quarter to evaluate how your investment in AI is paying off. You'll want to consider things like:

  • How often is the tool being used for its intended purpose?
  • Have your teams developed new ways to use the tool?
  • Does your team feel that the tool's outputs are high quality, or do they have to do a lot of manual editing and reworking?
  • If customers or vendors are interacting with the tool's outputs, what’s the reception like? Is sentiment positive or negative?
  • How much time has been saved so far by the use of AI in the workplace? Is it more or less than you'd expected?

Continuous improvement

From here, you can revise, refine, change, and set new KPIs for your teams. You can also continue to evaluate how and when they use AI.

As with any new technology, you may not experience your expected results right away. That's normal, and to be expected.

The more you use AI in the workplace, the better you and your team members will become at interacting with AI, leveraging its outputs for best effect, and identifying new ways to use AI for productivity

Get help implementing AI in your business processes

It's becoming clear that AI is a big part of the future of business. If you're not clear on the best way for your company to use AI going forward, consider bringing in an artificial intelligence engineer to help you clarify when, how, and why you're using AI in business. These pros are skilled in identifying the most productive—and realistic—ways to use AI in everyday work.

Whether you need help choosing an off-the-shelf solution or want someone to help you ideate and build a custom product, the AI and machine learning engineers on Upwork can help. Log into Upwork and create your first job post now to connect with skilled professionals who can bring their AI experience to your team.

And, if you're an AI pro looking for their next project, check out all the artificial intelligence and machine learning jobs available on Upwork right now. It's simple to get started—just create an Upwork account and begin sending proposals or offering consultations.

Disclosure: Upwork is an OpenAI partner, giving OpenAI customers and other businesses direct access to trusted expert independent professionals experienced in working with OpenAI technologies.

Upwork does not control, operate, or sponsor the other tools or services discussed in this article, which are only provided as potential options. Each reader and company should take the time to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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Author Spotlight

How To Incorporate AI Into Your Business
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

How To Incorporate AI Into Your Business
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

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