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I’m of the belief that there has never been a more exciting time to be working on artificial intelligence (AI) software than the present—and I’m not alone. Market research firm IDC forecasts that spending on AI systems will reach nearly $98B by 2023, more than double the spend in 2019. We have an incredible opportunity to use intelligence and automation to create a world of applications that will open up a whole new world for businesses, enabling efficiencies that were previously unimaginable and that impact bottom and top-line growth.
I recently had an opportunity to participate in a podcast on intelligent search with Hayley Sutherland, a senior research analyst at IDC covering AI software platforms, and other industry leaders. Let’s dive into my three biggest takeaways from the podcast.
It’s all about context.
Data without context is like a bicycle with training wheels—you can use it, but you’ll never achieve maximum output. As Hans-Josef Jeanrond from Sinequa pointed out, the industry needs to focus on becoming more intelligent about user context. “You can have two different people asking the same question but wanting different results back,” he said. Understanding what information workers—and other savvy professionals who spend their days extracting and using data—really need is one of the biggest opportunities facing the companies in our space.
Consider the example I spoke of on the first segment of the podcast. Without intelligence, you’re only able to text search information that is already present. So, if you’re a real estate agent and you need to find an image of a house, you can search on a file name or perhaps some very basic geographic coordinates. You can’t search for the orange house that is the corner lot in a duplex with more than 2,500 square feet and in the Kennedy school district. Context matters—and AI fills a gap where computers have historically failed.
Your user needs to be at the center of your experience.
Let’s face it: the world has changed. Data is not just crunched by the data scientists and others in IT. Marketers, HR, Sales, etc.—in other words, your most critical business functions—are all actively using data to make critical business decisions. We must arm them with the ability to find the most important information as quickly as possible. On the podcast, one of the speakers spoke about millennials and research that has shown that they equate the quality of information with how hard it is to find. The harder it is to find, the less significant it is. I’m sure we can all relate to that when we’re on page 17 of a Google Search, slogging through with our eyes glazed over.
The number one thing we can do as an industry is to enable workers who have a great understanding of their business to train intelligent systems to work for them. Take an application we all know like Excel. It takes very complex ideas and boils them down so anyone inside the business can do amazing things with it. For AI to see the growth IDC is projecting over the next few years, we as an industry are going to take what has often been perceived as a nebulous and expensive technology and simplify it so that information workers can apply it to the unique problems they face every day with unstructured data such as images, PDFs, and videos.
AI helps businesses do more with less.
One of the recurring themes throughout the podcast was the need for more efficient processes and the role AI plays. Mark Floisand from Coveo stated it most succinctly: no one is interested in search. They are interested in finding and learning something and it’s our job to help them do that as quickly as possible. Get in, get out. Each of the participants talked about ROI in hours saved. There are enormous process efficiencies and automations that can be learned through intelligence. Productivity is an incredibly important metric for businesses to measure. We often see our customers spending half their week scouring various systems for information. Doing more with less is the key principle of the times at the moment. There’s no better way to imagine doing more with less by giving your team the tools to find and work with data more efficiently when it’s a critical part of the day.
This is not to completely disregard the top-line business value. If you’ve been dragging your feet on digital transformation, current events have dictated that you no longer have a choice. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, COVID-19 has changed the way we do business and every business must think digital-first. Time to market is a topline benefit and AI plays an invaluable role in gathering, finding, and assembling the digital data required to sell a product. For services companies, it’s extracting critical data from PDFs, reports, and invoices to enable speedy analysis that supports decision making.
What do you think are the biggest trends in intelligent search? What’s its future? We hope you’ll tune into the podcast and share your thoughts. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.