A human touch: consultative intelligence


Businesses in all shapes and sizes are constantly searching for more insight into their health. As technology and services have evolved over time, so too has the sheer amount of different ways businesses have looked for this all-important knowledge.

But with great data comes great responsibility. Financial staff are starting to drown in the need to capture as many points of information as possible. From expenses to invoicing, business travel to supplier relationships, the amount of data being recorded is ever-expanding. It’s not just limited to finances: it affects just about every business process, including HR, productivity and insurance.

The problem with having so much reporting is that the corresponding analysis grows in parallel. Another report, another 20 minutes needs to be set aside to analyse what the data displays. For busy finance staff looking to make a tangible difference to their organisation, they simply don’t have time.

>See also: What are the business benefits of artificial intelligence?

The challenge that companies need to tackle is how to stop those using their products and reports being blinded by the volume presented to them. It’s all well and good having a million data points to analyse, but even with a modern set of intelligent business tools, the emphasis needs to be on actionable insights; a ‘look here’ approach.

Many businesses can feel that by purchasing and installing a machine learning or artificial intelligence-based solution that they will be able to quickly get through the data available and clearly see what needs to change within their organisation. Instead, this often leaves them as in the dark as they previously were, albeit with ten times the data to sift through.

Human and machine in tandem

This is where the idea of consultative intelligence comes into its own. Put simply, the term refers to the use of technology being supplemented with the guidance of a dedicated expert, and more often than not the customising of what is being captured.

By combining the sheer power of an advanced data reporting tool with the analytical experience of someone who helped develop it, consultative intelligence can steer businesses towards actionable insights far faster than if they were simply left to their own devices.

This is where, currently, it seems that consultative intelligence is the most intelligent choice of approach for reporting and analytics. Simply put, this approach helps end users get to the point quicker and make the right decisions by utilising the expertise of a specialist. After all, who is going to have a better grasp of how to analyse the data than someone who designed and runs the offering?

It’s important to engage in the approach as soon as possible. The beauty of an IT-based solution is the flexibility that it can have in the right hands. Therefore, rather than simply accepting an off-the-shelf product which roughly works for them, end users that are open to the idea of being consulted throughout their reporting should look to tailor and build bespoke tools that align with both their structure and business goals.

Engaging in the processes before the tools are even in place, users can customise what data they are capturing, how this is being captured and engage in training on analysing the information that will be generated. It’s clear to see that by having this relationship in the approach, genuinely useful information will be identified much sooner.

From fraudulent activity, through to opportunities to save money, these end results can be uncovered much quicker by engaging with consultants from the very beginning.

Artificial annoyance

Businesses not just in the UK, but globally, are currently weathering the latest deluge of industry terminology which is making reporting a little foggy. Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Augmented intelligence. Chatbots. Business intelligence. The last few years has seen a surge of interest in programmes and solutions that can think and adapt themselves, with many – if not all – of these terms being used interchangeably.

As more and more information is captured, the notion that an intelligent tool will be able to do the heavy lifting – and get more useful over time is hard to resist. Unfortunately, there is little, if any, true artificial intelligence available for businesses to use – we’re still closer to Clippy from Microsoft Word than we are to HAL 9000.

>See also: Which UK industries will benefit the most from artificial intelligence?

Take chatbots for example. By relaying information and questions to you in real-time, similar to a conversation with a person, chatbots are often lauded as being intelligent, aware pieces of technology. In reality, they are a web form that can identify pieces of information, which are presented in a dynamic format.

That’s not to discredit AI. It’s just that it’s not developed enough to truly be of benefit to companies. As we move forward it will be useful, but will start by aiding the individual, not entire organisations. For truly intelligent solutions to be able to independently offer council to an entire business, a conservative estimate would be that they’d need to be planted and analysing a company’s data for a number of years.

For now, what does need clarity is exactly how autonomous these technologies are – and how much work is needed from employees analysing the data alongside them, allowing businesses to make smart decisions about how they approach reporting and insights. The entire idea of automation and machine learning is to lessen the burden on put-upon staff and free up more of their time – not add to it.

As technology currently stands, consultative intelligence bridges the gap between human analysis and the rudimentary power of machine learning technology – making it the smart choice for insightful, modern businesses.


Sourced from Chris Baker, MD of UK enterprise, Concur

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...