AI is here, but the discussion has only just begun

AI technologies have opened a new realm of possibilities for all industries and sectors. From language model chatbots to smart assistants and analytical tools, businesses are recognising the value of AI in improving processes, optimising decision-making, enhancing customer experiences, and gaining a competitive edge.

For tech businesses pursuing a high-growth, scale-up strategy, there are significant cost-savings and efficiency gains from AI. However, there are two questions to consider: 1) Which AI technologies should be integrated into the business?, and 2) How should businesses communicate their use of AI to stakeholders, clients and the wider public?

These questions formed the basis of The PHA Group’s panel discussion held as part of the 2023 Leeds Digital Festival. Titled “Communicating your use of AI: A guide to the adoption, integration and communication of AI”, the panel was made up of speakers who all offered different perspectives on AI and the way in which it was impacting their respective industries. 

Chaired by Hannah Craig, Head of PHA North, the panel’s speakers were Caroline (Orriss) Grant (Managing Director, Slalom Manchester), James Singleton (Head of Sales UK, Dotdigital), Jonathan Symcox (Editor, Business Cloud and Tech Blast) and Rhys Merrett (Head of Technology, The PHA Group).

The conversation opened with Caroline Grant, who was recently appointed the Manchester MD at global tech firm Slalom after 17 years at Accenture. 

“Remember that AI is just an enabler not the answer,” Grant said. “ Businesses need to think carefully about their AI strategy and how they harness and implement AI to best achieve their outcomes whether that’s improving customer satisfaction, increasing productivity or fundamentally disrupting a market.”

She continued to discuss findings from recent Slalom research. Based on a survey of 500 business leaders, only 6% admitted to having a clear AI strategy, while a lack of business strategy is cited as the biggest barrier UK businesses are facing with AI implementation.

Delving into the specific application of AI within software, James Singleton spoke about DotDigital’s use of AI and how certain applications have already been integrated into their platform to enhance their offering to customers. This has occurred seamlessly over the years, demonstrating that while Chat GPT has sparked public interest in AI, the reality is that many businesses are already engaging with it. 

He stated that “AI is a means to achieve something and enhances the way we work and communicate, making tasks more time efficient and challenging our thinking”.

As the Editor of Business Cloud and Tech Blast, Jonathan Symcox explained how the use of LLM had changed the way in which companies are able to press releases and content. However, he made the point that speed of output does not equate to engaging content. An editor knows what is likely to resonate with its readership. 

This is in comparison to an AI-generated press release, which can package everything up into a soulless and bland piece of writing. “AI is great, but you have to apply the human filter. That filter helps to create a connection and offers value to the reader,” Symcox said.

Companies using LLM also need to recognise its limitations and its propensity to produce nonfactual information; “When I asked ChatGPT to write me a news story based on facts, it fabricated a quote from the featured company’s CEO!”. 

Rhys Merrett, Head of Technology at The PHA Group, provided his insight from an agency perspective, explaining how different companies have reacted to AI and how it is being used by the PR industry. “AI has the potential to transform the PR industry. But we cannot use it as a means of convenience. We need AI to challenge our way of working so we can evolve.”

This was a point Merrett reiterated when asked how businesses should communicate their use of AI. “Before anything, we tell our clients to question why they are using AI and how it will change their way of working. There is no right answer here; we are very much at the exploratory stage, and so long as the reasons for engaging AI are clear, companies should be willing to experiment.” 

With the panel discussion over, Hannah opened the floor to the questions. These ranged from data protection and security to regulation and how to best approach AI adoption. The questions demonstrated the undeniable interest of AI across the private and public sectors and a desire to learn more about the technology and how it could be employed. 

It was a pleasure to be part of the Leeds Digital Festival, contributing to a timely discussion in a city that accommodates a burgeoning collective of entrepreneurs and SMEs. More events are set to follow in the future as PHA continues to lead the conversation on AI. The discussion is only just beginning. 

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