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What is AI-Powered Decision Support?

Fifty years ago, businesses relied almost exclusively on human judgment for key decision-making. While some data existed, it was professionals and their intuitions, honed over years of experience, who were central to the process of determining good vs. bad and safe vs. risky. Not exactly the most ideal solution.

From there, we moved to data-supported decision making. Thanks to the growing number of connected devices, business leaders were able to access unimaginable volumes of data – every transaction, every customer interaction, every macro and microeconomic indicator – all available to make more informed decisions.

Unfortunately, even this approach had its limitations. For one thing, leveraging such a massive amount of data wasn’t feasible, which left a summarized version. This often obscured many of the patterns, insights and relationships that existed in the original data set. Further, cognitive bias from humans still existed.

Enter stage three: AI-powered decision support. Artificial intelligence is already ahead of the game because, provided the data being used is accurate, it’s not prone to cognitive bias. Therefore, it is more objective in its decisions. Furthermore, AI is better capable of leveraging not just mountains of data, but also all the information contained within that data, allowing for a much higher degree of consistency and accuracy.

As a real-world example, decision support that is powered by artificial intelligence can determine with much more certainty what the optimal inventory levels are, which ad creative would be most effective and which financial investments would be most lucrative.

While humans are essentially removed from the workflow, however, the purpose of introducing AI into the mix is to enhance and enable better decisions that what humans are capable of achieving on their own. In other words, the ideal scenario would involve both humans and AI working in tandem to leverage the inherent value of both for the benefit of the organization. In fact, there are many instances in which business decisions depend on more than mere data alone.

Take, for example, inventory control. While AI may be leveraged initially to objectively determine the appropriate inventory levels for maximum profitability, other information that is inaccessible to AI but incredibly relevant to business decisions may also come into play. For instance, if the organization is operating in a highly competitive industry or environment, human decision makers may opt for higher inventory levels in order to ensure a positive customer experience.

Or, let’s say the AI workflow indicates that investing more in marketing will generate the highest ROI. That company may decide, instead, that it’s more important to focus on areas other than growth for the time being, such as improving quality standards.

So, where artificial intelligence offers consistency, accuracy and objective rationality, other information that is available to humans in terms of values, strategy and marketing conditions may merit a change of direction. In these cases, AI can essentially generate a number of different possibilities from which human decision makers may select the best course of action based on the whole picture at hand.

The key takeaway is that humans are no longer interacting directly with data, but rather the insights produced by artificial intelligence’s processing of that data. Culture, strategy and values still remain a critical component of the decision-making process. AI is basically a bridge to marry them with the objective rationality that cannot be achieved through human cognition. Essentially, it’s a “best of both worlds” situation. By leveraging both humans and AI together, organizations can reach better decisions than they ever could using either one alone.

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