Machine Learning: What It is and How You can use It

Machine learning and related fields.

The term machine learning was first coined in 1959, but these days it’s no longer simply tech speak. Like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, machine learning has established itself as a point of discussion in companies across the country. Yes, the potential benefits can no longer be ignored.

If your company is interested in learning more about machine learning, consider this blog your first step, providing you a high-level view of what machine learning is and how it can benefit your business.

Machine learning at a glance

At its simplest level, machine learning uses algorithms and statistics to perform tasks without specific instruction to do so. These tasks commonly use data the system has access to in order to make predictions. As an example, this could help your company arrive at lower-cost decisions faster or identify patterns and trends that might not be obvious to an employee.

To get started in machine learning requires partnering with a company trained in the field to design the foundation of instructing your company’s machines in the data they are harnessing. Once this process is complete, the system can begin operating on its own, providing predictions that allow your company to work smarter and faster.

Smarter, faster benefits of machine learning

Working smarter and faster can benefit your company in a number of ways, but here are a few areas where machine learning is already having a great impact for companies utilizing it.

Improve customer service

It’s always about the customer first, and machine learning utilizes natural language processing (NLP) to guide computer programs in understanding customer questions, creating better answers and, ultimately, customer service. Tag specific messages based on characteristics such as “question” or “negative” and your system will be able to instantly filter each message to the department most apt to handle the situation.

Automated fraud detection

Fraud is a constant concern for companies in nearly every industry, and machine learning can support you in your goals to ward off this threat. By developing scenarios within the system that identify proper and improper behavior, machine learning can be used as a watchdog to monitor online interactions, identifying true instances of fraud while eliminating false alarm cases at the same time.

Machine learning is poised to transform our working landscape as powerfully as the Industrial Revolution did. It means greater efficiency than ever before in industries from finance to retail to the assembly line. Automation of tasks that used to take hours of employee time is saving companies not only that time, but money. It cuts down on the potential for human error, too, and the cost of scrambling to correct those all-too-human snafus.

Human Resources applications

One facet of business that machine learning and AI are impacting now, and will do so more in the future, is human resources. Currently, HR departments in businesses around the country are using AI and machine learning in hiring, speeding up the the vital — if exhaustive — task of combing websites, online resumes and social media networks to identify top employee candidates.

In addition to merely identifying potential candidates, machine learning can be used to analyze previous work history and determine where the candidate may best fit in your company based on listed skill set.

It’s also being used to predict when employees are poised to leave their jobs, offering managers the opportunity to correct whatever workplace scenario is pushing a good employee out the door. In this way, machine learning is a vital ally in employee retention, which, in this tight job market, is job one for most HR pros.

Are AI and machine learning the perfect fix for hiring? Not yet. It’s a relatively new tool, with bugs that still need to be worked out. Recently, Amazon admitted it went back to the drawing board with the AI program it created itself for hiring, finding that it was discriminating against women candidates. Why? For the past decade, the majority of resumes Amazon had received were from men. The machine was basing its criteria on that. Engineers tried to re-program it another way, but the tool kept finding other ways to discriminate against women. The machine was learning, in other words.

Forecasting the future

While all of the benefits included so far can help your company improve its day-to-day operations, perhaps the area where machine learning can have the greatest impact is in its ability to help your company plan for the future.

Machine learning can be taught to utilize your company’s existing wealth of data and combine that data with the insights of your talented planners and experts for a predictive look at your future. Looking to lower your lost sales, increase your service level or reduce the amount of obsolete product you have? Machine learning can support you in all of these goals.

Bring Machine Learning into your company

If your business is interested in putting the power of machine learning to work, the market is flush with options.

Tech giants like Google and Amazon are making massive amounts of computing power available in order to offer machine learning as a service. As an example, Amazon has already partnered with Major League Baseball, and their machine learning technology allows teams the ability to calculate the dollars earned from every register in every stadium in the league, all at a moment’s notice.

If your company is seeking a more collaborative approach to harness the power of machine learning or your options are limited because your raw data has been customized in some way, then a custom software developer may be the solution for you.

The right custom software development partner can support your company in its goals whether you’re seeking to utilize machine learning to its full capabilities or you simply need to analyze the data you already have in place. In either event you should seek a partner willing to work with you to explore your options, and one capable of consulting with you on everything machine learning can and can’t do for your business.

It’s the best way to make the most of this technology and truly put it to work for your company in the years ahead.

About Aaron Osterwyk

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