What is Machine Learning and how can it benefit my business right now?
For the sake of discussion, I simplify the definition of “Machine Learning”, down to: “algorithms which look for patterns that people might overlook in big sets of data.” Machine Learning works best when a feedback loop can be established to “teach” the algorithm on an ongoing basis how correct its previous output was. That feedback becomes a new piece of data the algorithm can use to provide better results in the future.
Like with all emerging technologies it can be hard to find examples of how it can be applied to any one person’s situation. Popular examples of Machine Learning involve self-driving cars and image identification.
Here are three use cases I can think of for how Machine Learning can be applied to small and medium businesses:
Software User Trends
Let’s say you have an ERP system with many users, and you have identified some which are happier and more efficient than others. Machine Learning may identify behavioral patterns for those users which should become suggestions for improvement or training for other users.
For systems which intake large volumes of data from several sources, the task of identifying and merging duplicate records becomes daunting. Machine Learning is not dependent on strict matches to find duplicates. For example, one data source might use a numeric code for one field while others may include a full text description. Once the system has been trained that some of those records match, it will start including a match on the code values and descriptions on future match predictions.
Everyone is familiar with recommendations made to consumers by Amazon, Netflix, etc. For small and medium business, this could be used to enhance interactions with your customers in a similar way. Perhaps more interesting is how a Machine Learning recommendation engine can improve internal operations. Examples include better predictions of success of a sales pipeline, improved inventory management, and optimizing resource allocation.
As with all emerging technologies, new uses will become apparent over time. We hope these brief examples inspire your thoughts on how you can make use of Machine Learning for your business.