Professional services benefit from artificial intelligence

Otso Massala

Certain professional services have been keeping their glamour and scarcity due to the difficult scalability.

Legal advice, financial services, management consultancy and other types of tailored advising such as medical advice, graphical design and others fit this mold.

Artificial Intelligence — aka cognitive technologies — are reaching the level where they have the potential to change that situation. AI is a machine that works and can react like humans, while still benefitting from accessing data bases and working tirelessly under the most demanding conditions.

On one hand, AI allows advanced and higher-quality services by supporting human service providers in accessing and processing big data in almost real time. Decision-support systems are examples of this. Such systems are based on an expert user repeatedly using the system to support high-value decisions in legal, medical, financial and technical fields.

On the other hand, the development of technology allows automation of services, providing wider access 24-7/365 access with several languages and interfaces. That allows scaling up of services, downsizing employee costs, and improving availability.

Fast-improving speech and optical character recognition technologies are allowing user-friendly interfaces for clientele who don’t need prior expertise to use AI.

Since the variable cost of automated professional services is negligible, the business model may be moving from hourly fees toward subscription-based models. Think about a nonstop legal adviser available at any hour of any day of the year, with a fixed monthly fee.

AI may also be a successful tool for attracting and retaining talent in the highly competitive labor market. As an example, law firms are starting to use AI in the least-interesting tasks, such as document review, document production and template completion, to give employees time to use real expertise and insights, adding value for clients.

As a doctoral graduate of INSEAD, formerly known as the European Institute of Business Administration, and a professor a Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, I see how the emergence of AI in the legal services sector is changing educational needs.

Obviously, learning to write code and develop bots is not going to replace the need for fundamental understanding of economics, operations and the legal system.

However, skilled professionals who team up with programmers in writing, testing and applying the code are going to have an advantage in the new era of professional services.

At Shippensburg, we are recommending organizations to get started with AI by reviewing their internal processes and identifying one or two narrowly defined processes in which to introduce AI. Some tasks are more obvious candidates for automation than others; repetitive tasks with a bounded number of solutions are prime candidates.

Technology is becoming more readily available. Thus, system development is getting easier and less technical day by day. However the implementation is still a major driver of success of failure, and poor implementation is certainly worse than no implementation.

Artificial intelligence technology has been maturing now over several decades, and its contribution has grown increasingly obvious in recent few years.

However it is also healthy to keep our heads cool, as the field is filled with considerable hype: The current generation of lawyers are unlikely to lose their job to two opposing AI systems arguing a case in court. At least, without significant human interaction.

Basically, AI would not change our work. It will most likely give more efficient tools for many types of professional services. You can expect fewer people working in small cubicles reviewing documents, faster ways to recognize patterns, shorter times to find relevant information and better matches between service demand and supply.

Otso Massala is an associate professor and director of the Charles H. Diller Jr. Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation in the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa. Email him at OAMassala@ship.edu.