AI vs automation: why you (probably) only need the latter



AI is everywhere. It’s the new, cutting edge tool that everyone must have. If you don’t have AI in your business, you’re behind the times and missing out. In short, you need it.

Or do you? Often, businesses rush into expensive AI, believing it a cure-all for their business woes.  This then results in brands being disappointed with the AI they’ve invested in. All too often AI is overkill, and simpler business process automation will serve your needs sufficiently.

When you’re thinking about getting a little help with your workload from robots, then, you’ll need to consider the AI vs automation debate. Here’s why you probably only need the latter.


AI vs automation: what are the differences?

Before choosing between AI and automation, it’s worth remembering what they are, and how they differ.

AI, short for artificial intelligence, is a catch-all term covering a huge selection of emerging tools. In general, artificial intelligence tools are those that mimic human intelligence and ability. The goal is for the tool to act as a human would, able to make decisions and draw conclusions from data.

Meanwhile, automation software follows rules that you tell it. Automation aims to take on repetitive, predictable and robotic tasks. So, your team can focus on making the decisions and drawing conclusions.

A good way to think of the difference is that AI seeks to put the human in robots. Automation, meanwhile, seeks to take the robotic from humans.


Choosing the right tool

Choosing the right tool comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. Are repetitive tasks holding back team productivity? Or are you looking for intelligent suggestions to help with your next decision?

Automation software is for you when your main goal is to hand over rote tasks and drive efficiency. This doesn’t mean that automation cannot handle complex workflows, though. With conditional processing, automation can handle multi-tiered workflows.

AI is much more expensive than automation software, and requires a lot of data to work. On top of anything automation can do, AI’s usefulness is geared towards using data strategically, rather than sorting it.

When you’re torn by the AI vs automation question, then, you need to consider what automation can do, and what AI offers on top. Here are some examples.


AI vs automation: emails

You need a tool that can help you tackle your inbox. It needs to sort your emails, pull data and store it somewhere useful.

So, in AI vs automation, do you need the former or the latter?

Automation can act as an email parser. This means that it can scan your incoming emails for key terms and extract important data. Then, the automation tool can categorise it and paste the data into a useful integrated program of your choice. (For instance, your CRM, databases or files.) It can also automatically forward emails to the relevant team member.

On top of the abilities of automation, AI doesn’t have much extra to offer your emails. It is becoming capable of writing copy. This makes it a potentially useful tool for writing personalised marketing campaigns. Otherwise, automation is perfect for your email needs.


AI vs automation: finance

You want a tool that will help you keep track of your spending. You also want it to help you identify opportunities to save, invest and protect your business finances.

Automation can help with this, too. For a start, it can easily remove the manual data entry of your ledger and journal entries. On top of this, it can automate price comparisons, and alert you if there’s a cheaper option you could switch to. Or, it can use sentiment analysis to offer insights that could inform your investment decisions. It can even help you tackle fraud, by automating security checks and alerting you if something seems wrong.

AI can add to this by automatically acting on these insights, instead of letting you make the decisions. So, it can offer advice based on the insights it collects.


AI vs automation: decisions and problem-solving

You want a tool that will help you make decisions and solve problems. It’ll predominately handle uncommon or infrequent tasks and needs to understand speech or recognise images.

Automation is not the right tool for this. While automation can handle complex processes, it’s best used for the repetitive and predictable. It cannot draw conclusions from data for you. Rather, it prefers to work in the background, supporting the human team members that will handle these challenges.

This is where you’ll want the former of the AI vs automation option. You can only automate human intelligence and flexibility with AI. So, if you want decision making, problem-solving, or advice from your tool, that’s when you need AI.


Overegging the pudding

The disappointment that many brands are feeling towards their AI tools is no fault of AI itself. It’s simply that implementing AI is often the workplace version of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’ll work, but it’s overkill.

Sometimes, the simpler option is the more fitting choice, and this is often the case when it comes to handing tasks over to robots.

Is automation the tool you’re looking for? Get started with a free trial of ThinkAutomation.