AI unleashed – SA gets ready to optimise AI in business
South African businesses have quickly changed their views on AI – moving in a matter of months from concerns about AI taking jobs to eagerness to deploy it for competitive advantage. While AI is a game-changer, there are some risks organisations should consider before rushing in.
This is according to experts from The CRM Team, who recently staged an AI Roadshow Series across the country, in partnership with BUI. The AI Roadshow Series, entitled: ‘The Power of AI Unleashed’, ran from May to August in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape. It outlined the ground-breaking capabilities of Dynamics 365 Copilot, an AI-powered virtual assistant designed to provide advanced capabilities for Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Copilot is the world’s first embedded AI tool in both CRM and ERP and offers AI tools built for sales, service, marketing, operations and supply chain roles, building on AI momentum across Microsoft’s entire product offering.
Paul Mulder and Talhah Jeewa, Senior Solution Sales Professionals at The CRM Team, report that local businesses have quickly embraced the potential for AI. Jeewa says: “In a matter of just a few months during which we staged the roadshows, we have seen that people have become more comfortable with the concept of AI, particularly generative AI like ChatGPT. They realise it’s here to stay and they can either jump aboard or risk becoming redundant.”
Mulder says: “Attitudes have evolved very quickly. Organisations are no longer afraid of AI, although many are grappling with how to deploy it and use it responsibly. There are some concerns about data protection, security and potential legal or reputational risks. Having initially been consumer-driven, AI in organisations is now being driven by business, with IT moving slower due to security and privacy concerns.”
Some of these concerns are valid, they concede.
Mulder points out that unmanaged AI could potentially draw data from non-disclosure agreements, use outdated or incorrect information from within company data, or reflect unexpected bias that harms the company or its reputation. “Very few companies have a written AI policy, covering how it should be used, how it will be applied, who will be held accountable and how people will be sanctioned. These conversations need to be had, with IT, business, risk and legal departments involved. Importantly, staff must be trained and upskilled to use AI responsibly.”
He notes that the share of job postings on LinkedIn mentioning GPT is up 79% year-on-year, underlining how important it is that AI acumen be brought into all organisations. (Work Trend Index | Will AI Fix Work? (microsoft.com)) These skills encompass using generative AI, understanding that they cannot accept all generative AI content at face value, and fine-tuning query structures to achieve the best outcomes. “While bringing in AI competence is important, it is equally important that the business is ready to support these people – they need an environment that offers them the tools they need.”
Jeewa adds that there are misconceptions in the market around the cost of AI. “Many organisations think that because it’s hyped and new, it will cost an arm and a leg. But ChatGPT is free. Microsoft Enterprise licences include full access to Copilot across all business applications. It’s an investment businesses have already made, and they just have to switch it on. They don’t need a whole implementation,” he says.
“However, it is important to have the correct security, policies and procedures in place first. The CRM Team has solutions, training and change management specialists to ensure that it’s done in the right way – responsibly, securely and mitigating the risks of the unknowns. We want to get our customers onto the AI wagon and to train them to use AI intelligently. They need to activate it and use it to support their digital transformation,” Jeewa says.
The CRM Team and BUI partnered to merge their different sets of expertise, to improve services and customer satisfaction. Both companies are First Technology Group companies and successful Microsoft partners. The CRM Team are experts in automating business processes through the likes of AI, Copilot, and Power Platform, while BUI are experts in the security space and Azure services, helping customers protect their data. Mulder and Jeewa note that the partnership secures end-to-end services provided to the customer, helping customers harness generative AI safely and responsibly.