artificial intelligence in advertising

How AI will impact the back-office functions of agencies

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According to a report published back in 2015 the ‘tipping point’ for AI in white collar jobs will be around 2025. AI will change the way that we work for ever. This is the 2nd in a series of blogs looking at the likely impacts of Artificial Intelligence in Advertising. In the 1st blog we:  
  • Defined what Artificial or Augmented Intelligence is.  
  • Explained the different types of AI and,
  • Focused on how AI will or might change the agency delivery or ‘front office’ 
In this blog, we will talk about how AI will impact the back-office functions. Operations and finance departments of agencies might find it useful.    

Back Office – Administration optimization 

  PwC’s Global CEO Survey showed that 85% of CEOs surveyed are convinced that AI integrated ERP will have a significant impact on companies and their business models over the next five years. This is also an area which resonates with our vision:   That the people should spend their working hours being creative and doing interesting and challenging work and not wasting their time on unproductive, administrative tasks that add no value to them or their employers.”  AI and ML have the potential to drastically reduce the amount of nonproductive, administration that staff need to do. We are very excited about its potential for agencies because, it will improve efficiency and increase profitability. In the same way, it will make agencies more agile and proactive when managing clients. This is what we all want, right? How? Well, here are some examples:  

Timesheet Automation  

  Let’s face it, everyone hates registering time. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of the day or week and trying to figure out what you did and for which client. If you don’t then you know that you know that someone will be on your back until you do. So we end ‘guesstimate’ the hours we worked on each project to “get it done.”  The good news is that there is a lot of opportunity here for ERP/project management systems to automate timesheet completion. For example, Deltek’s WorkBook has a nice “Suggestion” feature that suggests timesheet entries for you based on which projects/tasks the user has been interacting with.    There is no limit here other than how comfortable staff are with the idea that an application tracks what they are doing. This ‘app’ does so on a continuous real-time basis.  

Project Management Automation 

  Most agencies create new projects based on client budget. The client states that they have $25k and the estimate fee is adjusted to $25k. The better agencies will amend scope to meet the budget. The most mature agencies will have good project managers who will review past project’s learnings and incorporate them into the new project. However, the argument against that is that it’s very time consuming.   That’s not the case with AI.   It can automatically interrogate all previous projects to provide a suggested plan estimate and resource allocation. The project manager them will just need to tweak the plan to suit the specific circumstances of the project.   While the PM is making these tweaks, AI will provide real time feedback as to the risk each change makes to the likelihood of the project succeeding. For example, warning that only 5% of projects were delivered in a certain timeframe if the delivery date is brought forward.   In other words, AI enables project management to provide more insights into possible outcomes. This will lead to an enhanced quality of the decision making. 

Exception Reporting  

  Using WorkBook again as an example, AI can be used to provide exception reporting.   For example, a project manager will receive a warning when a project reaches a certain % of its estimate, additionally a CFO may get a warning when the profit margin of a project falls below a certain predetermined level.   A client service director may get a warning if the profitibility of the client falls below a certain level or when a fee/retainer is due for renewal.  

Financial Reporting & Forecasting  

In an Harvard Business Review survey, 34%-51% of business leaders predicted that by AI  will have its biggest impact in the enterprise on their back-office functions of IT and finance/accounting.   Specifically, AI in financial management can 
  • Automate repetitive accounting functions. Imagine the system automatically creating all the month end journals based on entries made in the previous month.  
  • Increase efficiency of transaction-processing. Machine Learning ML is used to remember what accounts vendor invoices are posted to in the past to post to the same accounts now. Scanning and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is getting better and better meaning that vendor invoices are automatically coded and routed for approval.  
  • Automate the generation & distribution of reports. E.g., Sales pipelines, Client & project profitability, and financial statements.  
  • Verify accuracy of those statements and reports which should reduce the chances of fraud and error  

Summary  

At the danger of repeating ourselves (because we said the same in relation to the front office applications of AI), we are scratching the surface when it comes to the possibilities that AI brings the marcomms industry. As ad agencies, you should be monitoring these and working with partners and suppliers that are investing heavily in AI. One of the trends that we identified in your predictions for 2022 was innovation, and this is the reason why. You need to have an innovation mindset to ensure you question everything. To quote the late, great Steve Jobs. Always be asking “there must be a better way.”  

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