Share
September 20, 2019 1:00 PM, EDT

AI-Powered Analytics: Company Reports Can Now Write Themselves

Artificial IntelligenceGetty Images

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Truckers looking to autogenerate written reports from their databases now have a raft of choices available, thanks to the emergence of artificial intelligence-enabled ­writing software. Essentially, these AI-generated writing solutions can drill down into company databases and autoproduce easy-to-understand, written reports — which unearth insights about trends and company performance that otherwise may never have seen the light of day.

“Any time a business can automate administrative and mundane tasks, it’s useful to the enterprise, reduces human error and boosts productivity,” said Brian Everett, CEO of the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association.

Such programs “automatically analyze and identify the most critical data from a dataset,” freeing up company data analysts and other employees to focus on other tasks, he said.

Joe Dysart

Dysart

Scott Sullivan, chief information officer at Pitt Ohio, said AI-enabled software also comes in handy for generating instant microreports for customer services reps, who are continually responding to customers seeking shipment status updates.

Instead of responding to customer email inquiries by digging through databases manually, customer service reps now are able to allow those email inquiries to be autorouted to ThinkOwl, an AI-powered system that Pitt Ohio has implemented in its operations.

ThinkOwl pulls up a report on an email shipment status request without any human intervention (at least most of the time) and flashes it on the screen of a customer service rep.

WANT MORE NEWS? Listen to today's Daily Briefing

After a quick double-check for accuracy by the customer service rep, the report is forwarded along via email to Pitt Ohio’s customer.

“All of this is done using AI technology, so that the more emails ThinkOwl reads, the better it becomes at finding key values and then tracing those key values,” Sullivan said.

Of course, merging AI-generated writing with email reporting is just one of the virtually countless ways such tech can be used to help make sense of company data.

Any data report your company currently produces — or may be looking to produce in coming years — can be enhanced with AI-generated writing.

During the past few years, a number of new developers offering this capability — also referred to as natural language processing, or NLG — have emerged to help businesses unlock company insights trapped within database columns and tables.

Features to look for in any solution should include:

Custom Analysis: Currently, scores of companies have the ability to transform data into simple text. But fewer offer the ability to manipulate that capability to unearth the specific insights you need to run your business. The best offer greater flexibility for unearthing those insights — as well as blending those insights with a business intelligence program you already use.

 

Individualization: The best AI-generated writing solutions enable you to easily produce reports with highly specific analysis requests that can be tailored to the needs of a specific individual in your transportation company.

 

Real-Time updating: Many AI-generated writing solutions enable a report to be continuously updated in real time. That comes in handy, especially if you’re monitoring critical data that is streaming into your business nonstop. In fact, the very best of these tools, when integrated with a traditional business intelligence solution, will instantly update both the AI text — and the accompanying chart, graph or other infographic — every time the data changes.

 

Custom language style: Basic AI-generated text has a reputation for being a bit plain and dry. Less commonly known is that the best of these programs offer you the ability to stylize the language the program uses.

 

Ability to port to text-chat bots and voice-chat bots: While not every trucking business is using chatbots, you may want to verify that your AI-generated writing system can easily interface with a chatbot or messaging system you plan to use down the line.

And more recently, many of the same AI toolmakers are ensuring that their AI-generated writing solutions integrate tightly with commonly used business intelligence software, such as Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft Excel, Microstrategy, Qlik, Spotfire SAP and Tableau.

The result: The blending of the two solutions enable the data visual­izations produced by programs such as Microsoft BI — including charts, graphs and similar infographics — to be explained in easy-to-understand English, courtesy of AI-generated writing.

“NLG-driven, multidimensional narratives are the breakthrough that visuals were years ago,” said Sharon Daniels, CEO of Arria, an AI-generated writing toolmaker. “The ability to access key information in near real time, communicated as if written by the company’s top analyst, without bias — at an NLG writing speed — is truly astonishing. It’s what users are demanding — complete information, faster conclusions and better decision-making.”

Anna Schena, a senior product manager at Narrative Science, another AI-generated writing toolmaker, offered a similar take.

“Instead of forcing people to learn how to analyze spreadsheets or explore dashboards, data storytelling uses simple, easy-to-understand language and one-click collaboration features to ensure that everyone in your company actually understands data, all the time,” she said. “With data storytelling, your team can read a personalized story that tells them what they need to know about their business, tailored specifically to their needs, automatically.”

That added text-based insight can make a business intelligence system more accessible to more people, given that not everyone is comfortable making decisions based on graphics alone.

Moreover, by customizing the kind of text reports that are generated, users are able to zero in on just the kind of information and just the kinds of insights they’re looking for, instead of wading through a torrent of data.

Having an automated report writer in-house also offers businesses the opportunity to generate more reports, more often. For example: Why be satisfied with a performance report each month, when you can autoproduce one each week — or even each day?

Some firms even program autogenerated written reports to update every time a staffer opens up a copy of the company’s business intelligence software. One caveat: Truckers looking to bring AI-­generated writing in-house should know upfront that they’ll need some ramp-up time.

“People must invest a significant amount of time and resources to set up and perfect NLG Software on the front end,” TMSA’s Everett said.

Plus, “After reports and articles are generated, people still need to review and tweak the text to ensure it makes sense and is error-free.”

One of the best ways to shop for AI-generated writing software is to check out the market leaders and then scout around for other solutions that go for less and have fewer bells and whistles, but may be just fine for the reports you want.

According to a report released last year by market research firm Forrester, the top three players in AI-generated writing are Automated Insights, Narrative Science and Arria. Those three AI-generated writing firms offer solutions that demonstrated the greatest ability to autogenerate richly world text from data, according to Forrester. The second tier — strong performers — are two business intelligence software makers that simply added AI-generated writing to their existing offerings: SAP and Salesforce. On the third tier are contenders AX Semantics, Yseop, IBM and Marlabs.

Gartner Group, another highly respected market research firm, came up with a similar list of key players in their AI-generated writing in a report it released in June: Arria, Automated Insights, AX Semantics and Yseop.

As the technology matures, a chatbot backed by an AI-generated writing system is expected to be able to easily carry on a conversation with a customer in a very natural, very intelligent and very creative manner. That would be a welcome change from today’s chatbots, which can sound robot-like and often get flummoxed by responses very easily.

Given the great value AI-generated writing offers businesses, look for a number of new AI-generated writing providers to emerge during the next few years with ever more powerful and ever more versatile systems.

Even if you may not be in the market for AI-generated writing right now, this is a technology you’re going to want to track closely in coming years, given that it’s poised — like a great deal of other AI software solutions — to alter the way truckers do business.

Data reports written with AI-generated writing make insight and decision-making at a company much easier because “everyone knows the same story,” said Pooja Parthasarathy, a senior product manager at Narrative Science. “There’s no interpretation, and there’s no element of guesswork or [alternative] perspective that goes into to it. Everyone is looking at and understanding the same story, together.”

Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. Voice: (631) 438-1142. Email: joe@dysartnewsfeatures.com Web: www.dysartnewsfeatures.com