AI for the EA

Expect AI to have a significant impact on your role, given fundamental duties such as scheduling appointments, managing email and preparing presentations can be automated

Tomorrow’s successful high-level assistant will exploit the AI opportunity rather than avoid it says Tim Stackpool

It’s impossible to have any discussion today regarding technology without confronting the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Irrespective of industry, there’s talk of how daily advances in AI can enhance business processes, communications, customer service and overall efficiency.

It’s been with us for some time, albeit in rudimentary form. Remember that annoying and forgettable animated Microsoft Paperclip that arrived with Office 97 (and has now thankfully departed)? That’s an example of early AI.

Fundamentally, true AI needs to pass the Turing Test. First coined in 1950, passing it means a human can’t tell whether they are conversing with an AI or not. We’re not yet at that point but, as with all technology, it improves with time and practice. And that’s why ‘sub-Turing’ AI is being made available now – for practice. AI systems can only improve by learning, and human interaction is required for that. As you will note if using ChatGPT or Google’s Bard, each comes with a disclaimer that the results might be incorrect, biased or offensive.

If you’re a PA in a service business with a high number of consumer interactions, current AI engines that thrive on ‘question and answer’ models are very well placed for deployment as customer service chatbots. Regular enquiries can be quickly triaged, oftentimes answered, or transferred to a human agent for deeper resolution.

Larger companies that operate internal help desks can also use AI chatbots to source intelligence or documents that might be buried deep within the company data server, rather than having to manually pore over complicated and unintuitive intranet folder and file structures. Beyond just using search terms, the AI can thoughtfully extract results from a prompt such as “…find me files relevant to Smith vs Jones, subsequent legislative amendments and taxation implications”. How handy for busy EAs!

On the factory floor, AI-powered predictive maintenance tools can monitor equipment and identify potential faults before they cause downtime. This not only saves obvious costs but increases productivity and reduces the risk of accidents. Similarly, AI can optimise supply chain management, undertaking analysis to reduce inventory levels and improve delivery times.

In the office, you’ll find AI can often process data more quickly and accurately than humans, and help to improve security or detect fraud.

At the same time as AI becomes more sophisticated, however, it’s likely to automate more and more tasks. Given this, PAs must adapt their skills, learning where AI can take the load and redirecting energies on human skills outside the scope of any AI. Either way, expect AI to have a significant impact on your role, given fundamental duties such as scheduling appointments, managing email and preparing presentations can be automated.

Here’s how it might look – and what you can do to remain relevant:

  • Ultimately, you’ll be freed up for more strategic and creative work.
  • PAs will continue to provide the human touch that AI cannot replicate.
  • You’re experts in time management, organisation, and communication – human skills that remain in high demand in the workplace. So, leverage those skills to remain well-positioned for success in the future.
  • Focus on developing skills in areas that AI is not yet able to automate – strategic planning, creative thinking and advanced communication?
  • Embrace AI and use it to be more efficient and effective in your work.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This will help you to understand how AI is changing the workplace and how you can adapt your skills to meet the demands of the future.
Tech expert Tim is the technology writer for Executive PA Media. He can be heard on talk radio in Australia and is a tech presenter who speaks at conferences and trade shows about technology’s impact on work and lifestyle