Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

129 information would be printed off by the store manager and distributed to the staff, but now with Teams running on employee devices, there’s no need for paper copies, saving an estimated $500,000 annually. A symbiotic relationship AI can be deployed to assist, rather than replace, human colleagues and augment their natural abilities, such as decision making. In 2022, Minbiole wrote that “more than half of retail workers in non-management positions reported not feeling valued as an employee. These challenges represent an important opportunity for retailers to better equip, develop and engage the workers most critical to their success and survival”. Microsoft conducted research in 2023 to better understand what frontline workers are seeking from AI tools. The most popular response was the opportunity to find the right information they need in the moment to make decisions. Reflecting on this, Minbiole states: “Put simply, they want help finding answers. “They want AI to help them speed up administrative aspects of their work, such as scheduling and task management. Essentially, they want help automating components of their work that take up too much time.” A study from Bain found that there is a 95 per cent correlation between decision effectiveness and financial performance, while a study from McKinsey found that managers of a typical Fortune 500 organisation may waste more than 500,000 days a year, equivalent to $250 million in wages, on ineffective decision making. “Technology empowers retailers to automate decision intelligence, which provide their workforce with the best next action to take from within their workflow,” says Minbiole. “Besides being more relevant, transparent and auditable, decision intelligence improves predictability and resiliency by accounting for uncertain factors” One retailer that is taking this into account is British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which recently signed a five-year strategic partnership with Microsoft to adopt new AI solutions. Sainsbury’s will use Microsoft’s cloud and AI solutions to provide its colleagues with real-time data and insights that support key processes such as shelf replenishment. Employees will be guided to the shelves that need restocking, saving time and allowing them to focus on customers and other important tasks. Accessible for all The diversity of the frontline retail workforce means retailers have to ensure they are RETAIL & CONSUMER GOODS Sainsbury’s is using Microsoft’s AI tools to provide its workers with realtime store insights Photo: Twitter/SainsburysNews