Every busy professional needs a helping hand sometimes. If you’re insanely busy, you may require assistance almost all the time. In the business world, most top executives have a trusted personal assistant to manage their time and keep them on schedule. Until very recently, that personal assistant has always been, well, a person. Now, a new wave of AI assistants has appeared to help keep business professionals on task.

In Marvel’s "Iron Man," billionaire tech wizard Tony Stark relies on J.A.R.V.I.S. to manage virtually every aspect of his life. While presumably not quite as advanced as the nearly human assistant portrayed in the movie, real-life Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been said to have developed his own AI assistant modeled after Stark’s robotic pal.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a billionaire to get help from an AI assistant. A growing number of businesses and individuals are implementing AI technology to perform functions normally handled by human assistants. In some cases, the transition has been smooth. As with any new technology, implementation can also come with some growing pains.

Let's take a look at how robotic assistants stack up against their human counterparts, then explore how to decide whether investing in an AI assistant is the right move for you.

Quick Take: Humans vs. Robots

No one is perfect. Not people, nor the technology they make. That said, with an AI assistant, you’d never have to worry about human error. Especially when performing a particularly boring or repetitive task, the chances of a human worker making a mistake increase over time. Moreover, eventually, that human worker will need a break, as well as extended periods of rest to eat and sleep. The depreciable effect of time on a machine’s performance is minuscule in comparison.

Machines do need occasional maintenance and repair, however. Depending on the system undergoing work and other factors, the cost of that maintenance could be quite high. Likewise, even with machine-learning technology, machines can’t learn to do disparate tasks on their own. They can do only what they’re programmed to do, and they can't get better with experience like humans can.

In fact, the ability of a human personal assistant to take on a wide variety of tasks and to grow into new roles as needed is probably the greatest advantage a human assistant has over his robotic counterpart. A versatile assistant is especially important if you’re working in an unpredictable business environment or performing a function that may change without notice.

Business has always been about numbers, and in terms of cost, humans simply cannot compete with machines. To justify a competitive salary, a human personal assistant will have to make you significantly more productive over the course of a typical week. You’ll undoubtedly get more utility out of a human, but that’s going to cost you probably tens of thousands more than you’d pay for an AI assistant.

The Choice Is Yours

Especially for younger business professionals who have grown up with technology, implementing an AI assistant might be more natural than hiring a person to fill that role. But machine learning is still relatively new, and AI assistants have a long way to go before they’re as useful as human employees can be. Here are a few tips to help you find the help that’s right for you:

1. Be careful what you share. Ask yourself how secure your correspondences need to be. Do you deal with a lot of clients who require clearances? Would you ever send a client file out of the office?

If security and confidentiality are top concerns for your business (and they certainly are for lots of organizations), then an AI assistant isn’t for you. You can always discuss sensitive business data with a personal assistant because it’s easy enough to train and monitor people to handle information — not to mention for them to sign nondisclosure agreements. With the growing threat of cybersecurity ever-looming, trusting an AI assistant with your most confidential information may not be wise. If there’s a judgment call involved, leave it to a human.

2. Know what you’re looking for. If you have a long to-do list filled with diverse tasks, you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find a machine that can accomplish all of them. However, if you have a long to-do list that mostly involves one task to be performed many times, an AI assistant could be a good solution.

3. Think about what the future holds. Do you need help over the long term as you move into an unpredictable professional future? If so, it may make sense to hire a person to help you navigate the twists and turns. But maybe you just need someone to schedule your meetings for the foreseeable future or to organize a set of files for you. An AI assistant could be just the ticket.

AI is getting smarter and more pervasive seemingly every day. Professionals of all types are increasingly relying on the technology to help them work more efficiently and get an edge over the competition. At the same time, human assistants are still a major boon for professionals at almost every top company. Before asking for help, ask yourself what you're really looking for and consider the tips above. Regardless of which route you take, increased productivity is sure to follow.

Author's Bio: 

Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. Connect with Tony on Twitter @tonytie.