Setting AI on Your Company’s Agenda

How will your company’s business look like in a world that is influenced by AI? Do you consider technological shifts imposed by AI as transformative or disruptive for your industry and business? This article will provide you with a general framework and some practical recommendations on how to get started with mapping the technological impact of AI and start crafting your AI journey.

How does your company address the technological shift imposed by AI?

Perhaps, you see AI as a subset of the advanced analytics domain and have a team of highly skilled professionals working on developing algorithms for business needs. Maybe, your vision of AI’s role at your company is similar to autopilot systems in airplanes which manage a slew of routine tasks so pilots can focus on essential decision-making. Perhaps, you have just started conversations on AI topics within your technical or business teams. Regardless of where you are in your AI journey, this is the right time to employ a structured approach to managing the impact of AI technology at your company. While integration of AI into your business processes may seem complex, there are a few simple things you can do to get started.

AI is an umbrella term for several technologies, methods, and their combinations that in one way or another, attempt to replicate aspects of human intelligence. One of the technologies is Machine Learning (ML), which is primarily useful for data analytics and predictive modeling. Companies use it to forecast sales, manage inventory, and detect fraud. Another common AI method is Natural Language Processing (NLP), which powers chatbots and customer service automation. We also see AI in the form of robotics that streamline manufacturing processes. Recent advancements in the field of generative AI such as ChatGPT and Midjourney have made it possible for everyone to see AI in a new, content creator role.

One of the first actions you might take in the beginning of your AI journey is to initiate a process for formulating the organization-wide AI strategy. It will enable you to think about your goals with AI and create a high-level action plan for achieving these goals. A good strategy will build a common understanding of what the main principles for the expansion of AI at your organization are and, importantly, what you have chosen not to do. The whole purpose of AI strategy should be to provide a formula to align all AI projects and activities with business capabilities and value creation in the organization.

Here are some recommendations for how to make your strategy more actionable:

1. Get yourself acquainted with AI

Understand what it is capable of and assess its relevance for your business in the short and long term.  You could allocate a team within your innovation department or cross-functional, engage vendors to provide ideas, organize an ideation workshop such as a Hackathon with experts to help you map your ideas to available technologies. The choice you make will depend on your organization’s size, industry, culture, availability of resources and skills, budget and other factors.

2. Set a time plan for your AI initiatives

Define the time horizon for your strategic goals. Do not look too far in the future. As there is little evidence that AI will outperform humans in all aspects of intelligence in the next ten years, you do not need to focus too much on how the world will look like then. Instead, put your efforts into exploring how AI can improve your business and consider the following phases.

Figure 1: Example of an AI roadmap

3. Focus on areas that can make an immediate impact on your business

For example, you could consider the impact of AI technology in the following areas:

3.1. Improving operational efficiency and reduce costs: AI as a productivity tool

Operational efficiency focuses on means to reach business goals and productivity. AI will not replace humans, but humans not using AI in their work will be replaced by humans using AI. The choice of use cases will depend on type of tasks that are being performed by your employees. If customer service is an important part of your business, then AI-powered automation presents tremendous efficiency gains and relatively low risks. If you develop software internally, consider using AI-powered programming co-pilot to accelerate delivery of features and bug fixes. Test your AI innovation ideas here first. Showcase the success stories and lessons learned to inform decisions regarding upcoming AI projects. For example, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management deployed generative AI to power an internal chatbot that streamlines access to their extensive knowledge base, providing advisors with instant access to expert-level knowledge.

The main idea of AI as a productivity tool is do the old thing with a new tool. So, look for tasks that you can outsource to AI.

3.2. Launch new business lines and products: AI and business development

Your company’s competitive strategy was formulated in an environment with certain industry opportunities and threats as well as broader societal expectations. Changes in this environment, driven by AI advancements, could be so substantial that you will need to re-visit your offering. For example, a clothing brand could utilize a personalized recommendation engine together with an AI-powered chatbot to deliver a styling advice to its customers. If your company offers knowledge-intensive products and services such as risk advisory, you might find a business case in leveraging AI to deliver analytics in real time instead of static reports.

Use the knowledge obtained from your first AI projects where AI was used as a productivity tool. Now it is time to do the new thing with a new tool. What new customer needs can be met by AI-powered products and services? How should you combine human-centric and AI elements to stay competitive, attract talent and improve your position on the market?

3.3. Become familiar with AI risks: create foundation for AI governance.

AI is already regulated in several geographies and more extensive regulations such as European AI Act are on the way. In addition to regulations there are ethical considerations that could be used as a guidance for AI governance. If you are in the beginning of your AI journey, make it a responsible AI journey from the start. The guardrails will pave the way for trust in AI, address the common fears and encourage use of AI in your business.

Figure 2: One of the basic purposes of AI governance is to enable responsible AI

The three steps above provide you with a good ground to stand on when formulating and executing your initial AI strategy.

Final notes

AI awareness program

An AI awareness program is a good way to take lead in AI area and create common standards. If AI will have an impact on organizational culture, the awareness program is a way to soft start this shift.

Cross-functional cooperation to enable AI

Successful integration and use of AI in your business is not a tribute to a particular function, but rather result of collective efforts of several functions, including so-called AI enablers such as Digital, Data, Ethics, Legal and Business process owners.

Democratization of AI

There are several signs of AI becoming an integral part of our work and existence. If democratization of AI is what the future holds, it might be relevant to prepare your organization for new processes involving decentralized decision making, increased role of citizen data scientists and relevant data governance practices.

At Opticos, we enable organizations to leverage the business benefits of new emerging technologies. Drawing from our extensive client experience and methodology in business strategy, change management, data management and AI governance, we’re here to support you in your AI journey from strategy to implementation.

Tatiana Schön & Johan Valeur

Tatiana Schön Management consultant with focus on Strategy, Business analysis, Data & Analytics and IT management.
Johan Valeur Management consultant with a focus on Innovation, artificial intelligence and entrepreneurial business development.

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