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Richard M. MarshallMay 16, 2024 11:49:58 AM EDT4 min read

From AI FOMO to AI Focus

Every day there is a new story about AI, and unlike most tech, it is picked up by all the traditional media. AI is everywhere. Or at least that’s what you would think from the extraordinary media coverage. The reality is somewhat different: there is significantly less adoption of AI at the enterprise level than it appears, and the range of technologies available is much wider than the limelight-hogging Generative AI.
The result is that many organizations worry that they will lose their competitive advantage by not rushing into using AI. This is a classic case of Fear Of Missing Out, FOMO, and in particular it manifests itself most strongly with senior business leaders. Board members and C-suite executives are pushing their teams to apply AI without any real understanding of what that even means, let alone how it could work or what it might cost. Their staff are, understandably, reluctant to leap into something that is unfamiliar to them too and has the perceived potential to make them redundant.
The result is a proliferation of pilot projects that are not aligned with business objectives, are not prioritized properly and lack appropriate governance. Unsurprisingly many organizations are finding that these pilots are failing to deliver value or simply failing completely. Yet the relentless hype from the AI vendors market is still driving people to believe that they need AI. And they are right: they can all benefit from AI when properly applied.

Aligning AI and Business Strategies

AI adoption is very uneven. Some companies have been using AI as a core technology for decades, for example in predictive maintenance in manufacturing. Many others have been using it without knowing it when relying on auto suggestions in email apps, or even the infamous autocorrect on our smartphones. AI is a tool; used in the proper business context it is a transformative tool, but a tool nonetheless. I doubt many executives would be asked to present a “wrench strategy” to their board members, but many are now being pushed to build a technology-driven AI Strategy. 

A strategy for successfully infusing AI into every activity across an organization requires many threads to be woven together, and the underlying technologies form just one such thread. Defining that strategy must start by alignment with the overall business strategy. That does not mean simply building an AI approach that supports the existing business - it is a two-way process.

Unlike existing information technologies, used properly, AI can open up entirely new business possibilities, not merely speed up existing ways of working or lower costs. Ecommerce adoption provides a perfect example of this, where business businesses that simply bolted on a website lost out to those that fundamentally changed the business model to focus around the internet. Or the internet-native businesses that ate so many other organizations’ lunches, a factor that is definitely driving that overwhelming FOMO.

So when I say aligning AI and business strategy, I mean diving deeply into how the two can work together and the changes needed to build an AI-enabled organization. Unlike digital transformation, this must not be a technology-driven change - it must be business and technology driven to maximize business value.

Building Focused AI Leadership

Pilot projects are great for learning and building core skills, just like science projects at high school. They may be a necessary first step for organizations to begin their AI journey, but they are not sufficient to transform approaches or deliver value. Building an AI-focused business needs an exploration of the full range of possibilities: you need to understand the fundamental DNA of your business:

Business DNA

This discovery process starts with examining business objectives such as whether enhanced product innovation or cost reduction is more important. Or whether processes that were previously too expensive to do manually can now be fully automated, for example continuous attention to every customer interaction at scale. All existing applications in the enterprise need to be assessed to see which would benefit the most from an infusion of AI. Prioritizing such changes needs a new approach to application portfolio management as traditional tools and methods do not take into account the specifics of AI. Equally approaches to test and deployment need revamped to address a completely new set of challenges. How can we confirm an AI is working as expected when technologies such as generative AI are designed to return different answers? The same applies to monitoring applications, where AI is able to both continuously monitor systems for quality and performance yet some can also start drifting from their desired behavior. 

New monitor and QA approaches are required at a technical level, but all organizations also need new risk management and governance techniques. As applied AI becomes ubiquitous across a business application portfolio, so must awareness of the risks associated with it, including legal compliance, bias, and possible inaccuracies. Focus is essential at all levels of the organization to maximize the huge potential of safely and effectively applying AI.

At Data Kinetic we are building a uniquely powerful proposition that we call Applied AI success as a subscription. We are not just providing technology, nor are we offering the kind of superficial consultancy that starts with a glossy presentation but fades away with contact with your reality. Yes we offer technology, but always the right technology applied in your context. And instead of over-priced slideware we offer experience-based, dedicated AI advisory services and training, backed up by very skilled technical consultants as and when you need them. 

I am proud to have developed a range of AI-focused workshops that address every level of business from board directors to project leaders. With these we are building the next generation of genuine AI Leaders, fully supported by on-going advisory support, ensuring that our clients move successfully from grasping the art of the possible to delivering measurable business results. Contact us today to start your journey to pragmatic, AI-enabled business success.