The Long & Short Of An AI Strategy
Much has and needs to be said about an enterprise’s AI strategy. Artificial Intelligence or AI is considered a fundamentally disruptive technology similar to the steam engine, electricity etc, a technology that will be pervasive and absolute in its impact on the world and its inhabitants. The ability to find hidden patterns to predict the future or detect a behavior has massive implications across the world, in every industry, sector, and domain.
When faced with this realization, enterprise’s can find themselves stuck, paralyzed and unsure about how to proceed. The field of AI is decades old already and the early success stories have been practicing AI for multiple years already with the tech industry leading the way. How can an enterprise that has no experience and competency in this area let alone lead the technology or even leverage it appropriately to drive business value?
When developing the AI strategy, two ideas are paramount. First, this a fundamentally disruptive technology and the enterprise will need to establish it as a core competency for the foreseeable future. Not doing so will not be an option. Second, a long-term plan to success is superseded by the need to drive quick wins and small successes not only to build confidence but use real-world experience to develop and hone that skill.
The Short-Term AI Strategy
The short-term AI strategy should focus on driving immediate business value through enhanced customer experiences that leverage any field of AI be it machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing etc. Driving the usage and deployment of AI in front of an end user making them smarter, productive and better informed can pay rich dividends by not only helping the enterprise can real-world experience, but it can also give a perception boost to the company as being innovative and cutting edge. However, most importantly, this can highlight and promote the success and potential of AI in the enterprise and encourage a snowball effect of adoption.
Enterprises can look inward or outward to develop the short-term strategy. The inward focus would require hiring experts that can often be in short supply. Outward focus requires hiring vendors and consultants to drive the adoption. Both have their pros and cons and enterprises should carefully consider the cost, the impact, the adoption, and the built expertise and ensure that there is a path forward from the early successes of the long-term strategy.
The Long-Term AI Strategy
The long-term AI strategy should focus on transforming the enterprise into an AI company. AI needs to be pervasive across all the products and services offered by the company and embedded in all the key functions of the enterprise including sales, planning, product, engineering, marketing, and support. Offering and utilizing AI in customer-facing interfaces and touch points is a great barometer of success and can have a lasting impact on the adoption of AI in the enterprise through the pressure it can put on the entire value supply chain.
The long-term strategy also requires the enterprise to be abreast and an expert in all facets of AI including all the sub-disciplines. The enterprise does not necessarily need to invent new AI techniques, though the big tech companies are starting to act like R&D institutions in their quest to keep their competitive advantage. However, the enterprise needs to deeply understand these fields of study. This requires having the right people, processes, and capabilities in place to ensure that knowledge is gained, groomed and disseminated across the enterprise so that it can grow. Real world experience with AI and putting AI in front of customers generate an experience that will be critical for survival in the next decade.
Enterprises will need to immediately start thinking of retraining their engineers and other functions to think and be enabled to adopt AI for building or improving products and services. As the education sector evolves to offer this expertise to newly graduating students, the enterprise will need to jump in and address the gap in the short term. Having a small team of experts to mentor and grow AI practitioners in the enterprise is a good idea.
No Action Is Not An Option
No action is not an option. Enterprises that are wavering on the sidelines need to understand that they have to act, right away. They need to figure out their strategy, both short and long and begin acting. The survivors of the AI revolution will have one thing in common; they started tinkering with AI the earliest. Enterprises should look at vendors in the short term who can offer the jumpstart and help them catch to the cutting edge instantly enabling them to build a foundation that will serve them for a long time.
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