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AI Journey mapping for Enterprises

Abdul September 10, 2018

We are well and truly in the midst of the AI revolution. Research houses, academicians, think-tanks, business and technology leaders all agree upon the significant value waiting to be unlocked through the positive and progressive use of Artificial Intelligence – by re-engineering the old and envisioning the new. According to a research by Gartner, organizations using cognitive ergonomics and system design in new artificial intelligence projects will achieve long term success four times more often than others. Citing research by the MIT Center for Digital Business, from a competitive standpoint, companies that embrace digital transformation are 26 percent more profitable than their average industry competitors and enjoy a 12 percent higher market valuation.

The writing is on the wall. Intelligent business interventions made through AI will, to a large extent, define if your business will be an industry leader or a laggard tomorrow. And with that end in mind, businesses are rapidly changing their mindset and approach to AI – from topical experiments performed by forward-thinking business units, to more of a strategic mandate for enabling competitive differentiation. Businesses realize that for truly unlocking business value, they need to not only weave AI into the fabric of their enterprise, but also operationalize it – with the right personnel and change management initiatives. Given that AI can bring both cost efficiencies to business as well as potentially new revenue streams, businesses today are exploring an ‘AI Transformation’ – moving the dial on what is truly possible through a business model, engineered around AI. To enable your organization to do so, here are three powerful ideas to map the AI Transformation journey of your business.

Ensure Enterprise Readiness to Build and Adopt AI

The first step in the journey to AI Transformation for your enterprise is to understand and address if there are any disparities between your vision for AI and the ability of your organization to follow through with it. To that end, it is important to assess just how ready your enterprise is, in its current state, to build, deploy, adopt and benefit from AI-centric solutions. Ideas for AI Transformation need to be communicated clearly and grounded in the realities of organizational capabilities. When they are not, even the best intentions can go awry.

To do so, it is critical that business leaders measure their current AI maturity and assess the availability of internal skills. This will enable you to baseline just how empowered your current workforce is to develop industry-leading AI solutions. Once such a baseline is established on workforce readiness for building and adopting AI-led solutions, organizations need to start improving on these metrics – through internal trainings and external capability augmentation.

By developing this baseline score for AI readiness – organizations can have an objective view of where they are, how far they need to go and what the potential milestones to be achieved are in the journey to AI Transformation. This sort of pre-survey, combined with relevant training and assessment can help organizations craft a relevant roadmap with realistic timelines, as well as concrete actionables.

Build an AI ‘Win Team’

An AI Transformation is not unlike an extremely complex business re-engineering exercise. It entails massive changes – from the way you do business to how you run internal processes and staff multiple business units. Not only is it important to reskill a huge section of the workforce, there is also an important aspect of enabling change management to reinforce the importance of an AI-centric mindset.

To overcome this challenge, enterprises need to foster the consensus and engagement of a ‘win-team.’ This win-team would typically comprise functional and technical leaders who would be responsible for enabling the AI Transformation within their business units – from orienting the employees to the new mindset and ensuring capability readiness for the tasks at hand. On one hand, functional leaders can help their teams identify the processes that can be re-imagined using AI and manage resistance to change. On the other hand, technical leaders would lead the solutioning of technical components, while setting the training priorities and calendars for the workforce.

On change management, enterprises need employees to clearly appreciate the topline and bottomline benefits of an AI Transformation and focus towards enabling it. Employees stand to benefit themselves – as the professional benefits of making this transformation will accrue for their future. To further explore how companies can reduce the defensiveness in implementing AI-led processes further, they could also set innovation objectives for stakeholders as part of their performance metrics. Doing this will help create a strong alignment between individual, team and organizational objectives. A key aspect of AI transformation is ensuring large-scale adoption and usage of AI-powered solutions. AI applications typically fare better with every incremental user feedback and enriched data sources. Adoption and continuous use is a key parameter for the success of this transformation.

Integrated Business Processes over Siloed Business Functions

For years, the view of technology transformation and procurement has been of one that happens at a department / functional level – HR teams buy talent management software, finance teams sanction the purchase of accounting software, and CRMs get implemented to aid the efforts of sales teams. While this serves small technology initiatives, a sea-change is required for progressing an AI Transformation. To foster this, enterprises need to make a shift from a siloed, function-centric mindset to an integrated, process-centric mindset.

This is because AI use cases can often span multiple business units and functions, while tapping into multiple data sources for providing cross-team value, seamlessly. The very nature of AI deployments thus requires a process-centric view, with a strong consensus and buy-in from multiple stakeholders. Furthermore, the budget for purchasing AI services / applications is likely to come from the allocations of multiple beneficiaries across functions. This makes it all the more imperative that enterprises deprioritize functions in favor of processes.

An AI Transformation is doubtless the most strategic subject to be tackled by organizations today. Successful transformations will ensure enterprises go beyond mere automation and cost-cutting strategies and unveil previously unseen business and revenue opportunities. It is also extremely important to consider the role of digitization in building a new technology infrastructure that is AI-ready – possibly decentralized, cloud-based and highly available. There is now an urgent need for business leaders to have more than just a superficial understanding of AI and its successes. They will now be tasked with building and delivering a concrete, value-oriented roadmap for enabling a key transformation in the history of their organizations.

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