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Are business leaders holding AI back?
I promise not to begin with the usual AI rhetoric which forces large numbers down your throat of the dollars invested into AI, or to preach of the ‘transformative’ and ‘revolutionary’ impact AI will have on the world as we know it. Whilst these statistics and grand claims are quite likely to be true – the greater, short term concern lies with the leaders of the businesses who actually stand to benefit most from the technology. A lack of understanding of the technology and an ambiguity over who should really have the understanding in the first place is, among other things, arguably slowing down the adoption and ultimate opportunity AI presents for global business.
What is AI?
In the past, a CIO or CTO’s role was to understand and advise on new and emerging technologies. Our recent evolution into a technology-based world means CEOs and business leaders literally across the board are also expected to have an in-depth knowledge of technological advancements and also how these will impact their function and staff.
This is easier said than done, especially when a technology has dramatically evolved due to billions of pounds worth of investment. This has created a demanding environment for business leaders to remain informed, but as innovation within AI continues at speed, it can prove to be challenging.
These challenges are apparent when listening to business leaders discuss AI. Deloitte found that only 17 percent of executives were familiar with the concept of AI and its applications within their businesses. It is clear therefore that many business leaders either don’t have enough understanding or only focus their knowledge on one specific subset of AI.
Confusion over how to best implement AI
Due to confusion over the optimal strategy for effective implementation of AI, business leaders and CEOs are in many cases ineffectively integrating this technology into their services. PwC found only four percent of executives have successfully adopted AI into their business. There is a clear issue with business leaders’ lack of knowledge affecting the implementation of AI and a knock-on effect on return on investment when AI simply doesn’t deliver against the metrics used to test its success – not because AI is efficient, but often due to false expectations from the start. As businesses fail to see immediate results, there can be scepticism about its benefits.
Nevertheless, if AI is used effectively, it can be highly beneficial for a business. Microsoft found that businesses already implementing AI were outperforming those that aren’t by 5 percent, on factors such as productivity, performance and business outcomes. Additionally, businesses which then established a strategic approach to AI, such as developing underlying values, ethics and processes, outperformed those which weren’t by 9 percent. It’s compelling evidence that successful applications of AI can have a profoundly positive effect on a business’ bottom line.
What can be done?
This lack of effective implementation is troubling. For businesses to feel the advantages of AI, and for investment from companies to continue, the technology needs to be used effectively.
Through frequent training and education on AI, business leaders will be able to understand which subset is most beneficial to their business. A company with strong customer focus should aim efforts toward NLP utilised for chatbots; whilst businesses which crunch Big Data should focus on machine learning to enhance data mining and analytics practices.
In addition to investing in the correct AI technology, business leaders must continuously educate themselves and understand the vital importance of implementing the technology correctly. This knowledge of AI will trickle down the organisations and will help members of staff at other levels to buy into the technology and accept change.
What is clear is that while AI is an important opportunity for many businesses, before its integration, business leaders must fully understand AI and the specific subset they wish to use. CEOs must constantly stay informed of AI and the widespread areas of new product development, instead of leaving this to CIOs or CTOs. If implemented incorrectly, businesses may never meet AI’s full potential and lose out to competitors who have been willing to learn and understand how AI can improve their organisations.
May 24, 2019 at 05:48AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs