There has been a lot of buzz surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and its powers. Many are still mystified about how these technologies work and where they can be applied. Simply put, AI is all about working with data and leveraging it to drive business growth. Every business collects some type of data through its operations, but few are leveraging the data collected to its utmost potential. If you want to prepare for AI integration and lead your company through AI adoption, there are some steps you should consider taking to ensure success.
It is imperative to begin by educating yourself on the AI subject. You do not need to gain much technical knowledge, rather enough understanding so that you can recognize its potential. By looking at how programs learn from data, how AI systems can be integrated, and what benefits they can bring you will gain enough knowledge to make informed decisions and determine if your business would benefit from AI.
Start by understanding the potential of artificial intelligence and looking at some of the following resources that will help demystify AI:
McKinsey’s guide to AI for executives: in simple language explains AI, machine learning and deep learning.
AI for Everyone course by Andrew Ng, the co-creator of Coursera and a founding lead of Google Brain.
Google AI: tech giants’ artificial intelligence research and development branch that provides stories, courses and publications on AI and its advances.
Accenture’s AI Explained guide for executives: aims to provide a comprehensive overview of AI capabilities and implications.
Udacity’s Intro to Artificial Intelligence course: teaches the fundamentals of AI and its potential applications.
Once you have grasped AI fundamentals, you can go ahead and educate your team. Make sure to share the resources you’ve found most useful so that they can get on the same page quickly and you can begin discussing your goals.
By having the CEO and management team committed to making the most of AI – data culture will begin establishing. It will result in an ongoing, informed conversation between top decision makers and employees which will ensure that your company propels forward and leverages AI to its most potential. Tamim Saleh, Senior Partner at McKinsey and an expert in data-enabled transformations agrees that the first step should be to “get the management team and spend a day to two days and really learn what true advanced analytics is”.
Would you rather have a discussion to get familiar with AI? Consider reaching out to an AI consultant. Oftentimes they offer a complimentary consultation and can answer any questions you may have that are specific to implementing AI into your business.
Identify business value
After gaining some knowledge on data transformation, it is time to determine what value you hope to add with your data initiatives. You can start by identifying what each department needs to perform better. For example, your marketing department would probably benefit from knowing what the customers are saying about the brand, so one of your value drivers could be obtaining a tool that provides real-time insights on customer brand perception and mentions of company in socials.
Essentially, the idea is to know where value will be created for your business by having clear and measurable milestones that you want to reach.
At this stage you should also evaluate whether you have enough data to start working with implementing AI. If you are a small company just starting out then perhaps implementing AI is not what you should do yet. Instead you can focus on effectively collecting and storing data so that when you are ready – the adoption will be quick and smooth.
Evaluate your processes
Take a look at your current data infrastructure. Where is your data being stored? On different CRM’s or a unified system? Do you gather enough personal customer information?
Sometimes, you may bring in a data scientist to work on a project but he will inform you that the right data for your goals was not collected or is stored in a database that will not suit future tasks. In that case your project may come to a halt or be delayed, contributing to time and money loss. It may seem overwhelming, but this is an imperative step towards leveraging your data.
By evaluating your current processes, you will identify the work that still needs to be done and the areas that require changes to be made. Remember that the key to successful AI adoption is using large amounts of high-quality data.
So, in order to make sure that you prepare well for integrating AI into your company – plan a data collection strategy based on the value you wish to create for your team and customers.
Not sure what data to focus on collecting? Then collect as much as possible but make sure there are no gaps, as it is hard to build a model if some variables are missing. We recommend you track everything – filtering out what is not needed is easier than completely lacking needed information. Don’t be afraid to pay for that storage space to collect more data. It is best to do that than risk that valuable data is lost or never collected.
Start small with AI
It’s a good idea to start integrating AI into your company in small doses. That way you ensure employees are not too overwhelmed by the changes and you face less resistance from them.
Be ready and willing to experiment. This is simply the case with new technologies and processes. Experimentation will allow you to determine causation of events and hence optimize processes to drive most value.
You need to encourage an experiment culture within your organization. Do not punish employees for trying things out and coming to you with ideas that may seem radical. However, remember that the end goal is to make better decisions so data collection, analysis and deployment need to remain effective and not some sort of game. For example, Steve Burke, CEO of NBCU is very engaged in his company’s data projects according to his employees. He is willing to listen and share feedback, but retains the picture of the end goal in mind to effectively drive his company forward.
If you don’t want to commit to hiring an in-house AI and data science team, start by consulting experts who can give you suggestions and work with you to optimize some of your processes.
Maintain a data strategy
Now that you have started integrating AI into your company, you need to stick to your data strategy to facilitate future development.
McKinsey’s infographic below shows that developing a clear data strategy is one of the main foundations of successful data analytics performance.
Develop clear processes of data collection and strict accountability so that your employees are responsible for the quality of data they collect. Always keep in mind, quality data without gaps is what will help drive your organization forward and make the most of AI technologies.
Since you have understood AI, identified where business value can be created, evaluated your processes, started implementing AI into your business and are maintaining an effective data strategy – you are on the road to creating a competitive advantage within your services.
After all these steps you can look into hiring a data manager, CTO or a consultant who will be responsible for your company’s data, help avoid future problems and ensure that you are making the most of your data to help you innovate.