The artificial intelligence (AI) industry is awash with jargon. This makes it difficult to cut through the noise and implement a successful AI strategy, for those who are exploring the potential of these technologies to support their business.
Early-stage businesses in particular might be worried that they are going to be left behind in the race towards AI adoption. In just four years, the number of enterprises implementing AI grew 270 percent between 2015 and 2019, giving the impression that those lagging behind will quickly be outcompeted by businesses investing in new and emerging technologies.
No doubt, AI promises a very real advantage to early adopters. However, this is only the case if AI toolsets are leveraged effectively. With this in mind, here is my advice to organizations that are testing the waters and considering taking the plunge on artificial intelligence.
Is Your Business Ready for AI?
The first question to ask might be an obvious one, but it is often overlooked when firms get wrapped up in the excitement of evolving digital innovation trends. Namely, does your business have a clear need for AI solutions at this moment in time?
While there are countless examples of AI generating impressive results in the form of added revenue and efficiency, the reality is that these technologies are still in their nascent stages, and it can be difficult to know whether they are a good fit for your particular circumstances. Investing in AI for AI’s sake will more often than not over-complicate matters and fail to deliver on your goals.
Business leaders should be clear on the problem(s) that they are trying to solve with AI. Once established, they should consider whether these can be solved through alternative means. I would encourage decision-makers to question how AI might support their employees and core business processes over and above what can already be improved internally, without recourse to new technologies. If you come to the conclusion that enhanced data analytics is key to improving your operations, then it might be time to invest.
Matters are complicated further by the fact that many vendors label their products as “AI-driven,” when often they are no more sophisticated than traditional, non-AI software solutions. To be confident that they are getting what they pay for, businesses should look to AI developers and vendors that can demonstrate proof of value (POV). Before asking for an upfront financial commitment, these organizations ought to be able to show their customers exactly how they will benefit from their product—particularly if you are going down the route of made-to-measure products, tailored towards your individual business.
Reliable AI vendors will take the time to evaluate your processes and data in terms of how their product could offer new opportunities, propose specific solutions to gaps that have been identified, and thereafter outline a detailed AI strategy to bring your organization to the next level. AI specialists should be able to use your data, your unique operating model and your long-term goals to lead you to a solution that will empower your business and produce a good return on investment.
Get Your Data in Order
There is no such thing as good AI without good data. As such, businesses ought to get their data in order to rest assured that they will be prepared to manage their system of choice when it comes into force. With AI and machine learning (ML), it is important that the right information is being captured and processed appropriately—this will train the model, allowing it to deliver informed insights and make valuable predictions.
Quantity and quality are both important here. The more data you have—whether this is on your customers or your internal affairs—and the more detailed it is, the better the results will be. With a tried and tested process in place for collecting data and keeping on top of it, businesses will be better prepared to make the most out of new AI solutions.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
It can be tempting to want to transform business processes in one big leap and introduce AI into every aspect of an organization all at once. However, a winning strategy will be carefully planned and effectively executed in incremental phases.
Once you have decided that AI is right for you, then the implementation process should start by developing a list of intended goals. New tech should be introduced in small stages to ensure that any teething problems can be ironed out as they arise. If a custom AI solution has been built for your needs, then this will also ensure that adaptations can be made where needed before it is rolled out to different areas of the business.
Business leaders would also do well to keep all members of staff in the know and up to date with their training, to help them get comfortable with utilizing new technologies. Businesses must determine whether they have the skills needed in-house to realize the aims of the project and, if not, take steps to remedy these knowledge gaps.
Positively, it appears that many businesses are realizing the importance of digital skills when it comes to leveraging innovative tech, with almost half (48 percent) saying that they would be sending employees for AI-related training in 2021.
AI has enormous potential to prepare businesses of all shapes and sizes to take on the challenges and opportunities of the future. Importantly, companies shouldn’t jump on the AI train just for the sake of it, but when the timing is right, I am confident that AI adopters will reap enormous benefits from their investments.
Ero Georgiades is the Chief Operating Officer of Fountech Solutions, an AI consultancy and development company which helps businesses of all sizes, and across all sectors, to integrate AI solutions. It designs and develops novel AI solutions, before offering extensive support throughout the implementation stages.