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What business leaders need to understand about your AI strategy

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Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Judith Hurtwitz.

Many enterprises are moving fast to incorporate artificial intelligence into their products and services, with the hope of creating differentiation. 

Clearly, there are a huge number of software companies that are focused on integrating AI into their offerings. In addition, many businesses are hiring experienced data scientists with the objective of transforming their organizations’ ability to compete. Of course, there are no easy answers to complex business problems.

Before rushing out to select AI software, there are several issues that you should consider to propel your business forward. Your key objective is to pick an approach to AI that will empower your company to reach beyond what you think could be possible. There is considerable complexity in adopting AI to support your business.

Here are three fundamental approaches that you need to understand to be a success with this emerging technology:

Understand the fundamentals of AI and human-machine collaboration

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the complexities of AI. There isn’t just one single way that AI can support your business goals. For example, there are some straightforward approaches that can be quickly used to address business process goals.

AI can be used to automate a manual customer onboarding process where the same information needs to be inputted across multiple forms. Likewise, it is possible to automate an invoicing process with AI where the system can independently identify the payee field, a purchase order and the amount due.

If your business is slowed down by these types of process challenges, this approach will be your best first step.

However, there are some more complex uses of AI that can be game-changers. For example, you may have a huge amount of data relevant to solving customer needs. 

In health care, for example, there is not typically one answer to diagnosing a patient’s illness. It is difficult for a physician to understand every viable option based on test results, a patient’s history, presenting symptoms and new medical research. By enabling collaboration between AI solutions and the doctor’s own expertise, patient outcomes can be greatly improved. 

AI systems can quickly process millions of data points and complex data sets, while humans have the ability to understand data in context. By combining machine insights with human expertise, the results for your business can be significant.

Once you understand how you can use AI to solve business problems and increase efficiency and revenue growth, you need to put a plan in place that focuses on the most pragmatic ways to use AI. Make sure that your team is focused on outcomes.

Create hybrid teams of business and technical professionals

You will discover that many marketplace discussions today focus on data science, creating models, and selecting tools and platforms. However, as a business leader, you have to make sure that the technical enablers are not isolated from the work of business professionals. Left on their own, data scientists may create interesting insights that unfortunately don’t do anything to help the business. 

Therefore, you need to create a team that includes key business leaders that understand business processes and the company’s unique intellectual property. In addition, consider creating a business unit comprising professionals who understand both the business and technology so they can work within your company to ensure that AI is applied to the most critical business challenges. 

Can you defend the decisions of your AI system?

One of the benefits of AI is that it can be used to create sophisticated models that can solve a myriad of business problems. Models can, for example, be used to predict which potential employees are the best fits for the company. Other models can transform business processes to ensure that customer problems are quickly addressed. Many companies are beginning to rely more and more on these sophisticated solutions.

However, there are potential pitfalls that smart leaders have to be prepared for. For example, if you are using AI to help you select employees, do you have insights into how those models are supporting your decision-making? Are there hidden biases in the data that supports these models? What happens if a prospective employee who wasn’t hired sues the company asserting that he or she wasn’t hired because of company bias? How can you explain your AI-based decision making? 

In many cases, the logic behind the decision-making process is hidden, making it for management to defend business actions.

Conclusion

While AI is a powerful tool that can improve your ability to compete, you have to be prepared. Your success with AI is dependent not just on the sophistication of the technology but also on culture changes and processes. Make sure you empower employees who can understand both the technology and the business. At the same time, make sure that your teams are collaborating effectively with everyone focused on business outcomes.         

 

Judith Hurwitz is president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, a research and consulting firm focused on emerging technology including cloud computing, machine learning and AI, data analytics, DevOps, security and compliance, and information management. Hurtwitz has consulted for senior management teams for large and emerging technology companies as they transition to next-generation technologies, and she has served on advisory boards of emerging technology companies. Hurwitz is the co-author of 10 books, including “Augmented Intelligence: The Business Power of Human–Machine Collaboration 1st Edition,” recently released in paperback. 

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