4 Tips for Successful Adoption of AI at Scale

Utilizing artificial intelligence on a smaller scale is relatively simple in nature. At the enterprise level, however, it isn’t always so straightforward. This may be a contributing factor to the recent survey results from Gartner indicating that while 46% of CIOs have plans for implementing AI, only a mere 4% have actually done so. Those early adopters no doubt have faced and overcome many challenges along the way. Here are four lessons that you can learn from that will make adopting AI at scale easier.

Start small.

Desmond Tutu once said that the best way to eat an elephant is “one a bite at a time.” Just because your end goal is to have enterprise-wide adoption of AI doesn’t mean you have to aim for that large of an outcome right off the bat.

Most often, the best way to initiate a larger AI project is to start with a smaller scope and aim for “soft” rather than “hard” outcomes. In other words, rather than primarily seeking direct financial gains, focus instead on things like process improvement and customer satisfaction. Over time, the benefits gained by achieving these smaller “soft” goals will lead you to your larger objectives anyway.

If decision-makers in your organization require a financial target in order to start an AI initiative, Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Whit Andrews recommends setting the target as low as possible. He suggests the following: “Think of targets in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, understand what you’re trying to accomplish on a small scale, and only then pursue more-dramatic benefits.

Focus on augmentation vs. replacement.

Historically, significant tech advances have often been associated with a reduction in staff. While cutting labor costs may be an attractive benefit for executives, it’s likely to generate resistance amongst staffers who view AI as a threat to their livelihood. A lack of buy-in from front line employees may hinder progress and result in a less favorable outcome.

To avoid this, shift your approach to one that focuses on augmenting human workers as opposed to replacing them. Ultimately, communicating that the most transformational benefits of AI lie in the technology’s ability to enable employees to pursue higher value and more meaningful work. For instance, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 20% of organizations will have workers dedicated to overseeing neural networks.

Make an effort to engage employees and get them excited about the fact that an AI-powered environment will enhance and elevate the work they do.

Prepare for knowledge transfer.

The majority of organizations are not adequately prepared for AI implementation. In particular, most lack the appropriate internal skills in data science and, as a result, plan on relying heavily on external service providers to help bridge the gap. Furthermore, Gartner predicts that 85% of AI projects initiated between now and 2022 will deliver erroneous outcomes due to inaccurate or insufficient data and/or lack of team knowledge/ability.

In order for an AI project to work at scale, there must be a robust knowledge-base fueled by accurate information and there must be adequately trained staff to manage it. Simply put, relying on external suppliers for these things isn’t a feasible long-term solution. Instead, IT leaders should prepare in advance by gathering, storing and managing data now and investing in the reskilling of existing personnel. Building up your in-house capabilities is essential before taking on large-scale AI projects.

Seek transparent solutions.

Most AI projects will inevitably involve some type of software, system, application or platform from an external service provider. When evaluating these providers, it’s important that decision-makers take into account not only whether the solution will produce the appropriate results, but also why and how it will be most effective.

While explaining the in-depth details of something as complex as a deep neural network may not always be possible, it’s imperative that the service provider be able to, at the very least, provide some type of visualization as to the various choices available. At the end of the day, the more transparency that is present, the better – especially when it comes to long-term projects.

For more information on how to incorporate artificial intelligence into your strategic planning for digital transformation, check out this resource from Gartner. And when you’re ready to move forward with your AI initiative, give Ayehu NG a try free for 30 days. Click here to start your complementary trial.