Getting Started with your AI Transformation

September 13, 2019
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Somewhere not too far down the road, it’s reasonable to imagine that artificial intelligence will have firmly cemented itself as part of a thriving, modern workplace. Like the internet before it, there will come a time that AI-powered solutions are so prolific, so intertwined within our daily routines, that they become normalized. That the growing pains of beeping, whirring modems, will make way to a truly revolutionary, earth-shattering constant that has fundamentally shaped our very society. 

It’s safe to say that the business implications of artificial intelligence, from a marketing and operational standpoint, are completely and utterly transformative. In an ironic twist, it’s machine learning that’s actually bringing business operations to a more human level as our understanding and ability to truly meet the needs of each and every customer is becoming more intimate, more cognizant, more relevant.

For how could stakeholders regularly consume vast amounts of customer data, connect the dots, and then apply those insights in a manner that was representative of a customer’s true predicted behavior? Possible? Sure. Efficient and resource-friendly? Probably not.

It’s only more recently that technology is starting to empower a more sophisticated, attuned customer experience that isn’t a strain on operational resources. Despite progress, businesses have a long way to go to approach the true potential of artificial intelligence transformation, one that isn’t just utilized by a singular function or entity, but a disruptive, systematic shift that spans across the entirety of an organization. 

So then what’s holding businesses back? What’s keeping them from integrating artificial intelligence solutions and how can they transcend those impediments to effectively transform their business?

TRANSFORMATION STARTS WITH ACCEPTANCE 

The first and what could very well be the most important step for businesses in their AI transformation journey, is pure, unadulterated acceptance. Accepting the fact that as an organization you need to invest the resources required to adopt artificial intelligence, the willingness to change from within, and the fortitude to navigate through those changes to emerge stronger than before.

George Orwell summed it up nicely when he said, “Happiness can only exist in acceptance.” Albeit, in this case, we would freely swap “happiness” for “progress” because regardless of whether or not you’re ready to adapt, the business world’s desire and overall development and integration of AI is continuing unabated, meaning delaying the inevitable is only going to benefit your competitors.

Interestingly enough though, that forward progress doesn’t necessarily run in parallel with the actual willingness of businesses to implement widespread artificial intelligence, which coincidentally presents an even greener pasture of opportunity for those who get in ahead of the curve. 

In a recent study by SnapLogic, 68% of businesses surveyed said they believe artificial intelligence and machine learning to be key in accelerating future projects. In another survey conducted by McKinsey, just 47% of those surveyed were utilizing AI in some capacity and only 21% were using it in several parts of their organization

So when you boil it down, businesses have a blue ocean scenario where the ships are improving in a rapid fashion, the waters are calm, winds are strong, yet the crew are all landlubbers who have yet to get their sea legs under them. Everyone wants to set sail onto brighter horizons, but they’re just not sure how to go about it.

BUILDING STEAM

When you get down to it, the biggest hurdle when it comes to AI transformation is a disconnect between a seemingly nebulous idea and a practical understanding of how this technology can be used on a day-by-day basis. 

Getting started is easier than it seems, but differs based on the size of your organization, industry, resources, and various other factors. Once the aforementioned buy-in process is completed, it’s imperative that the overall responsibility of AI transformation lies with someone or some group, whether that be an external agency or an internal AI responsible or somewhere in between.

Ownership of this responsibility provides many benefits:

  • First and foremost, it gives credibility and credence to your organization’s stance on AI transformation
  • Makes it easier to effectively work with, analyze, measure, and showcase the results of your AI efforts
  • Ownership allows for a malleable, living process that takes into account the specific needs and changes within an organization
  • The responsible party can act as an independent enabler for all relevant departments/stakeholders within your organization providing guidance, training, and inspiration
  • With that, they can set measurable goals and provide results to relevant parties
  • Stay abreast of new AI trends and solutions, adapting those into existing work processes and core capabilities
  • Properly map where certain opportunities lie and develop corresponding action plans

Whether you jump into a risk-free AI marketing & insights option or produce a more comprehensive AI pilot program, having someone to manage the complexity of your AI transformation is crucial and sets it up for success.

WHAT DOES AI TRANSFORMATION LOOK LIKE

So you have the buy-in, you’ve appointed someone or some party to handle your transformation, and now where do you go? What are the tangible, measurable ways AI will transform my business and subsequent operations?

This is the struggle that many decision-makers face at the outset and that’s partly why the first two steps of the AI transformation process are so vital. You need to believe it’s important and then empower an entity to build and foster a solution that makes sense for your business.

Let’s put it this way, what is the importance of the internet for your business? It’s impossible to frame a notion of what the internet by itself provides without looking at it’s wider implications and applications. Like the internet and electricity before it, AI can be thought of as a utility, a means to an end, a revolutionary power that gives you operational objectivity and real-time insight into who your customers are and what they want fueling a truly customer-centric business. 

That’s all well and good, but really, what can it do? 

  • You can get more out of your data. Now what does that mean? AI data models are continually processing your business data and drawing reliable conclusions regarding your customers. In some cases, this could be before they even enter your funnel. 
  • Move away from data silos to gain a more comprehensive understanding of each customer. When you can gather and connect data from various online and offline channels about a given person, your understanding of their needs, habits, frustrations, interests, etc. become much more micro in scope and can guide how, when, where you interact with them. 
  • Automation solutions are one of the go-to means of applying machine learning in a practical business sense, giving you an effective, resource-friendly means of delivering communications and need-fulfillment to customers on their terms. 
  • Provide business metrics that are more interconnected and representative of a continuous, on-going customer journey and not simply a stop along the way. When you start to see how things are connected for a customer, you can start making informed predictions and taking actions that are proactive and meaningful to them.
  • Proper AI solutions navigate the rigorous rules and regulations demanded of data collection and processing, allowing for the absolute deepest analysis possible.
  • Acquisition that delivers a much better ROI, with more precise segmentation and targeting and marketing to match. Customers are actively telling you the channels that make sense to them, the messaging that resonates with their desires, and the sales machinations that are proven to work best, and the AI is listening to what they’re saying.
  • Become a more nimble, proactive organization that is able to make more informed, rapid decisions when anomalies or issues occur.

The job of your AI team is to identify the use cases that are viable for your organization and execute them. The low-hanging fruit of artificial intelligence, which includes things like marketing automation and chatbots, may soon give way to more complex, nuanced projects like full-featured CDMs and custom app development being operated by AI teams.

Once you get going, you can look to your artificial intelligence itself to tell you the best direction to take it as your transformation starts to take shape and change the very fabric of your operations.

CONCLUSION

Getting on a path to AI transformation may seem like a monumental task, but getting started is easier than it appears, requiring a greater investment in acceptance and commitment than in time and money. 

Moving forward, our aim is to keep this conversation going and continue providing resources to assist businesses not only take the leap, but what to do once they jump.

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