Leading thinkers believe that AI will solve climate change, prevent all traffic accidents, and turn everyone into superhuman cyborgs.
Then again, there are those who believe that AI could put almost everyone out of work, destroy the middle class, or become a Skynet-type military tool that destroys the world.
Regardless of your personal view, neither the worst nor best case scenario will come to fruition in 2018. A relatively safe prediction, however, is that your company will pursue at least one goal related to AI in the coming year. That's what happens when 81 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs list artificial intelligence and machine learning as either very or extremely important for their company's future.
Our historic missteps with transformative change also suggest that these early artificial intelligence initiatives are likely to fail. Here are five things to remember to ensure your success in the New Year.
1. Stop being afraid of AI. Stephanie Trunzo, Chief Digital Officer and COO at PointSource, a Globant company, says that there are still many people and companies who hear the words "artificial intelligence" and think science fiction. John McCarthy actually coined the term in 1955 in his proposal for the Dartmouth Conference held in 1956. In 1958, McCarthy created the Lisp computer language that continues as the standard AI programming language today.
You have been quietly using ever-evolving examples of artificial intelligence for years. If you received a holiday gift with Siri, Alexa, or Google Home, you are using AI right now. What's different today is the exponential increases in computing power making it feel like everything is possible. Get ready. AI is here, and you need to display an active curiosity about what it can and can't do.
2. Focus on solving business problems not the technology. Trunzo says, "Technology is the subplot. The real question is how do you solve customer problems and business challenges?"
Trunzo goes on to say, "Companies wanting to succeed with their AI initiatives must make an important choice. Do they want to improve what they are doing today, or do they want to develop new ways of working that couldn't be done before."
Applying artificial intelligence to improve current processes, products, and services is likely to be the more comfortable change because it is incremental in nature. It is also more likely to yield a quicker return on the investment.
Regardless of where you begin, it is important that you focus on solving a problem rather than implementing the technology. Every organization must be continually on the lookout for ways to be faster, better, cheaper, and friendlier. As Trunzo says, "The last thing you want to do is make your customers mad or make it harder to do the work."
3. Look for ways to improve the entire system. It is easy to pigeon hole AI as a technology solution to improve products and services, but doing so is short-sighted. "There are many components to the total system that allows work to be accomplished, and all of them should be raised to their highest value," says Point Source's Trunzo. Don't forget to consider the enhancements artificial intelligence can bring to the work environment and even the people component of your operation.
One of the key questions you must answer is the human role in the jobs of the future. Those skeptical of AI's impact automatically assume that the need for human involvement will automatically decrease as the capability of artificial intelligence increases. Using machines to merely replicate what people do today is appropriate for some industries and jobs. On the other hand, that approach minimizes the opportunities to improve the entire work system by freeing and aiding humans to operate at their highest value.
4. Make digital transformation everyone's responsibility. Conventional wisdom places ownership for AI initiatives, as well as other digital transformation efforts, under the auspices of the technology folks. Martín Migoya, CEO of Globant, made the application of artificial intelligence to power the business part of everyone's job. He began by giving the entire executive team the responsibility for being better tomorrow than they are today, and then that message permeated the entire company. This approach allows natural change agents to appear and provides the space needed for ideas to flourish. 5. Prepare to do it again. Artificial intelligence and the digital transformation that it powers are not things that you do in addition to your "regular" business. They are integral parts in how business will be conducted in the future. The good news, according to Point Source's Stephanie Trunzo, is that all of the business decisions necessary to drive change in your business can be made without you knowing how the technology works. You can purchase or rent those resources, and besides, today's technology will be irrelevant tomorrow. You can't, however, abdicate the commitment to continuously challenge the status quo in areas of efficiency, effectiveness, and customer experience.
The computer evolution from mainframes directed by punch cards, to mini computers, to desktops, laptops, and mobile devices occurred in a relatively short period. Along the way, people went from being curious and cautious to relying on digital technology in every area of their business. It will be that way with artificial intelligence, too. Adopting these simple keys will ensure your success during the transition.