Preparing for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in an organisation is like preparing for any major change project.
To get ready for AI, you need to think about the technology you will deploy, as well how you will manage the changes for your staff, considering both the tech and the people who will help you roll it out.
If you haven’t thought about how AI might benefit your enterprise business, now is the time to put AI on the agenda. Employing the capabilities that AI can offer will be critical over the coming decade. Just about every business, from every industry, will have to consider how AI could be used to improve and speed up processes.
When AI is put to work, it means that machines are used to perform higher order functions like learning, problem solving or using reason and logic to make decisions. These are the skills that we have previously needed human minds for. AI can help you to conduct data analysis and use information to solve business problems; saving you costs.
It is critical to ensure you have a clear process map for the AI system before you begin implementation. What technology can advance our AI roll out- this might include cloud-based solutions or application programming interfaces (APIs) that take out some of the work and reduce implementation timeframes.
Is it better to make small, incremental changes towards AI processes, or completely overhaul your whole organisation all at once? Both approaches have their challenges. If you gradually roll out AI systems across individual and small scale processes or in individual, discrete cases, you may be embarking on a change process that may take you years to complete and will never really feel as though the work has been done.
There is also a risk that by the time the latter process are implemented, the earliest to be done have fallen behind and are not adequate for your current position.
However going from no AI to an absolute, whole of organisation roll out can be complicated, confusing and stressful for staff. It might just not be feasible given investment requirements or organisational capacity.
Doing a complete 360 on the way you have always worked is a huge task; there is potential for the organisation to slip into chaos, with a low level of engagement from all those varied stakeholders, and a real risk of losing people, products or public profile.
We tend to think the best way to start out on an AI journey is to start with one core or critical work process or function, and reimagining how it could be met with a technological interface or solution. Looking at just one process will give you experience in designing, mapping and implementing a technological change process, rather than conducting a complete and radical overhaul of all of your functions.
There is benefit in ensuring the process you chose will have real business value, is achievable and realistic, and will have enough support from leadership to get the implementation over the line. Building on internal interest and capabilities, seeing AI in action and being of benefit and celebrating wins along the way will ensure a sustained interest in automation.
If starting with one or two process or functions, it’s important to dedicate the time to get to grips with the existing ways of working, including any gaps, inefficiencies or weaknesses in the process as it is. By spending time with particular business units, you’ll be able to hear firsthand any frustrations they have, and provide reassurance that the resulting AI processes will make a positive difference to their day to day work.
Keeping people engaged is also important- why not get the staff who will be most impacted by the changes to assist you with assessing solutions and testing new systems.
Implementing AI is guaranteed to bring about organisational change. Leaders need to inform, support and guide their staff through these changes and help the workforce to be ready to work in different ways. Changes will occur to roles, responsibilities, team structure, and the very nature and type of tasks carried out. Organisations that have a culture which is adaptable will fare better during these times than those which are stayed and traditional.
Leaders can help facilitate organisational change by having a clear vision for the change, by:
having a clear vision for the change
Keeping people informed is key. Research has proven that when an AI system is clearly explained to the people who will be using it, the acceptance rate is surprisingly high and most individuals are able to see the benefits that AI will bring.
The implications of introducing AI are wide ranging. You may encounter both resistance and fear about the roll out of AI, with people concerned about the future and important of their work. The best AI systems enable staff to be able to see real benefit to their work.
AI technology is already being used in some highly sensitive industries; recruitment, banking, manufacturing, medical, health and social services. Involving personnel in the development of practices and procedures for the use of AI can help to demonstrate the benefits that can be offered and reassure that there are still elements of work which require human interaction.
As a leader in your organisation, you will need to show you are defining and guiding people towards a positive change. But you don’t need to be the one to carry out the change singlehandedly. By forming a group or work team that can help you navigate this new terrain, you will be able to build up a group of change agents.
Your AI implementation group might more obviously include people from IT, data and systems, business analysis or governance, but you could also bring in people from finance, communications and even HR.
Assembling a team from across the organisation can help everyone feel as through their interests and concerns are being considered, that the systems are operating within the legal and ethical context of the industry and in which people can see there is value for the business.
Many businesses doubt that the have the knowledge or skill base internally to be able to manage an AI transformation project.
And such concerns are certainly valid. AI technology is advancing rapidly, and the ability to review processes, document solutions and implement technological change is a relatively new skill set that many people who have been in the workforce for several years will not have experience in.
There is nothing wrong with enlisting outside help to help you plan and roll out AI systems.
However, the thing to remember is that your people will look to their existing, trusted leaders for guidance on what the changing and uncertain future looks like. Make sure you are giving your employees plenty of opportunity to hear their leaders describe the vision and the path to the goal, and to ask questions about what it might mean for them.
You can expect a degree of disruption as you roll out new AI. Although they may be the ones most affected by the changes that AI will bring, your people are your biggest asset in the successful acceptance and endorsement of AI technologies.
We have seen time and time again that the companies that gain the best return on AI roll out have strong leadership and detailed change management strategies. Some useful tools for helping people to accept the changes that AI will bring include:
It’s important to consider risks associated with AI from the outset, because there certainly are plenty to consider. Be it around ethics, legality, data or governance, AI does come with inherent risks.
The best approach is to consider, document and actively address risk from the onset. By creating clear processes and practices for data collection and use, you can mitigate the potential for unforeseen risk causing you reputational or technological problems.
AI can help your business to operate more efficiently and effectively; with benefits for productivity, personnel and your customers.
We are likely to see an increase in the use of AI in all industry over the coming years; now is the time to prepare for the challenges and incredible opportunities AI will bring.