What kind of strategy must organisations adopt to harness all the benefits of AI?
When it comes to technology, some industries move faster than others. But even in traditionally conservative and risk-averse sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, medicine and law, artificial intelligence is disrupting long-established business models.
For example, AI-driven smartphone apps can provide a first port of call for patients, while natural language processing, or NLP, can analyse billions of research documents with the aim of identifying new drugs faster than humans.
Meanwhile, other AI programmes are studying the biological data of cells with the aim of finding a cure for cancer. Whatever sector you are in, AI is already playing a role and its influence will only increase in the coming years.
But what kind of strategy must organisations adopt to harness all the benefits of AI?
Update your strategy – in real time…
While for many industries it is difficult to see beyond how AI can improve the speed and efficiency of routine tasks, the first rule of developing an AI business strategy is that it may need to change fast.
For example, NLP is being used by lawyers to scan through legal documents and build cases faster than before. It also offers the tantalising prospect of junior lawyers no longer having to work all night to review contract paperwork.
But, beyond that, there is little idea of how else it might make itself felt in the legal world. And, when you have no idea of what is coming, it makes it very difficult to form a strategy.
This can be made doubly hard if the company does not have a “digital first” culture in place. And in many businesses where the majority of what they do is still non-digital, there is an understandable reluctance to change. However, simply sticking your head in the sand is not an option. Writing off AI as something that will only help reduce admin is no kind of strategy.
A culture must be encouraged where digital solutions are always being sought for challenges you – and your customers – are facing.
Restructure, restructure, restructure
Restructuring will be a key part of building an AI-ready culture for most organisations.
Offering truly digitised services to your customers will require analysing your core processes and changing them.
This is particularly challenging in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and law, which have governance structures in place designed to maximise regulatory compliance and minimise risk.
However, these structures can also stifle innovation. It is not enough to try to encourage innovation within existing structures by, for example, creating an “innovation department”.
True digital innovation must be at the heart of everything you do, and that will probably mean picking apart everything you do now and rebuilding it from scratch.
Preach value not efficiency
The mere threat of changing how a business operates will be enough for many – from board level downwards – to try to resist embracing digital technologies fully.
An even more powerful rallying cry for the anti-digital brigade is the fear that many people may lose their jobs.
And advocates of AI and robotics can sometimes be their own worst enemy if they only talk about the technologies in terms of efficiency.
To build an effective digital strategy, you need to get everyone on board and stop talking about cutting headcounts. Instead, start talking about the value the technology can bring to the business, and how it can help you achieve more for your customers and keep ahead of the competition.
At the same time, you also need to help your people realise that the bigger threat to their jobs is not the technology, but the failure to adopt it.
Ultimately, it is beholden to everyone in organisations to find better ways of doing things. If you do not, someone else will.
To find out more about how digital transformation will impact your organisation, or to discuss how AI may impact your business strategy contact Bryan Beesley.