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AI Readiness Part 3: Is AI Technology Ready for Your Commercial Use?

AI Readiness Part 3: Is AI Technology Ready for Your Commercial Use?

Assessing your business’ readiness to use AI

If you have been following this series, you may recall from the first blog that there are two critical principles to understand as you consider AI applications in your business:

  1. AI technology is NOT a business strategy nor is it a technology strategy. It’s a tool.
  2. Commercial AI technology readiness is different from your business’ readiness to deploy AI. 

You may think you are already late to the AI adoption game or that 71% of businesses are using AI today. However, it’s important to assess your business’ readiness to use AI instead of blindly hopping on the bandwagon. The tech firms supplying AI tools are bullish about their offerings, but there are still many unanswered questions: 

Your business will benefit from a scorecard exercise to make your own assessments of each AI tool so you are making the best selection possible in a rapidly changing market. Having your criteria developed upfront enables you to make impartial comparisons.  

Let’s take a look at what criteria you might include on your AI assessment. We can look at historical technology adoption for guidance.

A brief history of technology adoption

AI tools may be entering your business both on purpose and through benign technology asset neglect. When you look back at the adoption of the Internet in small- and medium-sized businesses, renegade departments (often marketing or product groups) moved faster than corporate IT organizations. You may not have even been aware of these maverick efforts until they showed up in the marketplace!

An example from my career

One major bank I worked for hired expensive consultants to build an Internet architecture for the organization. They had a one-year charter, during which no one was supposed to start an Internet project. As a business leader charged with payment innovation, I felt the one year waiting period was too constraining, and with a vice chairman’s support, my team delivered an Internet payment solution in the same window that the bank’s technical architects were deciding what technologies were to be allowed. With a vice chairman’s knowledge, we built the business on the Microsoft Internet tech stack–a real heresy in the banking world at the time. The bank now processes billions of payments transaction value on that same platform over twenty years later!

Another business unit in that bank started offering mobile payments without “permission.” Quickly, the convenience of mobile outplaced the bank’s support capabilities, and the mobile app had to be withdrawn from the market until the bank’s infrastructure could support it.

The above examples from my career do a great job of illustrating the delicate balance between supporting a strong technology architecture and addressing urgent business needs to stay competitive in the market. 

How to design an AI readiness assessment for your business

Assessing AI tool readiness for commercial deployment is a challenge for many businesses. With the rapid pace of new AI tool releases means many tools will be here today and gone tomorrow. Here are two quotes from a recent article summarizing the 2024 Milken Institute Global Conference that reinforce this point well: 

Brad Lightcap, Open AI COO, on the technological advancement still to come
Elad Gil, entrepreneur, operating executive, and investor, on the future of AI startups in the market

How confident can you be with AI technology when major industry players are expressing these concerns about their own companies or investments? Moreso, what should you do knowing that industry insiders and major investors have their own skepticisms about AI today?

A foundational principle in constructing your AI readiness assessment

I’ve found some good (and free) background resources available from companies like Info-Tech Research Group, which curates an AI Research Center, to help myself understand how to think about AI and a business’ technology platform(s). Info-Tech focuses on integrating AI into the operational fabric of IT. They are bullish on how to maximize value from AI, stating: “As organizations seek to harness the full potential of AI to achieve greater efficiency, increased revenue, and enhanced customer experience, long-term success hinges on integrating AI into the operational value of IT.”

In other words, start by considering AI as part of your tech platform, not as a one-off technology. This is a clear principle statement which will help you bring the same level of management, processes, and expected results that you expect from other tech investments.

What criteria belong in your AI readiness assessment?

As you dive into building your business’ AI readiness assessment, here are 7 key questions to consider. 

Is AI technology ready for your commercial use? Here are 7 key questions to consider when building an AI readiness assessment for your business.
  1. What are your business objectives in adopting AI?

Following the “business first, AI second” approach I’ve talked about in previous blogs, the first item on your AI readiness assessment should be a statement of objectives.

  1. How will each AI tool option fit into your existing technology landscape? 

For example, are you a Microsoft or Google shop? Many AI tools are delivered already bundled and integrated into business applications, like Word, PowerPoint or the Google suite. I always place value on vendor integration because that places the onus on the vendor to continue to ensure the AI tools work seamlessly with their applications. This means you can focus your time on using them most effectively.

  1. What business and technology skill sets are required to maximize the implementation of AI tools and realize business value from them?

AI tools are not nearly as challenging to bring in-house as relevant human talent is. Your answer to this question can also be dependent on your existing technology landscape.

  1. How will you maximize the value of your existing data? 

AI is dependent not just on accessible industry data, but more importantly, on your data. How will each AI tool leverage your data? You cannot easily recreate this asset, you need to leverage it.

  1. How will each AI tool support your needs for responsible AI usage?

The challenges with AI include acceptable use policies and controls over data collection, privacy, and distribution. Which AI vendors best match your controls and concerns?

  1. How will each AI tool support the use cases that are your priorities?

This criteria encourages you to establish first what you want to accomplish, and then second, which AI tool best fits your needs. With the rapid evolution of AI tools, this may be a challenge for your assessment, but you need to start somewhere. You should establish a plan to review the performance of the AI tools you bring in on a regular basis. Quarterly would be a good cadence. In my opinion, there is a good likelihood that the tools you test today will not be the ones you use longer term. Even the leaders of AI forms themselves would agree with this. Think about your relationship with AI tools as dating, not getting married.

  1. How well do AI tools currently meet the needs of your business?

Can the AI vendors supply you with case studies where they have delivered AI tools which have been proven to solve the same needs you have? When  you ask for case studies, make sure they offer quantitative benefits and outcomes. This goes beyond feel-good stories. It’s about providing hard evidence of success.

Practical next steps for AI readiness

It’s time to get some hands-on time with AI tools which won’t put your business at risk. Try using it for research, or for evaluating your own data. I would be very careful about using it with customers or suppliers or partners until you have completed an evaluation of AI tools and have started to craft your own assessment to help build your confidence in your AI tool selection.

You can start defining use cases to help you build out your requirements and can also begin crafting policies around data, confidentiality, and responsible AI usage. Once you become more comfortable with using AI and build your business’ AI readiness assessment, you’ll soon be on the path to innovation. 

Dimensions of AI readiness

This article is the third in a series where I share practical experience learned over 25 years as a Marketing and Technology executive. Each subsequent article will focus on one dimension of readiness. To catch up on the series, here are the first two blogs: 

Meanwhile, if you’d like to explore opportunities to leverage AI in your marketing programs, we are here to help.

Author

  • Mark Coronna

    Mark Coronna is Authentic's Chief Development Officer. A former F-500 CIO and a long-time CMO, Mark has a keen sense of pattern recognition and relevant problem-solving skills for growth, go-to-market, and financial performance.

    View all posts

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