By Benjamin Vierk, CEO
Thinking about existing value chains in new ways requires a new way of thinking for the organization. It’s important to drive that change into the company culture so that it continues to drive your company forward and keep your you competitive long into the future. Lasting changes only are anchored by demonstrating results; both short and long term, and having company leadership communicate those results loudly and often. Having company leaders that communicate the importance of AI, both internally and externally, is critical to institutionalizing the new capabilities.
Consider the email that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent to his executive team. It starts, “I know that this is going to ruin a number of your weekends”. In it were links to several AI resources and the missive: “if you want to be an exec at this company - you need to be competent at AI”. Jeffrey Snover, a Microsoft Technical Fellow, shared this with me over a recent lunch after I demanded more of Azure ML and interrogated him about Microsoft’s ML strategy, “How serious is Microsoft taking AI at the executive level?”. Satya’s message is clear; the winners tomorrow will have a strategy for Artificial Intelligence today.
Listen to the way that Jeff Bezos talked about AI in his most recent letter to shareholders : “big trends are not that hard to spot (they get talked and written about a lot), but they can be strangely hard for large organizations to embrace. We’re in the middle of an obvious one right now: machine learning and artificial intelligence. Over the past decades, computers have broadly automated tasks that programmers could describe with clear rules and algorithms. Modern machine learning techniques now allow us to do the same for tasks where describing the precise rules is much harder.” Bezos understands the impact that AI is having to his industry. If yours doesn’t, it’s time for a lunch and learn.
The biggest challenge you’ll face institutionalizing AI is that the demand for data science talent is significantly higher than the supply. Large companies are aggressively hiring and acquiring machine learning talent to build internal capabilities. According to a recent McKinsey report , 80-90% of all today’s AI talent are working at the largest technology companies in the world. In the current market medium-sized businesses are finding more success partnering with AI technology firms than trying to recruit and retain a force of their own. Small businesses with limited budgets will find their best ROI buying off-the-shelf software enhanced by AI.
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