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4 Reasons AI will Fail: #1...

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Aaron Shaver, Ph.D, CISSP


… No Clear Priorities

Are you betting your organization’s future on AI without a clear plan? Many leaders assume artificial intelligence will magically transform their business if they collect enough data and wait for opportunities to emerge. However, history shows that transformational technologies require intention, expertise, and a clear mission to drive real change. AI has the potential to be hugely disruptive, but realizing its full benefits requires a strategic and proactive approach.

Other companies will pass you by if you rely solely on users to identify where AI can improve processes, products, and services. Waiting for opportunities to reveal themselves is a risky gamble that often ends in disappointment. Adopting AI without focus or direction is like embarking on a road trip without a destination. You may reach some interesting places along the way, but you will unlikely end up where you want to be. To gain a competitive advantage, you must take the lead in scoping high-value AI initiatives that further your organizational goals.

Be intentional with a Process Framework: Stop leading from behind. While artificial intelligence shows great promise to transform organizations, one key reason many companies will fail to realize AI’s full benefits is the lack of a framework for prioritizing high-value opportunities. Many leaders assume their users will naturally surface the best areas for AI applications. However, history teaches us that transformational technologies require more intentional effort to drive meaningful change.

Examples like the electrification of industries or the introduction of the internet brought about immense disruption but only through focused and strategic guidance. Leaders in those eras did not sit back and wait for ad hoc suggestions. Instead, they applied expertise to envision how the new technologies could revolutionize their work. Task forces were formed to carefully evaluate options against organizational priorities and goals. Promising areas received outsized resources and support to prove concepts.

A similar methodical approach is needed for AI to become an integral part of the business. Simply relying on unstructured user feedback will likely lead to scattered experiments with unclear connections to strategic objectives. AI risks becoming an underutilized tool without a coherent process for discovery, assessment, and promotion of the highest ROI opportunities. Transformation always fails without clear direction and the commitment of leadership. If companies hope to truly gain a competitive advantage from AI, they must establish (or preferably adopt existing) frameworks to intentionally drive its adoption in a way that best advances their mission. Consider using the incredible work of the American Productivity and Quality Center to frame your processes and identify opportunities to transform with AI.

Don’t get distracted, be strategic.

While chatbots may seem like an exciting new technology with their conversational interfaces, organizations should avoid getting distracted by the hype and novelty of these tools. A solution involving a chatbot is unlikely to be truly transformational for the business. At best, chatbots provide an assistive role and may result in small efficiency gains by automating basic tasks. However, true transformation requires rethinking core processes to deliver vastly more value.

Senior leaders must look beyond the flashy demos of conversational agents and carefully evaluate where their organizations can identify high-impact process opportunities. Chatbots are unlikely to revolutionize an entire business model or approach in the way that paradigm-shifting technologies sometimes can. At their current state of development, chatbots and other everyday artificial intelligence tools play a supportive role similar to previous technologies like email and smartphones - they become necessary for doing essential business but do not change the fundamental nature of operations.

Before adopting the latest conversational tools, companies should thoroughly analyze their operations for areas with the most potential to be reimagined. Transformational changes tend to occur when core workflows are creatively redesigned rather than simply automated through add-on solutions. While chatbots may have their place, executives must guard against losing focus on substantial process overhauls that could dramatically increase value for customers and shareholders. Novelty, for its own sake, will not lead to meaningful progress.

Accept “Everyday AI”; Accelerate “Game-changing AI”

There are two main categories of focus when it comes to artificial intelligence. Many companies and researchers are focused on developing “Everyday AI,” an add-on system designed to be a helpful assistant for everyday tasks. However, others strive to create “Game-changing AI” that significantly disrupts entire industries. Assistive and augmentative AI technologies fall into the former category, as their goal is to make humans more efficient or perform at a higher level of expertise by aiding decision-making or automating routine jobs.

One approach to implementing assistive AI is what could be called an “AI-in-the-loop” model. In this scenario, humans are the primary driver of any process or workflow. AI acts more as a decision-support tool, with humans ultimately maintaining control. While helpful, this implementation will provide only modest gains since humans are still directing operations. A more transformative option is to design systems following a “Human-in-the-loop” model instead.

By adopting intelligent process automation using autonomous software agents, where the AI handles most of the process independently, businesses can realize greater benefits. Humans are involved only when human judgment is uniquely valuable; otherwise, the AI is fully self-driving the process. This allows organizations to radically upgrade and optimize operations in a way impossible before this new generation of advanced AI technologies.

A properly developed AI strategy will pay for itself

Your organization lacks key elements necessary to fully realize the potential of game-changing artificial intelligence technologies. Without a defined process framework, good processes already in place, and precise alignment to business priorities, it will be difficult to successfully adopt and transform your operations through AI. To overcome these challenges, I recommend taking three strategic actions. First, adopt a proven process framework like APQC to provide the context for intelligently automating your operations. Second, ensure any AI initiatives are integrated with existing process improvement work and tied directly to this year’s strategic goals to maximize business value. Third, leverage pre-trained autonomous agents to systematically re-envision your end-to-end processes at an industry-leading quality level while reducing overhead by as much as 90%. Taking these steps will put your organization in a solid position to transform with AI.

Aaron Shaver, Ph.D, CISSP


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