Expensive AI will get you nowhere without cultural change

How to make the most of new technologies.

by Holly Hall
Last Updated: 05 Feb 2020

AI is going to have an impact across every industry. So, if you haven’t already got someone leading on this in your business, you had better get moving because your competitors are likely getting to grips with AI’s broad potential, whether that’s in improving customer service, logistics, marketing, or any number of other processes.

Recently, we’ve been exploring the impact of introducing AI with BIMA members, which sparked a lot of debate at a recent event we held with Microsoft UK. The overwhelming response has been that, as ever, it’s about people and understanding the fundamentals of your business. Like any software solution, introducing AI technology into your company isn’t a matter of just plugging it in; delivering on its true potential requires cultural as well as technical change.

First and most importantly, what’s your ROI? You need to know what you want to get out of AI before you start. Too often, companies embark on a big integration project - simultaneously coughing up for the army of consultants that can come with it - without seriously considering this. Identify a measure of success that is easily translatable and fits with your business agenda. After that, you can identify the right external help you might need.

Ideally, you already have an established business culture that is receptive to new ideas, but it’s never too late to introduce one. This can be easier said than done, of course, especially in companies that have been around a while, and sectors like banking, finance, engineering or law are often saddled with legacy systems that can make the job even harder. 

One BIMA member proposed overcoming this by creating ‘cultural willingness’ inside your organisation. Building a more flexible and open attitude to change will help people feel ready to face all the technology and possibilities that will come from introducing AI.

Building structure around the introduction of AI can also help ensure its successful integration. Identify advocates within your business to keep teams focused and motivated, and then allow people the time and space to get used to new tools. By giving people a bit of time to play before new systems are implemented, they are more likely to experiment and they’ll be ready to go once the new system goes live. 

Finally, understanding what your business really stands for is crucial to building an open culture and being AI ready. Tech for tech’s sake is never the right approach, and too many businesses have failed from the start because its leaders haven’t thought through the implications of what they are creating. 

AI has incredible potential to empower the people within your business and help them achieve more through greater collaboration, efficiencies and flexibility. Get back to first principles and examine the culture of your business before you mobilise the entire organisation to unlock AI’s potential.

Holly Hall is MD of BIMA, Britain’s digital community

Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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