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Why You Should Incorporate AI into Your Business — and How to Do It the Right Way

The proliferation of generative AI tools has made the technology ever more accessible and relevant.
Here's how you can apply it to your business as well.

Key Takeaways:
  • AI should be seen as an integral part of your business model. Organizations failing to integrate AI risk falling behind competitors who leverage its transformative potential.

  • Implementing AI requires a strategic and responsible approach. Businesses should focus on developing AI expertise within their workforce, setting clear goals for AI adoption, and executing small, measurable milestones.

  • Leveraging data effectively, ensuring ethical use of AI, and implementing robust governance mechanisms are also essential for successful AI integration and mitigating risks.

Advancements in generative AI mean that disruptions that used to take decades nowadays can happen in a span of a few months. This is promising an immense economic opportunity — PwC estimates that, by 2030, AI could pour $15.7 trillion into the global economy.

Many think that these gains will come from tech giants like Apple and Microsoft, but that's simply not the case. I believe that more than half of the potential value created by AI in various sectors could come from entirely new businesses and applications that do not exist today.

However, a common threat that stands in the way of entrepreneurial innovation is reducing the AI revolution to merely an IT problem. Entrepreneurs who want to play the long game should look at AI not as a question of technology, but as a fundamental shift in how they innovate and do business.

AI should be a part of your business model

If it's not, you are already failing and have some catching up to do. I'm not saying this for shock value, but because I can see the writings on the wall. In a competitive world where the slightest advantage in speed or innovativeness can mean the difference between surviving and thriving, it's hard to imagine that your competitors aren't already thinking about or leveraging AI.

In fact, any organization, regardless of the industry, could and should be embedding AI within their operations. No matter what function you look at — from operations and HR to IT and customer service — generative AI can and will transform the way we work.

If you aren't convinced that you need to act now, just look at what happened during the early days of the internet. As I was evangelizing the World Wide Web, I saw many entrepreneurs and executives treat the internet as a new form of communication relevant only to their IT department. As a result, they were reluctant to quickly invest in online technologies and either failed or became obsolete.

I am witnessing a similar thing happen with generative AI today. Those who think that it doesn't apply to them or just view it as another buzzword are simply missing the big picture. And they're bound to pay a hefty price.

How to incorporate AI in your business

It's one thing to acknowledge and accept the power of generative AI to transform business operations. It's another to harness this power in a responsible and constructive manner. While this technology can revolutionize any aspect of your business, there is definitely a wrong and a right way to implement it.

Get AI-savvy and practice what you preach:

For any AI initiative to take root, you need an organizational culture that's both receptive to its potential and aware of its pitfalls. I always urge leaders to go beyond the surface-level automation tasks and think deeper about the ways AI can shape future processes.

I see too many leaders preaching AI but not really knowing how to use this technology themselves. Before you embed AI in your products and services, you need to apply this technology to your operations first. You can do this by building your own know-how around what makes a legitimate AI service provider and what are some of the potential pitfalls that can put your own data and operations at risk.

This knowledge then needs to trickle down to your workforce. While many of these tools are free and accessible to all, your employees need to know how to assess and implement them in their workflows without inadvertently jeopardizing your business.

Get focused and execute in small measurable milestones:

You've got to understand what you need AI to do for your business. Is it automating repetitive tasks, enhancing customer service through chatbots or analyzing sales data to predict future trends? By identifying specific, measurable goals, you can avoid the pitfall of implementing AI just for the sake of it and instead focus on solving real-world problems that directly impact your bottom line.

Then, implement AI in small, manageable areas of your business where it can have an immediate impact. For instance, if your goal is to improve customer service, start by integrating a simple AI chatbot that can handle basic inquiries. This allows you to gauge both the effectiveness of AI in your operations and your team's ability to adapt.

Last, set clear metrics for success before the AI solution is deployed, and regularly analyze its performance against these benchmarks. This could be an increase in customer satisfaction scores, a reduction in response times or a decrease in operational costs.

Make the most of your data:

Part of building an environment that enables the successful adoption of AI is growing an awareness around how you generate, store, and use your data. When one process is updated or replaced by a new one, how is that data streamlined and incorporated within the rest of your ecosystem?

While most businesses sit on mountains of data, many don't make full use of it. AI gives you low-cost opportunities to change that. But first, you need to ensure that the data is of good enough quality to be used in decision-making. If you're sitting on poor or insufficient data, the first port of call should be addressing this problem. By ensuring your data is accurate and usable, you unlock AI's potential to transform underutilized data into strategic insights, driving efficiency and competitive advantage.

Act responsibly and put guardrails in place:

Sixty-three percent of organizations with an annual revenue of $50 million or more see the adoption of AI as a high or very high priority, yet 91% of them don't feel they're prepared to implement it in a responsible manner. That's because embedding AI within your business process and technical infrastructure makes you vulnerable to unforeseen threats.

Regardless of the size of your organization, if you haven't already, now is the time to implement robust governance mechanisms that can uphold and ensure an ethical and responsible use of AI technologies.

There are many areas which you need to consider here. How are you going to be transparent with your customers about using AI? What are your privacy policies? How are you protecting your own and customers' confidential data? Implementing any AI initiative before you've answered these questions exposes you to an unnecessary risk.

Just because AI is ubiquitous, it doesn't mean that you have to rush into it. Implementing the technology without thinking through the strategy, business process, and governance can be far more costly than not using AI at all.

So, execute the AI's potential with clear measurable milestones. Start small, and start today. Be smart about where you want your business to go and how you can leverage and innovate with AI. What are some of the problems, challenges, and opportunities we're yet to see in this landscape that you can start working on today? This forward-looking mindset is what's going to distinguish the exceptional from the rest — and this is what's going to give you the ultimate edge in the long run.

This article originally appeared in on March 25, 2024


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