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When's the right time to adopt AI?

Written 06 June, 2019, 6 minutes to read

AI is being hyped as the next big game-changer for business; a ‘do or die’ for success. We’re told that failure to immediately overhaul business practices and implement AI will lead to redundancy. But sensational headlines aside, deciding when and where to adopt AI is a strategy which requires deeper thought and planning. Here’s what you need to seriously consider to work out the right time to adopt AI in your workplace.

1. Perceived benefits

Before deciding to adopt AI, you first need to be clear on the benefits it will bring you. AI offers a range of improvements for businesses: on the one hand automating processes can help to improve productivity and efficiency; on the other, providing opportunities to better engage with employees and consumers through advanced data analytics.

Utilizing AI has allowed a number of companies to disrupt markets and outperform their competitors. Netflix provides one of the biggest examples of this potential; successfully providing appealing recommendations based on users’ tastes and interests by using AI data analytics. In doing so, it has completely disrupted the DVD rental industry, with dangerous consequences for the future of the film and TV industry too.

So, with all these benefits flying around, diving headfirst into adopting AI is an appealing strategy for gaining competitive edge.

2. Or just hype?

But don’t be so quick to believe AI will work the same magic for you. These high-profile success stories often create a pressure to adopt the latest technologies, regardless of whether they are appropriate for your business. Technology goes through ‘hype cycles’, with inflated expectations peaking well before the technology is practically realizable for most.

Though adopting AI seems innovative, it may not actually immediately improve your profitability or efficiency. Many people simply adopt it for the sake of having an AI application. But in business there is no place for tokenism: following hype over a solid business strategy facilitates a culture of seeking quick wins which do not bring any substantial improvement.

Even if AI will bring you clear benefits, it is important to weigh them against potential costs. Though it seems obvious, understanding when and where AI can offer substantive benefits within a company’s broader strategy is the first step in deciding whether to adopt AI.

3. Organizational readiness

So, you’ve worked out AI will bring you benefits and is economically viable. But is your organization ready to make AI actually work? If AI is to be effective in your workplace, a number of building blocks first need to be in place.

First up, owning a truly digital culture is a determining factor in successful AI adoption. Before even considering creating the technical requirements for adopting AI, it is important to cultivate a digital culture, through embracing agile strategies and encouraging collaboration.

Equally, the requisite infrastructure needs to be in place so that data can be stored, shared and cleaned. This involves having a strategy for capturing the type of data that is needed for useful insights, and adopting cloud storage capabilities to house the required inputs. Failing to do this can leave businesses with a highly beneficial AI algorithm but no input data to feed it and, therefore, no insights.

Finally, operational readiness is required so AI’s potential can be fully realized. This includes sourcing the skills and expertise required to start these initiatives and adequately training the right staff to maintain AI programmes.

Taken together, it’s important to understand where your business is at in the digitization process, and any steps you need to take before you can successfully implement AI.

4. External pressure

Of course, businesses do not operate in a vacuum. In an ideal situation, AI would be adopted at a time that would offer optimal benefits and when readiness is fully present. In practice, this doesn’t always happen; companies instead have to react to competitors’ improvements.

But this competition can be beneficial in the longer-term, as it increases the chances of a company surviving and thriving. It forces companies to react and make improvements where they may have previously been delaying implementation due to complacency.

Yet, it’s still a risky business. There are numerous examples of companies and industries being disrupted by new entrants, and failing to respond quickly or offer similar levels of quality and convenience can lead to consumer churn.

While competition can be a driving force behind the adoption of AI and improved business practices, innovating as a reactionary strategy is latent with risk. It’s increasingly difficulty to catch up with your competition, particularly when your digital foundation for AI has not been properly laid.

5. Adopting AI doesn’t have to be overwhelming

We need to emphasize that adopting AI doesn’t require a radical business overhaul. Utilizing ‘lightweight’ AI office apps can be a good starting point for adopting it, providing a safe testing ground for introducing it more rigorously into your business at a later date.

This tiered adoption offers the potential to improve certain elements of business, without having to completely change your existing structure or business model. You just need to think about what applications of AI could really supercharge your specific set-up.

There are a ton of lightweight AI applications for almost every facet of business management going. Some of the most popular include:

Scheduling AIs:

Apps like x.ai act as assistants for scheduling meetings. Rather than wading through the email back and forth, your AI can handle coordination – finding times and arranging a meeting that is convenient for all parties.

Time AIs:

AI-powered time trackers like Timely let you completely outsource time sheets for projects and teams. The app automatically tracks everything you work on and creates accurate timesheets for you. It can even learn logging behaviour patterns to alert managers whenever something out of the ordinary happens – like an employee working beyond their weekly capacity, or logging time to a billed project.

Email AIs:

Tools like Astro supercharge email management by using AI to create intelligent inboxes and prioritize important emails. By learning your email habits, it makes suggestions to help you send communications at the best time and snooze email during downtime.

Adopting readymade AI technologies like these introduces immediate positive change, and can also ignite the necessary shift of culture within your business. Through exposure to “out-the-box AI”, people can become more comfortable in using these technologies, laying the foundations for organizational readiness and more radical changes.

You don’t need to hire a ton of machine learning technicians, or roll out AI training to your entire organization. And what’s more, AI projects which focus on enhancing specific processes are more likely to be successful than larger transformations. Win-win!

Want to get started with AI now? See our pick of the best AI productivity apps every workplace needs.

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