A recent Gartner survey of Chief Information Officers finds that while just four percent have already implemented AI in some form in their businesses, 46 percent have plans in place to do so. Although there are many obstacles to implementing this groundbreaking technology, soon companies that fail to take advantage will lag behind. To help ease the potential pains of diving into adoption, our colleagues who conduct IT management research at Gartner have four recommendations to ensure success in the early stages of AI implementation: start small; focus on helping, not replacing, people; plan for knowledge transfer; and choose transparent solutions.
“Don’t fall into the trap of primarily seeking hard outcomes, such as direct financial gains, with AI projects,” Gartner analyst Whit Andrews explains. “In general, it’s best to start AI projects with a small scope and aim for ‘soft’ outcomes, such as process improvements, customer satisfaction or financial benchmarking.”
Early forays into AI should be learning experiences rather than attempts at large-scale change that dramatically reshape a department or function. It’s important to set modest goals for AI initiatives, given that the most important outcome will be gaining the knowledge and expertise to successfully apply the technology to a work stream. Additionally, while many employees fear AI could replace them, the easiest way to assuage those concerns is to deploy AI solutions that make employees’ lives easier. As Gartner EVP Peter Sondergaard remarked in his observations from the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AI is expected to create many more jobs than it destroys, while generating massive value and saving billions of hours of worker productivity.
That means there’s an opportunity to get employees engaged with AI adoption as a technology that will make their jobs easier, rather than obsolete.
“Leave behind notions of vast teams of infinitely duplicable ‘smart agents’ able to execute tasks just like humans,” Andrews added. “It will be far more productive to engage with workers on the front line. Get them excited and engaged with the idea that AI-powered decision support can enhance and elevate the work they do every day.”
The third key to success involves building the capability internally to understand artificial intelligence and where it can be applied to business processes. If a company is working with mostly external vendors at the beginning, make sure each interaction or engagement with them is also adding knowledge to the company. Ultimately, that will lead to a broader understanding of how AI can benefit the company as a whole. Finally, be transparent with employees about the selection process for an AI solution and what the organization’s goals are.
Gartner clients can read more in our recent report, Lessons From Early AI Projects. This research is part of the Gartner Special Report on crafting an AI strategy, a collection of research aimed at helping CIOs incorporate AI into their strategic planning and evaluation processes for business transformation.