Digging deeper into AI: Why scratching the surface isn’t enough

Leaders are betting on artificial intelligence to grow their business. To succeed, though, they must recognize that AI is a way of being, not just another thing to do.

Digging deeper into AI: Why scratching the surface isn’t enough
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There’s no question that artificial intelligence (AI) has become a game-changer for businesses today. For forward-looking leaders, AI is increasingly understood to be the key to transforming customer experiences, delivering new, digitally driven value propositions, and entering new markets. But most business leaders today aren’t capitalizing on AI’s full potential. That is largely because they’re limiting their focus to the technology itself — rather than focusing on the much bigger potential of AI as an engine for growth.

To reap the full benefits of AI, executives must dig deeper — they must evolve the technology from a hot new trend to a seamless enabler, woven into the fabric of the enterprise and truly working alongside and augmenting people. When done right, AI has the potential to allow companies to not only do different things, but also to do things differently.By more deeply understanding AI and the holistic value it can bring, companies can become more valuable to their ecosystem and maintain a competitive position in a world that will soon be powered by AI. But that also requires the ability to see beyond the hype and tackle the challenges and complexities to reach AI’s full potential.

A multi-pronged approach to AI

Firms across industries are starting to recognize the value of ingraining AI programs into all aspects of their business. While 57 percent of companies are still in the early investment or pilot stages of AI initiatives and have yet to deploy fully sustainable programs across their organization, some are starting the journey — and already reaping the benefits.

One large financial services firm, for example, is working to incorporate AI across all levels of its business by exploring areas such as intelligent automation that can automate analyst and operational workflows, as well as intelligent products that can deliver a new class of algorithm-driven funds for clients.

Data is the new currency

For the best learning and results, AI demands vast and diverse data. Accordingly, leadership teams are quickly realizing that data from their own company is highly valuable — and that data from a network of related companies is even more valuable.

AI will only be as good as the breadth of data used to “train it,” which is why it’s so important for organizations to leverage the data across an ecosystem rather than just within a company. According to Accenture Strategy research, 44 percent of executives across industries say the value of ecosystems lies in access to new customers, and with those customers comes data. (Note: The authors of this article both work for Accenture Strategy.)

The faster and more completely companies buy into ecosystems of data, the better able they will be to compete. AI-fueled insights will increasingly require vast data marketplaces to be truly targeted. It is these very insights that are key to business growth drivers — transforming experience, developing new digitally enabled products and services, and serving previously less attractive markets.

Enabling AI-led growth

Current technologies and lower barriers to entry are rapidly making AI more accessible and affordable. Organizations are sensing the opportunity, as well as the high degree of disruption. Accenture Strategy data shows that 72 percent of executives cite that AI will dramatically change their industry, while 27 percent say it will completely transform their own business in the next three years.

Before getting left behind, organizations must begin to use AI across the organization in order to mine the valuable data and insights that cannot be bought after the fact. The shift must come from the top — the companies that have buy-in from the C-suite are moving faster and investing in this change across the organization.

Here are important steps companies can take on their AI journeys:

  • Consider how AI can help unlock new capabilities, markets, and customer growth: Clearly identify and quantify sustainable benefits by applying the AI enterprise value drivers across your organization. Create strategies centered around human and AI collaboration to maximize sustainable returns.
  • Redefine the boundaries of the ecosystem within which you and your customers exist: Decide where you will source data from (both internally and externally) to feed your AI engine and know which data can be shared and monetized (if any). Look to non-traditional partners to create an innovative mix of sources. And keep the customer at the core — it’s critical to know how each AI solution will directly impact where customers derive the most value from your organization.
  • Help your workforce adjust to the new AI mindset: Encourage your teams to dig in and experiment with AI technologies so they understand the current state of data, compute, ecosystem access, experience design abilities, and talent. Invest in talent with the right skills to define and implement AI solutions. Promote a culture of innovation and experimentation so people can learn by doing. Explore how you will augment your workers by automating tasks so that they can do their jobs more efficiently.
  • Emphasize AI governance: Start thinking about how you will incorporate responsible AI, including how you will ensure your AI deployment is aligned to your company’s core values and ethnics and how it will benefit employees, customers, and society along with your bottom line.

The new currency of growth, as well as a new business normal, is upon us. The leaders of tomorrow are betting on AI today as an entirely new underpinning for their business and key to driving exponential growth. The path forward takes recognizing AI as more than just another thing to do, but a way of being.

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Diana Bersohn and Andrew Sinclair are managing directors – technology strategy at Accenture Strategy, which recently published “The New Normal: Exponential Growth Powered by AI.”

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