Artificial Intelligence is real and has started becoming mainstream – chatbots using AI to answer queries are everywhere. AI is being used in stock trades, contact centre applications, bank loans processing, crop harvests, self-driving vehicles, and streaming entertainment. It is now part of boardroom discussions and strategic initiatives of CEOs. McKinsey predicts AI will add USD 13 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
Hype vs Reality
So much to like – but why then do we often find leaders shrugging their shoulders? Despite all the good news above there is also another side to AI. For all the green indicators, there are also some red flags (Figure 1). In fact, if one googles “Hype vs reality” the majority of the results returned are to do with AI!!!!
Our experience shows that broad swaths of executives are skeptical of AI. Leaders in a variety of businesses from large multinational banks, consumer packaged goods companies to appliance makers have privately expressed their disappointment at not being able to make AI work for them. They cannot bridge the gap between the AI hype and reality in their businesses.
The data available also bears this out – VentureBeat estimates that 87% of ML projects never make it into production. Ecosystm research suggests that only 7% of organisations have an AI centre of excellence (CoE) – while the remaining depend on ad-hoc implementations. There are several challenges that organisations face in procuring and implementing a successful AI solution – both technology and business (Figure 2).
Visible Patterns Emerge from Successful AI Use Cases
If we look back to figure 2 and analyse the challenges, we will see certain common themes – many of which are now commonplace wisdom, if not trite. Leadership alignment around AI strategy is the most common one. Getting clean data, aligning strategy with execution, and building the capabilities to use AI are all touted as critical requirements for successful execution. These themes all point to the insight that it is the human element that is more critical – not the technology.
As practitioners we have come across numerous examples of AI projects which go off-track because of human issues. Let’s take the example of an organisation that had enhancing call centre capabilities and capacity using RPA tools, as a key business mandate. There was strong leadership support and enthusiasm. It was clear that a large number of basic level tickets raised by the centre could be resolved using digital agents. This would result in substantial gains in customer experience, through faster ticket resolution and higher employee productivity – it was estimated to be above 30%. However, after two months of launching the pilot only a very small percentage of cases were identified for migration to digital agents.
Very soon, it became clear that these tools were being perceived as a replacement for human skills, rather than to augment their capabilities. The most vocal proponent of the initiative – the head of the customer experience team – became its critic, as he felt that the small savings were not worth the risk of higher agent turnover rates due to perceived job insecurity.
This was turned around by a three-day workshop focused on demonstrating how the job responsibility of agents could be enhanced as portions of their job got automated. The processes were redesigned to isolate parts which could be fully automated and to club non-automated components together driving more responsibility and discretion for agents. Once enhanced responsibility of the call centre staff was identified, managers felt more comfortable and were willing to support the initiative. In the end, the goals set at the start of the project were all met.
In my next blog I will share with you what we consider the winning formula for a successful AI deployment. In the meantime, share with us your AI stories – both of your challenges and successes.
Evaluate your key business goals and work out the changes that are required to achieve those. These changes might be so small and incremental that it may not even appear to be a ‘transformation’. Keeping an eye on the goals, will ensure that you do not invest in areas that do not necessarily need changing. It will also ensure that you simply do not replace an existing process with a new one, without first working out how that change will impact your organisation.
Think beyond features – to the Benefits
Technology investments often end up being the shiny new toy. Decision-makers in organisations may get attracted to snazzy devices and application features – and lose sight of evaluating the true benefits of the technology. For instance, the sales rep selling in-store would have a very good idea of what sells and how much stock to carry. There may be no incremental benefit in equipping the rep with an app that provides real-time sales analytics and inventory data. So, the app gets relegated to being just a feature with no real benefits. On the other hand, a field sales rep might find it extremely useful, especially in sectors that are prone to unpredictable spikes in demand.
Be ready to Invest in the change
You have evaluated the changes that your organisation needs, you have identified the technologies that can truly benefit your organisation – you must be ready to invest in that change. This is not only about financial investments – you have to invest time and in people. This requires your organisation to think of the RoI, again not only in terms of finances but also in terms of effort. Be aware that your biggest challenge in implementing the required change might be people – so invest in making them less resistant and more welcoming of the change.
There will be distractions galore in your transformation journey – emerging tech areas, solutions that seem to be working for your competitors and so on. Mukherjee proposes a simple thumb rule, “If it fits the strategy and looks feasible go with it; if it is outside the agreed strategy then think long and hard, and then turn it down – or change the strategy!”
This blog is based on Niloy Mukherjee’s recent report titled “Digital Transformation in Sales and Marketing”.
Click here to download the full report ?
Why should a CEO get involved in and have visibility into an organisation’s Cloud investments? There are a few important reasons.
#1 Cloud is not a cost-saving measure – it will enable you to transform
Organisations have matured in their Cloud adoption and no longer evaluate the benefits of Cloud only in terms of shifting CapEx to OpEx. If we look at the benefits of Cloud adoption, reduction of IT costs is not even in the top 3 benefits that organisations are seeking from Cloud anymore. Operational efficiency and collaboration emerge as key benefits (Figure 1) – while some companies still move to the Cloud for the savings, they stay there for other benefits.
This requires organisations to think of Cloud as a technology empowering their infrastructure and services. Cloud acts as an enabler for ease of doing business, real-time data access for productivity increase, and process automation. This impacts the entire organisation. It also involves prioritising the needs of certain functions over others – definitely not what a CIO should have to do.
If we look at just Cloud storage as an example, organisations can no longer have individual functions and their associated shadow IT teams having their own Cloud storage (and collaboration). This often turns out to be more expensive and there is a lack of consolidated view and management. While organisations forge ahead with the dream of having real-time information sharing across functions, a CIO has to consider the entire organisation’s technological and business needs – a CEO is the best person to guide the CIO in translating the organisation’s vision into IT priorities.
#2 In fact Cloud adoption may not cut costs at all!
Organisations are also re-evaluating the cost benefits of Cloud. Investing in a Cloud infrastructure with a short-term view on the investments involved has led to instances of Cloud solutions being brought back in-house because of rising costs. While security, data privacy and integration remain the key challenges of Cloud adoption (Figure 2), over a third of the organisations find Cloud more expensive than traditional licensing or owning the hardware.
Organisations find that the cost considerations do not stop after the adoption or migration. As businesses use Cloud to scale, there are several aspects that require constant re-evaluation and often further investments – cybersecurity measures, continuous data protection (CDP), disaster recovery management, rightsizing capacity, software and database licenses and day-to-day maintenance, to name a few. In addition to this, the cost of finding and recruiting a team of professionals to manage and maintain the Cloud environment also adds up to the OpEx.
If the CIO is talking about a Cloud migration for cost benefits only, the CEO and the CFO need to step in to evaluate that all factors have been taken into consideration. Moreover, the CIO may not have full visibility of how and where the organisation is looking to scale up or down. It is the CEO’s responsibility to share that vision with the CIO to guide Cloud investments.
#3 Cloud will increasingly be part of all tech adoption considerations
In this disruptive world, CEOs should explore possibilities and understand the technical capabilities which can give organisations an edge over their competitors. It is then up to the CIOs to implement that vision with this larger context in mind. As organisations look to leverage emerging technologies, organisations will adopt Cloud to optimise their resources and workloads.
AI is changing the way organisations need to store, process and analyse the data to derive useful insights and decision-making practices. This is pushing the adoption of Cloud, even in the most conservative organisations. Cloud is no longer only required for infrastructure and back-up – but actually improving business processes, by enabling real-time data and systems access. Similarly, IoT devices will grow exponentially. Today, data is already going into the Cloud and data centres on a real-time basis from sensors and automated devices. However, as these devices become bi-directional, decisions will need to be made in real-time as well. Edge Computing will be essential in this intelligent and automated world. Cloud platform vendors are building on their edge solutions and tech buyers are increasingly getting interested in the Edge allowing better decision-making through machine learning and AI.
In view of the recent global crisis, we will see a sharp uptake of Cloud solutions across tech areas. IaaS will remain the key area of focus in the near future, especially Desktop-as-as-Service. Organisations will also look to evaluate more SaaS solutions, in order to empower a mobile and remote workforce. This will allow the workforce of the future to stay connected, informed and make more decisions. More than ever, CEOs have to drive business growth with innovative products and services – not understanding the capabilities and challenges of Cloud adoption and the advancements in the technology can be a serious handicap for CEOs.
#4 Your IT Team may be more complacent about Cloud security than you think
Another domain that requires the CEO’s attention is cybersecurity. The Cloud is used for computing operations and to store data including, intellectual property rights, financial information, employee details and other sensitive data. Cybersecurity breaches have immense financial and reputational implications and IT Teams cannot solely be responsible for it. Cybersecurity has become a Board-level conversation and many organisations are employing a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) who reports directly into the CEO. Cybersecurity is an aspect of an organisation’s risk management program.
Evaluating the security features of the Cloud offerings, therefore, becomes an important aspect of an IT decision-maker’s job. While security remains a key concern when it comes to Cloud adoption, Cloud is often regarded as a more secure option than on-premise. Cloud providers have dedicated security focus, constantly upgrade their security capabilities in response to newer threats and evolve their partner ecosystem. There is also better traceability with the Cloud as every virtual activity can be tracked, monitored, and logged. Ecosystm research finds that more than 40% of IT decision-makers think the Public Cloud has enough security measures and does not need complementing (Figure 3).
However, the Cloud is as secure as an organisation makes it. The perception that there is no need to supplement Public Cloud security features can have disastrous outcomes. It is important to supplement the Cloud provider’s security with event-driven security measures within an organisation’s applications and cloud interface.
It is the job of the CEO – through the CISO – to evaluate how cyber ready the IT Team really is. Do they know enough about shared responsibility? Do they have full cognizance of the SLAs of their Cloud providers? Do they have sufficient internal cybersecurity skills? Do they understand that data breaches can have cost and reputational impacts? As cybersecurity breaches begin to have more financial implications than ever and can derail an organisation, a CEO should have visibility of the risks of the organisation’s Cloud adoption.
Cloud is no longer just a technological decision – it is a business decision and takes into account the organisation’s vision. A full visibility of the Cloud roadmap – including the pitfalls, the risks and the immense potential – will empower a CEO immensely.
For more insights from our Cloud Research, click below