Remarkable new developments—from self- driving cars to virtual dialog agents that anticipate what we want to eat, watch or buy—have convinced most business leaders that artificial intelligence is a transformational advancement they need to embrace if they don’t want their companies left behind.
They’re right, of course. While disruption has always been with us, AI is accelerating the “constructive destruction” process and blindsiding businesses with competition from all quarters.
So yes, understanding and embracing AI is a must. Unfortunately, some early entrants in the marketplace have positioned AI as a plug-and-play technology that will magically help companies reduce headcount, minimize risk, know their customers better, automate decision-making, and, if they’re lucky, lead to breakthrough innovations that allow them to leapfrog competitors and upend their industry—with little input on their part.
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AI has the potential do these things. But at KPMG, our work embedding AI deep into our own business processes has reinforced our conviction that AI is not something you buy; it’s something you build. It’s not something you outsource; it’s something you cultivate internally, until it becomes a trusted core capability. And it is not, counter- intuitively, just about technology; it is, truly, about machines learning from humans. Developing a successful AI algorithm today requires the presence of humans in the learning loop, especially during the process of training the algorithm—a resource-consuming undertaking that many companies woefully underestimate.
The good news for business leaders is that they can build AI-enabled organizations using many of the same strategies they use to build and grow their organizations overall—empowering the workforce, focusing on problem-solving and innovation, and staying the course with efficiency and discipline.
Your company can be part of the AI revolution. Indeed it must, if it wishes to be a disrupter rather than disrupted, and to lead rather than follow. The way forward begins with embracing a new strategic mindset that revolves as much around people, processes and structure as it does around technology. If you’re not already doing it today, here’s what you must begin to do tomorrow:
- Strategically increase your complement of employees who understand AI trans- formation, not only at the technical-staff level but also at senior leadership levels. At the same time, nurture your current process experts—those humans in the loop—to start training AI systems, and devote resources to increasing the AI literacy of your entire workforce.
- Promote and enable a culture of innovation in which employees are expected to participate in AI transformation, and prioritize use cases for accelerated adoption.
- Consider creating an AI center of excellence within your organization to promote and streamline the process of adopting AI.
- Allocate meaningful funding to your AI initiative and treat it as a long-term commitment measured not in months but in solutions successfully rolled out.
- Partner with organizations that have a deep understanding of AI, not so they can “do” AI for you, but so they can accelerate your efforts.
At KPMG, our commitment to AI runs deep. We’re already embedding it and other advanced technologies into the audit, tax and advisory services we offer our clients. Meanwhile, thanks to our 120-year heritage of advising companies around the globe, we have a profound understanding of how businesses in industry after industry work and make money, allowing us to help our clients prioritize and embed AI into their day-to-day business processes, too.
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