AI Starts In The Boardroom

AI Starts In The Boardroom

Ciarán Daly

April 23, 2018

5 Min Read

By Shamima Sultana

SYDNEY, AUS - For most organizations, AI has crept into their businesses, products, and services without much intervention from senior executives or the C-Suite. About 60% of companies are currently working to incorporate AI into their product offerings. Whether it is in finance, transport, retail, or industry, AI has reached a stage where there is at least one use case in every sector.

This acceleration of AI is largely driven by technology leaders in a way to improve status quo. Slowly incorporating AI into product and services offers a means for executives to test the feasibility of the technology, test ROI, and incorporate learning.

On the plus side, it has given organizations the ability to learn through rapid experimentation. On the other hand, AI has slowly crept into organisations without much strategic vision - raising questions about risk, sustainability, and organisational culture.

In this article, we will explore why AI needs strategy, and why this strategy needs to start in the boardroom.

From CIO to tech-led CEO: A new era of leadership

The future of the way we work is going to change in unprecedented ways. Many jobs that exist today won’t exist in 5 years. Today, we can already use machine to generate lyrics or run an operation function autonomously, amongst many other examples.

The C-suite will be forced to think about kind of jobs need to be created as a result of AI implementation, the type of people they need to hire, and how to lead a team who are liberated or remote while still fostering a culture of collaboration, and trust. Suffice to say, it will not be a CIOs job alone.

AI will impact all aspects of an organization; from people, technology, culture, risk and security. This is why AI leadership dynamics will shift from CIO to CEO more.

There's an opportunity to level up - for both executives and tech players

For many years, start-ups have struggled with accessing C-suite members in order to offer services. Traditionally, tier one businesses purchase solutions through tier one technology companies for scalable and mature solutions.

AI will provide an opportunity for smaller tech start-ups to approach senior figures with innovative solutions which are more relevant, and bypass organizational heavy processes.

Today, many companies are collaborating with start-up technologies to co-create products for accessing cutting edge solutions using much cost-effective means.

As this happens more, organizations procurement leaders have to cater for processes on how start-up can easily reach organizational expertise. This will also force the C-suite to be forward thinking and be involved in the start-up ecosystem where the real innovation is happening.

Fostering a culture of hope - or fears?

Technical innovation - specially automation - is often associated with the negative connotations of job loss. A well run automation transformation agenda, however, can achieve significant benefit for organizations - but, if poorly executed, can easily erode employees morale and trust.

C-Suite leaders will need to provide support and future strategies - not only to implement change,but also to manage change for the better.

These days, no-one want to be stuck with doing what they are doing for years. Most people want to grow. With AI, the C-Suite has the opportunity to provide stretch opportunities, create a vision for the future of the workforce, and help people embark on that journey and grow. That way, leaders will foster hope and create a very engaged, excited workforce which will propel the organization forward.

Finally, the time has come to realize thatleaders already on this journey. Its not so much a question of where to start anymore rather it’s time for leaders to commit.

Treat AI as part of your growth strategy

At any given point, most businesses have two major priorities: acquire more customers, and reduce operational costs.

No one knows your organizations and your customer like you do. A technology company may sell business stakeholders the smart platform features of an AI product. However, without a strategy or reasoning behind why and how to incorporate AI, or which problems it should be applied to, AI technology will become a doormat solution and its true potential will remain locked. AI strategy cannot simply be bought from a vendor, just as responsibility cannot be outsourced. AI is a vehicle for staying relevant and engaged in a customer's life.

The more we know about our customer through personalized products and timely reach through predictive solutions, the more relevant that businesses will become in customers' lives. Ultimately, this will generate growth.

Today, technology is no long the organisation's competitive advantage - the relationship it promises with the customer is.

Your diversity strategy becomes a growth strategy

For many years, certain industries like banking technology struggled to attract diversity in workforce. That is about to change with AI.

To create a non-biased product, AI demands diversity in product vision, engineering, and useability. Executives soon will need to think about how they can attract and retain specific type of talents.

This will touch their bottom line and creative thinking. Aggressive strategies will need to be considered and support from the board will be required to nurture next generation of the workforce. The narrative would cease to be a diversity strategy, and become a growth strategy.

AI reduces total cost of ownership and operational sustainability

A tier one bank spends equal amounts of money in keeping the lights on as well as offering new products and service building. AI can augment operational efficiency through automation, freeing up valuable human resources to be deployed on more value added works.

Technology systems built on AI methodologies will reduce the heavy reliance on software maintenance and change management cost which bears the lion’s share of operational cost. AI powered self-sustaining applications will able to self-detect, self-heal, self-deploy and reduce total cost of ownership.

Although an immature technology stack, the C-suite should sponsor, partner or even co-create solutions which will reduce the operational cost through use of AI.

screenshot-8.pngShamima Sultana is a tech entrepreneur passionate about building innovative solutions in finance and fashion industry. Her company,, is a strategy and advisory start-up helping businesses to embrace AI, working to co-create, experiment, activate AI strategy and solutions to tackle the most ambitious business challenges.

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