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AI is rising up the C-suite’s agenda

With $15 billion invested over the past three years, artificial intelligence (AI) is rising up the boardroom agenda at many global enterprises. CxOs across a wide range of industries are well aware of the transformational impact this technology is bringing, and are assessing how to invest effectively in new products and solutions. With this, business leaders have a growing responsibility to understand the many opportunities and challenges that can arise when implementing AI in the workforce.

The noise surrounding AI can at times be deafening, and there is a constant stream of new AI offerings which are said to revolutionise the way businesses can run. For business leaders, however, keeping up with the constant stream of change and innovation can be incredibly challenging.

As businesses continue to ramp up AI investment, it is vital leaders are given the means to decipher which technologies are the right ones to invest in. A recent Genpact report found that a quarter of senior executives say they plan fundamentally to reimagine their business with AI by the end of 2021. This is therefore a critical time for CxOs to educate themselves and have a full understanding of the technologies they are adopting to reap the rewards for their workforce and customers.

The rollout of this technology is incredibly vital too. A recent study by PwC found that only 4 per cent of executives have successfully implemented AI in their business. Historically, a chief executive relied on the chief information and chief technology officers to make the correct decisions when investing in and implementing technological changes. However, chief executives themselves now have a central role to play in decision-making and rollout.

The buck doesn’t stop there. As AI has become a board-wide responsibility, many businesses also lean on the operating, digital and administrative heads, and now the chief AI officer, to drive AI projects and initiatives. The traditional organigram is continually evolving and, as new roles emerge, boardrooms are taking a new shape, evermore focused on the importance of technology.

Some sectors have been more open and adaptable to the changes that AI brings. Industries that have invested most heavily are financial services, retail and automotive, with financial services forecast to become a billion-dollar AI industry before the end of the year.

CxOs are increasingly shining a spotlight on their company’s customer experience strategy. With growing choice and competition, it has become important to provide the best possible customer journey at every touchpoint.

Sainsbury’s has introduced AI to improve its supply chain availability of products for customers, while NatWest’s decision to implement AI by offering its chatbot Cora has resulted in an enhanced customer service experience. The bank has also introduced a system that uses robotic process automation, which enables it to respond more quickly and effectively to customers’ simple email requests. The implementation of these technologies will undoubtedly continue to improve the customer experience and, as a result, retain customers and increase revenues.

NatWest’s introduction of chatbots is a great example of business leaders understanding the need to transform into a 21st-century business by using the latest technologies. Moreover, the change was managed seamlessly and shows the bank’s executives ensured its workforce was trained and properly educated on the impact these updates would have throughout the organisation, as well as how they would affect customers’ experience with the bank.

As with any new technology, there is a huge appetite among business leaders to invest and roll out new AI technologies. We saw 2018 as a breakthrough year for investments in AI, and there are no signs of activity and investment slowing down in 2019. However, there is a growing need for executives to understand where to invest and seek the partners best suited to deliver the solutions required.

We can expect to see increased pressure to keep up with the rapid pace of change. It is vital for C-suite executives to educate themselves, offer realistic adoption goals and provide sufficient training for their workforce. Business leaders who fully understand and acknowledge the challenges faced when implementing AI will be best equipped to adapt to these changes. Others will be left behind and, far worse, those stood on the sideline will become increasingly irrelevant in the new AI-powered enterprise landscape.