It’s time to prepare for AI

Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, there is no denying that the topic of AI is inescapable right now. If the 1920’s were characterised by rapid social change, cultural innovation, and economic prosperity then surely historians will look back at the 2020’s as the decade that was defined by AI.

Before we start to explore how business can respond to AI, a quick alignment on the term AI is necessary. First, AI isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around long enough that there is already an emerging terminology of ‘traditional AI’ to refer to well established use cases and machine learning techniques. Think of product recommendations, fraud detection or customer segmentations for example. These workloads will continue to be important and valuable but are not what’s driving the current hype surrounding AI.

That would be the new world of generative AI. It’s generative because unlike traditional AI it’s focused on creating new content whether that be text, images or even music. This broadens out the potential applications of AI dramatically and for perhaps the first time in history we are seeing white collar roles that have been largely untouched by automation be at threat of complete replacement.

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James Lupton, CTO, Cynozure  

Flattening technologies

An excellent lens to look at AI through is Roger Martin’s article on flattening technologies. To quote Roger, a flattening technology “is a technology that sits so dominantly on top of the existing competitive structure that it wipes out any aspect of the competitive structure that doesn’t embrace the flattening technology”. Examples of this include the internal combustion engine, personal computing and the internet. Can you imagine trying to run and scale a successful business without the use of the internet? I know I can’t.

If we assume that AI represents a change on the scale of the internet or personal computing, it begs the question how can businesses prepare and respond? Undoubtedly, no one will be left unaffected though that doesn’t mean that everyone will be impacted in the same way. I break the impact down into two categories. The first will affect everyone and this is the change required to day-to-day operations. The second won’t impact everyone but will be far more significant and is for those whose core business model is going to have to evolve.

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The impact on day-to-day

Let’s start with the first category, the impact on day-to-day operations. Embedding AI into core business processes is becoming a basic requirement to stay competitive. The ability of AI to drive quality and efficiency is already huge and we’re still early in its lifecycle. I see it quickly moving to being a core competency that everyone will be expected to have – like being able to use email or a spreadsheet for example.

Use cases for its application already abound. Marketing teams are using it to generate social content, software engineering teams are accelerating the development cycle by using it to generate code, and customer service teams are leveraging it to interact with customers and reduce wait times. This seems an apt time to say this was written without the aid of AI!

If you’re a sceptic or haven’t played around much with the tools available then you might be asking how feasible this really is. To put it in perspective, we have tested ChatGPT with the data engineering test we administer during recruitment. It involves answering five questions of increasing difficultly by writing SQL queries with only one in ten candidates answering it all correctly. ChatGPT was able to produce five perfect answers, properly formatted and with clear comments. Needless to say, our hiring strategy has changed!

Ultimately, all organisations will need to embrace AI’s application at the operational level to be competitive. If your competition can deliver quicker, cheaper and at higher quality than you can, then in the long run you are in trouble and will have no choice but to adapt.

Changing business models

While embracing change in how your business is run day-to-day is key, this isn’t what is keeping your CEO up at night. For some, their core business model needs to adapt to stay relevant. It can be hard to identify if this applies to your organisation, in part because the pace of change and the art of the possible is evolving so rapidly, so staying vigilante and being prepared to adapt when necessary is important.

Already though, examples are emerging. I spoke to one of the large English as a Foreign Language providers recently and they described how they get large volumes of applications in early summer each year, stretching the capacity of their human teachers and ultimately limiting the potential to scale the business. In response, they are pivoting into AI. They have a large dataset of questions, mock answers, and instructor feedback to train an AI model which can ultimately provide a more personalised learning experience to their students with no limit on the number they can support.

Crucially, they have the data to support this pivot. While using standard AI models may be a first mover advantage right now, in the long run it is your data that will be the differentiator and the thing that will allow you to bring new offerings to the market. Now more than ever it is essential that you are not only collecting the right data, but that you are ensuring your data is right. Poor quality will inevitably lead to poor outputs.

In the rapidly evolving AI landscape, adaptability isn't just an advantage—it's a necessity. As AI redefines the rules of business, the key to success lies in embracing this change, not just in daily operations but at the core of business models. Quality data is the fuel for this revolution, driving innovation and a competitive edge.

The future belongs to those who view AI as an opportunity for transformation rather than a hurdle. Are you prepared to be part of this transformative journey and lead the way in the AI era?