Business Technology

Think like a VC – and other tips on harnessing AI in business

7 min read

31 December 2018

According to Gary Richardson, MD of emerging technology at 6point6, thinking like a VC will help companies integrate AI in the most efficient way possible.

More and more organisations are now aware of the buzzword du jour in business – Artificial Intelligence (AI). Recent years have seen a significant shift in adopting emerging technologies in enterprise and AI is leading the charge.

However, while the hype continues to grow around its use, benefits and costs, executives are still struggling to understand how AI can work in practice for their business or how best to integrate it.

Think like a VC

Both the private and public sector tend to only think three months ahead when looking to invest in new technologies; with executives often not wanting to put their necks on the line and risk their jobs if an investment doesn’t return strong ROI within a short initial period.

Typical digital projects have an average timespan of three months to 12 months but integrating AI requires a much longer timeframe. Unlike virtually any other technology, AI gets smarter over time.

In six months post-landing in an enterprise, AI will be making decisions faster and better than at the start.

However, getting to this point relies on a fundamental change of mindset from the one of reluctance and impatience widespread among executives. Executives need to understand that AI is not just a short-term solution to improving a business.

It cannot magically and immediately enhance the digital offering or the operations of an organisation; it will take time. To overcome this mindset, executives need to start thinking like a VC.

VCs look to the long-term future value of their investments, rather than focusing on short-term gains that may be made in the first few months.

By creating a strategic plan from day one, they are able to figure out exactly what investment needs should be made and how it can improve certain departments or systems for the benefit of the company as a whole. Executives need to adopt this mindset and be willing to invest their money in a technology that they believe will provide genuine long-term value.

Business heads need to do their own extensive research and speak to experts to figure out what problem in their business AI will genuinely solve, if any. Further, they need to do extensive planning and budget costings to ensure they get the best ROI from the investment.

Adopting this approach is a key step executives must take if they want to harness the potential of AI to its fullest in business.

Overcoming data barriers

Another issue that has slowed executives down when it comes to implementing AI is the introduction of GDPR. Many businesses are still struggling to understand what the regulations mean for the use of personal data.

As such, companies are struggling to make the most ROI from AI due the lack of understanding of what data they can and can’t use for the AI system.

In addition to ensuring that the data can be legally used by the AI, businesses must also ensure that the AI system can access the right kind of data. Since AI relies on past data to inform its machine learning systems, any data that contains mistakes or inherent biases would only lead to the AI repeating those mistakes in the future.

Therefore, businesses need to ensure they are thoroughly prepared, both in their understanding of GDPR and in the data that the business has before harnessing AI.

Embracing collaborative AI

Many large enterprises have their own in-house teams that haven’t delivered the goods when it comes to actually implementing AI in a real enterprise environment. Instead they have tried to make specific advancements in certain areas such as risk management or logistics.

The promise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be best realised through a collaboration between human and machine, creating an enhanced, collaborative, problem solving environment.

The aim of collaborative AI is to collate all relevant data about the decisions being made that impact the organisation and use it, in combination with human inputs, to improve future decision making and generate the desired outcome, every time.

This is the next phase of a fully digital environment, utilising its cloud data services, which provides a solid foundation for AI. It is the process where the resulting outcome is a real-world decision-making framework that melds the best of human Intelligence and machine intelligence.

Collaborative AI can help businesses to increase competitiveness, reduce costs and improve compliance. This should be the overall aim of any business looking to harness AI if they want to stay ahead.

This can only happen if all staff understand, and then accept, why and how AI is being introduced in to the operations of the business – a culture change will be key for companies looking for success with AI.

While AI may seem complex and difficult to introduce into a business, once there is a clear understanding and strategic plan in place it is much easier to integrate. This process needs to start at the board level – executives need to be open-minded and willing to embrace the changes that AI will bring.

By thinking like a VC and being prepared, executives will be able to successfully begin the process of harnessing AI in their business.

Gary Richardson is MD of emerging technology at 6point6.