But how are businesses leveraging AI applications to improve operations and product development?
According to a McKinsey survey of more than 3,000 businesses around the world, many business leaders are uncertain about what exactly AI can do for them, where to obtain AI-powered applications, how to integrate them, and how to assess their impact.
While most businesses remain uncertain, tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Baidu, and Google are getting ahead, investing billions of dollars in the various technologies known as AI. They are researching and implementing robotics and autonomous vehicles, computer vision, language, virtual agents, and machine learning.
Big tech is investing in AI because it can—it has the resources and the talent. And through early experimentation, digital firms have seen that AI can cut costs through optimization, as well as drive growth and accelerate shifts in market share.
The possibilities are broad and exciting. However, widespread adoption of AI is lagging among less digitally mature companies and industries. How can companies in traditional sectors like media, retail, financial services, health, government, and education, ensure they don’t miss out on the benefits of AI applications?
Digital Maturity & AI: Walk Before You Run
Global incumbents in industries like media, banking, retail, and health are aware that they are at risk of losing market share to newcomers with technical know-how and agility unless they change.
However, the pace of digital transformation has been relatively slow so far. Firms need to act fast to remain competitive, but blindly following the AI hype is not the answer. AI becomes impactful when it has access to large amounts of high-quality data and is integrated into automated work processes. AI is not a shortcut to these digital foundations, it is an extension of them. Firms need to commit to a solid digital foundation of high-quality data and cloud computing before they can benefit from more sophisticated AI technologies.
The good news is that traditional companies have an advantage—unique IP, existing customer relationships and swaths of historical data. Incumbents need to combine this experience with digital tools to improve their services and get to market faster than ever.
Digital & Agile Skills Gaps
The challenge is that while traditional companies know they have to change, they have a hard time moving quickly. Banks, retailers, consumer goods, and education departments have implemented world-class innovation leaders and teams, but culture is hard to shift, and departments often remain siloed.
Airbnb uses a concept called an elastic product team to work on strategic product innovation. In 2015 the company was entering the Cuban market. The leadership assembled a cross-functional team of product managers, designers, engineers, and data scientists, reallocating them from elsewhere in the organization. Two months later, the initial infrastructure was successfully up and running in Cuba. Then, almost as quickly as it had formed, the team was disbanded, with the ongoing work assigned to existing product areas. According to Jonathan Golden, Director of Product at Airbnb, this modular team structure is how Airbnb has managed to keep the agility and innovation of an early-stage startup.
Tech giants like Airbnb have the good fortune of developing technology as their core business. It makes sense that they can spin up a team like this to work on a strategic project and just as quickly dissolve it. They have a deep bench of talented engineers and product teams.
However, innovation and digital leaders in traditional companies may need to look outside their organization. They must recognize what their internal technology teams are good at, and partner with outside resources for specific technology skills, or extra manpower.
Elastic Teams Take Business Into the Future
Finding the talent to fill digital transformation and AI roles is challenging. Wizeline believes that specialized, on-demand technology teams are the future of innovation at small and large firms in non-tech sectors.
Our consulting practice takes a unique approach to help firms build better software products and deliver them to market faster. We operate as an external version of Airbnb’s elastic product team. Using intelligent software, Wizeline assembles high-impact teams of vetted engineers, UX designers, project managers, and technical writers to achieve a company’s product goals.
Wizeline development teams work closely with clients’ internal teams to understand the product vision and business goals. For example, Wizeline collaborated closely with the creative team at Digital Arts Network (DAN) to deliver a custom chatbot for Mastercard, ahead of the Australian Open. It was the first time DAN worked on a conversational AI product and they needed help owning development and deployment. The Fanbot engaged with 8,770 total users, with 57 percent of users returning daily, and strengthened partnerships across the board.
Commit to a Digital Transformation to Leverage AI
While many companies have yet to be convinced of the benefits of AI, frontier firms are charging ahead. Significant gains are there for the taking. For most companies, this means accelerating their digital transformation journey. They will have to put the right digital assets and skills in place to be able to effectively leverage AI.
Wizeline works with firms to help them achieve digital transformations and implement sophisticated AI tools that can improve products and time to market. If you are interested in learning more about how Wizeline can help with digital strategy and product development, reach out to us at consulting@wizeline or tell us what you need.