If I Were the CEO, I’d Want to Know

 If I Were the CEO, I’d Want to Know
By Robin Goad

That was the subject line of an email I sent to Michael Dell in the summer of 2011, recapping a conversation between a Wall Street bank CIO and several thought leaders at a dinner party in NYC. The subject of the conversation that evening was Artificial Intelligence.

At the time, I was the second employee in Dell’s new Cloud Services organization, which was formed with the mission of bringing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to market within Dell’s customer base. Amazon Web Services (AWS) still owned 90 percent of the public cloud services market and cloud was still very new and scary to many C-suite leaders. However, one message that came through loud and clear from the customer base was, if you could create industry-specific clouds we’d be more likely to join.

This was also around the same time I learned that, in the very near future, entire industries would become “smarter” thanks to AI-powered clouds. The industry is only as good as the weakest link, and domain-specific AI empowers and strengthens the entire ecosystem.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016, when Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, is promising the evolution from a “mobile-first” to an “AI-first” world, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is investing his personal money into developing a Jarvis-like AI to help around the house and with his work.

There are roughly 993 AI companies in the market today and that number will have grown by 20 by the time this article is printed. There will be five that go out of business, three mergers and five acquisitions. The fact is that AI is a hot market, surrounded by lots of hype, and I wouldn’t blame a CEO for feeling paralyzed by the notion of developing an AI strategy for their business.

For those who are feeling overwhelmed by the process, here are three things every CEO should know about AI:

  1. AI enables organizations to optimize and scale their most time-consuming processes, enabling employees to focus on their highest impact work. Imagine taking all the top performers in each functional area and learning what they know and how they can perform their job optimally. Then, imagine machinizing that knowledge so that, when employees move on, they don’t take all the institutional knowledge with them. This concept ought to be particularly enticing, considering 55 million baby boomers are projected to retire in the next four years.
  2. AI is actually delivering real business value today. There are a lot of companies that are still trying to figure it out, but there are plenty of others already seeing significant returns on the investment. AI is increasing patient engagement outside the care facility, personalizing shopping experiences to boost conversion rates by more than 100 percent, and empowering financial analysts to absorb and prioritize investments within their portfolios. These are real examples of the way AI is driving business value today.
  3. The real trick when it comes to AI is finding the right AI partner to work with—one who can truly support and scale with the enterprise. The last thing any business needs is another siloed software solution, AI or otherwise.

When I wrote to Michael Dell about the advent of AI in 2011, he was interested, but not yet ready to get on board. He told me he thought we were still early in the conversation, and we ought to give it five years and then see where AI landed. Well, Mr. Dell, here we are.

Robin Goad, Chief Story Teller, leads organizations through strategy development and GTM efforts with an emphasis in the AI market. Currently serving in the office of the chairman @ CognitiveScale.

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