Original article featured in Forbes.
Futurism has always fascinated me. When I was young, I would pore through science-fiction novels and dream about how far-flung technologies could improve our lives. As an adult now working in tech, I’ve been able to explore what the world’s leading minds believe the coming decades will encompass. To my delight, it appears the real world is finally catching up to the sci-fi fantasy.
Take automation, for instance. Robots, autonomous vehicles, and smart machines are ubiquitous in classic science fiction. Thanks to time (and advances), this technology now litters our homes and workplaces. We’re not yet living in the world of The Jetsons, but we’re getting closer by the day.
In 2017, PwC estimated global GDP will increase by 14% by 2030 because of automation. That figure is equivalent to $15.7 trillion — more than the combined outputs of China and India at the time. I believe artificial intelligence is set to make companies more productive while simultaneously increasing consumer demand for cutting-edge products and jolting the global economy like few innovations in history.
Artificial intelligence (AI) development is currently in something of a “gold rush” phase. The business case for AI is proven, and startups throughout the world are clamoring to stake a claim in the space. Individual success hinges on offering new and exciting products, but it also requires a clear vision for the company and a sound business strategy to get there. Tech is necessary, but the people and strategies behind the tech are equally important.
Talent Drives Tech — Managing For The Future
AI is an emerging technology. According to Bloomberg, Tencent Research Institute reported that only about 300,000 professionals worldwide are “skilled” in this area. Millions of additional AI experts may be needed as the automation industry accelerates, but universities are seemingly struggling to supply us with this resource. As a result, qualified talent is scarce — to the point where AI specialists can command salaries of $500,000 or more, according to The New York Times.
Companies will need to prioritize employee retention and do everything possible to develop in-house talent that specializes in AI. Making the effort to stay in tune with AI technology and to incorporate it into work can allow companies to stay technologically relevant, cultivate employee loyalty and expand their skill sets, but having the right strategy is key to achieving these goals. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from managing my tech team during an AI growth period and from developing AI mobile apps:
1. Understand The Meaning Of AI
To me, AI is about delivering value — not about pushing technical boundaries. Tech leaders should understand the various technologies involved with AI and how they are poised to shape industries and solve problems.
Once leaders understand the state of the industry, they can begin charting their course within it. This approach helped my team focus on the practical rather than the fantastical. My understanding of AI improved immensely after studying research from the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group, as well as listening to podcasts from Goldman Sachs and a16Z.
2. Follow A Clear Roadmap
A survey by Deloitte indicates that 63% of the surveyed companies that adopted AI did so to catch up with rivals or to gain a competitive advantage. Companies should move fast in this space to remain relevant, and a clear roadmap will prove invaluable.
There are a couple of things to guide you in developing this map. Before you start, perform trials, demos, and test runs with different technologies. Be prepared for failure — not everything will work. This leads you to your next step, though, by helping you to determine what kind of technology will add value to your organization and complement the expertise of those on your team.
My team developed a roadmap after researching which AI technologies were poised to be the most disruptive. We saw the most potential in computer vision, natural language processing, chatbots, big data analysis, and pattern recognition. Once we knew we wanted to focus on those elements of AI, our path became crystal clear.
3. Be Honest And Adaptable
If your efforts don’t show signs of success, be willing to change. My company set benchmarks to monitor our progress with AI. After tracking our results for a few months, we were able to identify whether technology or management practices were holding us back.
For instance, we introduced a chatbot that proved to be underwhelming almost immediately. Our analysis showed that it made more sense to abandon the bot than spend our resources trying to improve it. Being able (and willing) to pivot was crucial to our success in other areas.
4. Track Your Gains
Progress should be quantifiable, ideally with clear benchmarks. Focus on how much money you’re saving, how much productivity you’re gaining, and how much extra profit you’re obtaining as a result of your AI initiatives. Cold, hard numbers will enable you to chart your success (or lack thereof) over time. If you do notice little growth, let that be an indicator that there is room to improve. Then, use those numbers to develop strategies that will make deficiencies into proficiencies.
Start by proving your concept early and objectively. Big ideas are great, but you need to be able to measure your progress before you can move forward. For example, my team believed we could build a smart lock that used facial recognition to open a door faster than a manual key. We knew it took about 10 seconds to grab a key and unlock a door, and our initial tests showed that facial recognition could open the same lock in less than a second. After those tests proved our hypothesis, we felt comfortable continuing development.
Some AI companies will become trillion-dollar titans. Many more will likely fizzle out in the startup phase. The difference is not the specific tech products they sell — it’s the leaders creating the vision and strategy behind the company. Never lose sight of the people and strategy powering the technology, and your company will be better positioned to make the most of the AI revolution.
Want to leverage emerging technologies like 5G, AI, and IoT in your organization? Get in touch with my team for a Free Consultation.Tags: AI, AI and machine learning, AI and ML, AI App Developer, AI app developers, AI App Development, AI applications, AI apps, AI startup, artificial intelligence app, artificial intelligence app developer, artificial intelligence app developers, artificial intelligence app development, artificial intelligence in mobile applications, early-stage startup, enterprise vs startups, new startup