“While the potential benefits are enormous, AI is admittedly a deep and complex subject. Most organizations will require the services of partners who can get them started and on their way.”
To achieve your vision of digital transformation, it’s vital to pick the right partners. This applies to the full ecosystem of partnerships the CDO and CEO need to establish—software partners, cloud partners, and a spectrum of other partnerships and alliances. In a digitally transforming world, partners play a bigger role than in the past. There are four key areas in AI-driven transformations where partners can add significant value: strategy, technology, services, and change management.
Management consulting partners can help flesh out your AI strategy: Map out your value chain, uncover strategic opportunities and threats, and identify key AI applications and services you will need to develop in order to unlock economic value. They can also assist in setting up your organizational structure for the transformation, including the design of your AI/Digital Center of Excellence, and help establish the appropriate processes and incentive plans for your business.
Software partners can provide the right technology stack to power your digital transformation. My recommendation is to avoid the “accidental” open source Hadoop architectures, low-level services offered by the large cloud providers, and consulting firm–supported data lake approaches.
These may all seem manageable at first. But as you scale your transformation, the complexity of your system will grow exponentially. Each individual AI application or service will require cobbling together a large number of low-level components, and your engineers will spend a majority of their time working on low-level technical code rather than solving business problems. Your technical agility will also be severely impacted.
My recommendation is to seek out technology providers that can offer a cohesive set of higher-level services for building advanced AI applications with large data volumes. As you evaluate software partners, look for companies with proven track records of enabling AI applications at scale.
Professional services partners can help build your advanced AI applications and/or augment your staff. They can provide teams of developers, data integration specialists, and data scientists if you do not have those talent profiles in house (or are not interested in acquiring some or all of these skilled resources). My recommendation is to look for services partners that have a proven model of agile development that delivers high-value applications in weeks or months, not years—partners that can efficiently transfer working solutions and knowledge to your team through well-structured training programs.
Once you have developed AI applications and services, a key next step involves all the business transformation and business process change required to capture economic value. You will have to work on integrating AI into your business processes in conjunction with your software solution development. This will involve understanding how humans and machines can work together. Humans must also be able to give the AI systems feedback so they can learn and evolve.
Human practitioners will often mistrust recommendations from algorithms, and you will have to ensure recommendations are examined objectively and followed to the extent possible. The incentive structures and organizational structures of human teams may have to be changed to capture value. The organizational issues can be extremely complex in certain situations—e.g., with large labor forces that have historically been trained to operate and contractually rewarded in the same way for a long time.
Personnel will have to be retrained and employment contracts rewritten. New leaders will need to be hired. Compensation and incentive structures will have to be reengineered. Organization structures will require new architectures. Recruiting, training, and management practices will need to be overhauled. The nature of work will change and unless your workforce is trained, incented, organized, and motivated to take advantage of these new technologies, the economic and social benefits will not accrue. This is the hard part. Dealing with this is why you make the big bucks.
Learn more about Tom Siebel’s views by checking out his Wall Street Journal Best Seller book, Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction.