The Building Blocks of an AI Strategy

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How does an organization transition from opportunistic and tactical use of artificial intelligence to a more strategic orientation?  Top experts explain the building blocks of an AI strategy and what companies need to make the most of them. 

Hardly a day goes by without an organization announcing “a pivot toward AI” or an aspiration to “become AI-driven.” Financial services firms are using facial recognition to support “know-your-customer” guidelines; marketing companies are deploying unsupervised learning to capture new consumer insights; and retailers are experimenting with AI-fueled sentiment analysis, natural language processing, and gamification.

However, a close examination of the activities undertaken by these organizations reveals that AI is mainly being used for tactical rather than strategic purposes.  In fact, finding a cohesive long-term AI strategic vision is rare.  Even in well-funded companies, AI capabilities are mostly siloed or unevenly distributed.

Organizations need to transition from opportunistic and tactical AI decision-making to more strategic orientation.  A recent MIT Sloan Management Review article proposes an AI strategy built upon three pillars.

Let’s start with AI strategy…

Pillar 1: AI needs a robust and reliable technology infrastructure. 

Given AI’s popularity, it is easy to forget that it is not a self-contained technology. Without the support of well-functioning data and infrastructure, it is useless. Stripped of the marketing hype, artificial intelligence is little more than an amalgamation of mathematical, statistical, and computer science techniques that rely heavily on a stable infrastructure and usable data.

This infrastructure must include support for the entire data value chain — from data capture to cleaning, storage, governance, security, analysis, and dissemination of results — all in close to real-time. It is not surprising, then, that the AI infrastructure market is expected to grow from $14.6 billion in 2019 to $50.6 billion by 2025.

A good infrastructure allows for the establishment of feedback loops, whereby successes and failures can be quickly flagged, analyzed, and acted upon. For instance, when Ticketmaster wanted...

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