I’ve always found it interesting that the very technologies that seem emerging, cutting-edge and completely out of reach one minute, suddenly — and often without much warning — become mainstream and standard the next. Smartphones. 3G, 4G and 5G on its way. Always-available maps. And yes… even the worldwide web.

Consider that software evolved over several decades from an input-driven data storage tool to a ubiquitous and interconnected ecosystem that moves information at the speed of light. Each layer of new technology creating a foundation and launching off point for the next creation.

Today the pace and breadth of innovation and disruption available is only limited by the depth of our imagination. While in the past, we had years to consider if we even wanted to dip a toe in with new technology, today the digital arms race creates enormous pressure on businesses, leaders and industries to quickly adopt new tech or risk falling further behind.

With the stakes increasing, the onus has shifted in the organization with regards to business modernization.

It is no longer just IT’s responsibility to introduce emerging technology to the business; it is the responsibility of every single business leader.

“The business” must take responsibility for identifying the problem that exists, or the new initiative they want to drive, and then provide clarity on how enabling technologies can accelerate outcomes. IT becomes their core partner in implementing.

Related Reading: AI: Beyond the Mystique Click Here

What Gets in the Way?

Research indicates that executives believe their spend on emerging tech will increase in the next 12 months, evidencing the surging interest in newer technologies. What’s more, methodologies such as agile and DevOps have bridged the chasm between technology functions and the business that directly impact tech implementation success.

But despite these encouraging advances, industry surveys reveal that 70% of all digital transformation efforts fail, with no measurable business valued gained by the investment. The quest for ROI rages on as only a small percentage of companies iterate and successfully augment their total experience (customer experience, employee experience, user experience, etc.).

Why are success rates so low? What gets in the way of successful tech incorporation?

The answers are complicated, layered and include blockers such as unclear goals, senior management involvement and lack of expertise. Nuanced within that is an overemphasis on the technology itself versus the goal of addressing core business imperatives in a tech-enabled fashion.

The business can change the game by concentrating on two clarifying elements:

  1. Fully vet, define and communicate with precision and clarity regarding the actual business problem(s)
  2. Align stakeholders to the strongest USE CASES that can initiate tech-driven journeys and bring vision, employee, and customer experience to new heights (at SQA Group, we’ve found great success leveraging co-creative workshops that incorporate design thinking frameworks to unearth what’s really on the minds of your team)

Bringing together these two guiding principles with the right expertise can shift the odds of success. It gives us a clear direction against how we want to apply the actual technology, versus adopting for adoption’s sake.


Now, Let’s Talk AI

There are a number of technologies that are attracting your attention and the attention of your team, from cloud to 5G to data science. But today, I want to talk specifically about artificial intelligence (AI) because there is no technology more poised to become mainstream faster than AI. And remember, if we are too late to adopt, we become the late laggards!

Last week, I dove into the mystique surrounding AI (click here) because despite its ability to have HUGE impact, there remains a lot of fear around the technology. If we can get past the myth, we can quickly see that AI has huge ability to help us better understand our people, both employees and customers.  What’s more, when applied intentionally, AI can bring forth a vast collection of intangible assets and processing power to be proactive, prevent staff turnover, predict client churn and personalize experiences to enhance brand loyalty and financial performance.

Well-known data scientist and futurist Ray Kurzweil said, “Nobody phrases it this way, but I think that artificial intelligence is almost a humanities discipline. It’s really an attempt to understand human intelligence and human cognition.” Humanities discipline is spot on.

Here are a few examples of AI-enabled use cases that I read recently that stood out.

  • We’re all familiar with voice-controlled products such as Alexa. A London-based company, Emotech, has created a virtual assistant that actually has a personality! What’s even more remarkable is that the algorithms shape the assistant to take on the characteristics and personality of the user. It uses facial recognition technology to assess mood and will engage in an empathetic conversation or even play the user’s favorite music to uplift spirits.
  • In the workplace, messaging has become a common form of communication and collaboration. And like most mediums, the volume of messaging can be overwhelming and time consuming.  Slack has built in an AI-driven solution that learns from company interactions and creates user-friendly solutions “Highlights” to bubble up the most relevant messages or identify company topic-based SMEs based on content created in channels.

Both are real-life examples of how AI is here today and unleashing the power of data to personalize and improve experience.

So how can you ensure you are among the early AI adopters and don’t jump on the train too late? Here are 3 quick tips:

  1. Consider the biggest forces rocking your personal business landscape today. Customer churn, excessively long customer acquisition cycles, diminished employee experience, etc. Write them down, discuss them with your peer leaders, and start imagining what positive disruption in that area would look like.
  2. Remove any AI impediment blockers… mental, financial, or otherwise. AI and data intelligence can be applied to the biggest pressures you face and enable you to introduce new capability (personalization, customization, automation, scoring, etc.) to drive strong outcomes. But you will hit a wall (remember the 70% statistic!) agif lingering concerns or hang-ups about AI exist. Make sure your team is open, excited and well-informed about the reality — not the myths — of AI.
  3. Think small bursts. AI does not require years of implementation and integration before it starts having impact. Rather, it can add value within months, if not weeks. With your macro forces well understood and your blockers removed, consider taking action in a small way with AI within the next few weeks. For example, look at your data and tech ecosystem in to determine how feasible it is to apply AI to a specific part of your business. Or perhaps pick a specific use case — improve customer vitality, drive employee engagement, etc. — to start immediately applying AI.

There are so many ways we can use emerging tech to fuel our businesses forward. But it does require us to remain open, fast and nimble with how we apply the latest technologies so that we do not stall and miss the boat. Speed and intention — not perfection — will define this next era of business!


Ready to apply AI immediately to your next business-driving initiative? Our 6-week  AI Accelerator Program, which pairs you with top AI and data scientist experts, helps you realize the gains of AI within weeks, not months. Click here to jump-start your program.