Keep it clear, keep it simple

Many business leaders are excited about artificial intelligence, but when it comes to investing in the technology, they can be fascinated, anxious and confused. It doesn’t have to be this way. We surveyed people who work closely with AI solutions and asked them to share their experiences on best practices for selling AI 00 the right AI, at the right time, to business leaders.

To begin with, it’s imperative to “show ‘cognitive kindness,'” advises Bjorn Austraat, senior vice president and head of AI acceleration at Truist. “Invest the time and effort upfront to translate difficult technical concepts into plain English. Likewise, create a compelling, well-framed vision for all project participants to ensure alignment and productive collaboration.”

Austraat explains that he uses a “simple phrase” to advance the vision of artificial intelligence. Ask, ‘Whose life will be better, as far as we know?'” he says. “If you can really answer that question, you’ve covered all the bases from framing, to pitching, to value proposition, to political air coverage.”

This clarity of vision is strongly recommended by other industry leaders. “The key to selling AI lies in a clear, simple explanation of the business case,” agrees Ben Hookway, CEO of Relative Insight. “With consumer data coming in from all directions, most of it is text-based. All of this qualitative text data can – and should – have a strategic impact on brand strategy, product development, customer care, marketing, communications, etc. Much of this data is real-time and extremely valuable in helping to better understand exactly how customers they feel.”

In Austraat’s industry, financial services, “explainability trumps model performance,” he adds. “In particularly sensitive areas such as credit underwriting, banks and other financial services institutions must balance the desire to innovate and use cutting edge artificial intelligence with reasonable regulatory expectations of explainability, robustness and fairness.” The best solution doesn’t always win, especially if it’s too much of a black box.”

It’s also important to impress upon business leaders that successful AI can take business in new — and potentially positive — directions. “Companies don’t want to buy sensors, cameras or AI solutions – they’re looking for a complete solution that solves a business problem,” according to Ken Mills, CEO of EPIC iO. “If you’re trying to sell sensors or video cameras to businesses, my advice is to partner with consultants or solution providers who can provide complete answers to business problems.”

Artificial intelligence works to facilitate the process,” says Umesh Sachdev, Co-Founder and CEO of Uniphore. “Whether it’s solving customer problems, eliminating manual tasks, or making more accurate predictions, artificial intelligence complements human effort so people can work, communicate and innovate more effectively.”

And it’s on the way—with the rise of far-reaching AI solutions like conversational AI, which “gives customers and employees access to more advanced problem-solving capabilities, the world as we know it will be fundamentally changed,” writes Robb Wilson, founder of OneReach .ai in his latest book , The age of invisible machines. Business leaders must understand that AI cannot succeed in the long term as disjointed, one-off projects. It “requires a holistic endeavor that touches all aspects of your business. Haphazard technology practices—such as introducing different machines that exist in isolation—will disrupt your workforce and customers, leading to low adoption rates. However, a fully integrated approach can lead to completely new productivity paradigms with unprecedented potential.”

Ultimately, the potential is immense, which may astound even the most AI-savvy individuals. “Creative automation used to be a pretty magical innovation in digital marketing,” says Peter Gordon, global head of AI products for Hogarth Worldwide. “But nothing compares to typing in the most bizarre sentence you can think of — something like ‘a teddy bear on a skateboard in the middle of Times Square’ — and seeing AI instantly create a perfect photorealistic image of your idea. Or a conversation with an impressively perceptive Steve Jobs chatbot that really feels like a personal conversation. And there is much more to come.”

Overcoming executive nervousness about AI is also critical to successfully selling the technology. People’s first reactions to artificial intelligence “may be a kind of magical fear,” says Gordon. It’s important for business leaders to understand that AI technology “allows them to do what they do best – amplifying the ideation process to create brand ideas that have never been seen before.”

Where and how to start? Keep it plain and simple, advises Wilson. “The easiest way to start is often internal automation first; start small by automating individual tasks and skills rather than entire jobs. The simpler you set your starting point, the sooner you can test and iterate. The sooner you test and iterate, the sooner you can roll out an internal solution. You will continue to test and iterate on that solution, using the momentum to find new skills to develop, test, iterate and deliver. You’ll often fumble while your legs grow, but that’s part of the process too.”

AI succeeds when it addresses specific business problems or creates new opportunities. “When companies consider AI, it’s because they have a need,” says Sachdev. “Some process is straining their resources or jeopardizing their customer relationship, and they want to correct it as easily and cost-effectively as possible. Look for friction points. What areas within the business process slow things down or place an unnecessary burden on customers or employees? What results would the company like to improve and what is preventing them from achieving them?”

For example, friction points that AI can address are related to user experience. “If customers are struggling on the front end, perhaps AI can guide them by selecting relevant content based on their past purchases and search history,” says Sachdev. “If customer support is an issue, there are plenty of options to explore. Artificial intelligence can help identify user intent, improve self-service interactions, and even assist agents during live interactions. It can check the consistency of conversations and analyze them for quality assurance. Either way, it saves human workers time and effort.”

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