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AI is a tool not the hammer

Let's not loose site of the role that technology plays

A friend of mine sent me this case study from Microsoft that outlined a number of strategy questions for a company. The strategy questions were framed around ways AI could be used to address a number of issues facing the company. The impact of AI was impressive and it's easy to see why so many companies are enamored by this new set of tools.

While I appreciate the success of AI (as an emerging set of tools and capabilities), I typically avoid the temptation of framing the problem set with a hammer and look for nails. AI is a tool, so it should be used like any other tool - as needed and for the right job. I would rather pose the problem as a clearly stated challenges (market share, product shift, service gaps, customer value) for the business and then tell a story as you peel it back in a methodical manner. Then, as each problem unfolds you can discuss how one or more tools can be leveraged to create solutions to position the company back into profitability until the next shift.  

Strategy Questions do not involve a tool. That is a technologist trying to position a tool as a strategic advantage. For now, AI is the darling of technology so it’s the answer for every problem (hammer time). Saw this with PCs, distributed computing, object technology, 4GLs, Internet, BI, Predictive Analytics, Cloud, and now AI. 

Here is a progression of strategic planning to address the business challenges.

Business Challenges:

1. Loss of market share

2. Customer attrition (shift from traditional services)

3. Operational quality

4. Lack of agility, adaptability, and resiliency to respond to change


Goal 1 - Improve operational agility and adaptability to respond to change

Goal 2 - Improve Quality of Service (current and future)

Goal 3 - Expand value of products & services to match and surpass market competition

Goal 4 - Improve measurement of customer value

Goal 5 - Restore profitability and position company as market leader

Align Strategy with Execution:

1. Break the Goals into one or more Objectives

2. Identify the problems we are trying to solve within each objective

3. Assign attributes and context to each problem

4. Model the problem space and look for patterns

5. Prioritize the most important problem sets (by impact)

6. Identify solutions for each problem set

7. Figure out which technologies (AI is but one) can be leveraged (right tool for the right job)

8. Execute the changes to implement the solutions

9. Measure, Adapt, and Deliver (projects, products, services)


Measure Value Delivery and Drive Continuous Learning

Assess and Respond to internal changes (issues, opportunities and risks)

Assess and Respond to external changes (threats, constraints, and opportunities)

Incorporate Responses into Strategy & Align with Execution using Fluid Prioritization

The above progression of planning, execution, and operation using measurement provides a solid baseline for guiding transformation, driving innovation, and making companies more profitable, adaptable, and valuable.

AI is one of a handful of emerging technologies that will change the landscape of time, experience, and human potential. But, it is still a tool and needs to be positioned with the right framing and motivations to ensure it supports the needs for all human stakeholders. The art of framing should not be compromised by the excitement of one technology over another, otherwise we may alter the motivations and goals to favor technology over humans.


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