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Generative AI — when harnessed correctly — has the potential to revolutionize the way companies operate, innovate and compete. But one question still remains: How can businesses effectively tap into this potential? The answer lies in setting up an AI center of excellence that combines IT with learning and development to serve the needs of business operations.
Any company can set up an AI center of excellence, large or small — and smaller ones can be more nimble and flexible in setting one up, allowing them to get ahead of their larger competitors. And that center of excellence itself requires a two-pronged approach to establish what it means to be excellent at using AI: observing the application of generative AI in other companies and understanding its use within their own ranks.
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Learning about AI best practices
The first step in the journey towards effective use of generative AI is to look outward. Companies that have already integrated AI into their operations can serve as valuable case studies. These pioneers have navigated the challenges of implementation, and their successes and failures provide a roadmap for others to follow.
For instance, a number of companies report having marketing teams using AI to generate creative content, while the sales team uses it to predict customer behavior. By identifying these practices, companies can consolidate their efforts and create a unified strategy for AI usage.
The second prong of this approach involves looking inward. Companies must understand how their own employees are already using generative AI. This internal audit can reveal surprising insights about the company’s current AI capabilities and areas for improvement. This internal exploration is not just about finding existing uses of AI, but also about encouraging employees to come forward with their ideas and experiences. This can foster a culture of innovation and make the integration of AI a company-wide endeavor.
However, it’s at this step that I most often see problems in companies for which I consult on integrating AI into their workflow. Initial evidence suggests that AI can significantly boost personal efficiency for individual employees by anywhere from 20% to 70% for many tasks, with the quality of output surpassing that of tasks completed without AI assistance. This is a testament to the transformative power of AI when used as a personal productivity tool, especially when operated by someone within their area of expertise.
However, it’s important to note that the current state of AI primarily enhances individual productivity rather than organizational productivity as a whole, as highlighted by Ethan Mollick, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This is because AI, in its current form, makes for rather unpredictable software. It can be inconsistent, prone to error and generally doesn’t behave in the way that traditional IT is expected to behave. As a result, AI doesn’t scale well in its current state.
But don’t let this deter you. The key is to recognize the potential of AI as a personal productivity tool and to harness this potential within your organization. By doing so, you can empower your employees, improve efficiency and pave the way for the future integration of AI on a larger scale. As AI technology continues to evolve, we can expect it to become more reliable and scalable, eventually becoming an integral part of organizational productivity.
Establishing an AI center of excellence
Once a company has gathered this information, the next step is to establish a center of excellence for using Generative AI. My clients found the most success when this center was co-led by a team from IT, who can handle the technical aspects of AI, and HR, who can oversee learning and development.
The center of excellence serves as a hub for AI-related activities within the company. It provides guidance, sets best practices, and ensures that all departments are aligned in their use of AI. This centralized approach ensures that AI is used effectively and ethically throughout the company. Moreover, the center of excellence can also serve as a platform for continuous learning and development, keeping the company up-to-date with the latest advancements in AI.
But what makes a center of excellence truly successful? There are several guiding principles that underpin its operation, each of which can be applied specifically to the integration of generative AI.
Firstly, the center of excellence should have a clear vision and mission. This includes defining the strategic objectives of the center and how it aligns with the overall business strategy. For instance, if a company’s strategy is to leverage generative AI for content creation, the center’s mission could be to develop and implement best practices for using AI in this area.
Secondly, the center of excellence should foster collaboration and communication across the organization. It should act as a bridge between different departments, facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practices. For example, if the marketing team is using generative AI to create content, their insights and experiences could be shared with other departments through the center of excellence.
Thirdly, the center of excellence should focus on continuous improvement. This involves regularly reviewing and refining its processes and practices to ensure they remain effective and relevant. In the context of generative AI, this could involve staying abreast of the latest AI technologies and updating the company’s practices accordingly.
Lastly, the center of excellence should be committed to promoting a culture of learning and development. This includes providing training and resources to employees to enhance their AI skills and knowledge. For example, the center could offer workshops on using generative AI tools, or provide resources for self-learning.
Establishing a center of excellence is a critical step in harnessing the power of generative AI. By adhering to these guiding principles, companies can ensure that their center is effective, relevant and capable of driving AI integration across the organization.
The ultimate goal: Serving business operations through an AI center of excellence
The ultimate goal of this two-pronged approach and the establishment of a center of excellence is to serve business operations. Generative AI has the potential to streamline processes, improve efficiency and drive innovation. By learning from others, understanding internal usage and establishing a centralized hub for AI, companies can harness this potential and transform their operations.
The center of excellence plays a pivotal role in this transformation. It serves as the nerve center of the company’s AI initiatives, guiding the integration of generative AI into business operations. Whether it’s using AI to automate routine tasks, generate creative content or predict market trends, the center of excellence ensures that these initiatives align with the company’s strategic objectives and adhere to best practices.
For instance, if a company wants to use generative AI to streamline its customer service operations, the center of excellence could develop a roadmap for this initiative. This could involve identifying the best AI tools for the job, training customer service staff on how to use these tools, and setting up a system for monitoring and improving the AI’s performance.
Moreover, the Center of Excellence also plays a crucial role in fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation. It keeps the company up-to-date with the latest advancements in AI, encourages employees to explore new ways of using AI, and promotes a culture of experimentation and risk-taking. This culture of innovation is key to harnessing the full potential of generative AI and staying ahead of the competition.
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The journey towards effective use of generative AI may seem daunting, but with the right approach, it can lead to unprecedented growth and success. So, take the leap, look outward and inward, establish your Center of Excellence, and watch as AI propels your business into the future. Remember, the future of business is not just about adopting new technologies, but about understanding them, integrating them effectively, and using them to drive operational excellence. The Center of Excellence is your guide on this journey, leading the way towards a future powered by generative AI.