What Steps Should IT Leaders Take to Prepare for the AI Tsunami?

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Artificial Intelligence is no longer a distant dream of the future. It’s here, and it’s changing the way companies do business.

Organizations across all industries have embraced AI to help with everyday operations such as customer service, HR, marketing, sales, R&D and more.

large blue ocean wave

A recent survey by Forrester reported that over half of companies worldwide have already implemented AI, and another 20 percent plan to do so within the next year.[i] With good reason. The potential impacts are tremendous – improved processes, increased efficiency, automated workloads, greater ROI and countless other benefits.

The question is no longer, “Should we embrace AI?” but rather, “How do we best use it to reach our targeted business outcomes?”

AI Initiatives are a Top Priority for IT…

For IT departments, the concerns are even more pressing. “How do we prepare for the tsunami of AI projects about to hit us from all areas of the business?”

IT leaders know that AI is critical to their firm’s long-term success, and most list it as a top business priority for the upcoming year. CIO.com points out that in Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Report, 47 percent of CIOs who have implemented AI report it as “the most pressing pain point”. Still, despite their knowledge and desire to embrace the technology, IT leaders face many challenges. There is no clear playbook or defined path for implementing AI across an enterprise, which means that many are making it up as they go (and, unsurprisingly, stumbling along the way).

…But IT Departments are Often the Last to Know

One of the most common AI issues is the lack of communication between lines of business and IT departments. When it comes to implementing AI projects, IT is often the last to know. In another recent study, Forrester Consulting found that lines of business “completely bypass IT departments 15 percent to 20 percent of the time on their AI initiatives.”[ii] Not only is this lack of communication frustrating, but it’s inefficient and costly.

The good news is that IT leaders are well-suited to lead the AI charge across their organizations. Doing so helps to reduce silos and open lines of communication, increase efficiency, and reduce risk – improvements that directly affect the company’s bottom line. In fact, over half of the companies surveyed expect an ROI up to five times their investment.

Although there is no magic, one-size-fits-all playbook, there are some clear steps that IT leaders can take to lead the charge toward transforming with AI.

As an IT leader, you should focus on the following to prepare for upcoming AI projects:

  • Modernize Data Management Technology – AI initiatives are based on enormous amounts of data, so it makes sense that that IT will require new tools to effectively manage all that data. If your database, data integration, storage capability and networking aren’t up to the task, now is the time to do something about it.
  • Upgrade Infrastructure Hardware – New AI initiatives require faster response, increased storage, higher bandwidth and low-latency networking. Forrester Consulting showed that 61% of firms are challenged by a lack of servers with purpose-built processors, and 81% pointed to the need for new servers for high-performance computing.[iii] You’ll need highly scalable servers with accelerators to reduce model training times.
  • Evaluate Staffing – AI requires a different set of skills to manage than traditional workloads do, and you may need to hire new staff or invest in training current employees. You’ll need skilled workers that can analyze and interpret the massive amounts of data involved.
  • Deploy Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning Platforms – These platforms enable staff to collaborate and streamline projects across different lines of business. Engineers and data scientists will be able to train, deploy, and manage their models and data pipelines more effectively if they are centrally managed by IT.
  • Implement Text Analytics, Natural Language Processing and Speech Analytics Platforms – These applications can be used in multiple ways across sales, marketing, customer service and R&D.
  • Roll-out Virtual Agent Frameworks – They support the creation of chatbots, which can also be used in a variety of ways across different functions such as HR, customer service and sales.

IT Leadership Can Lead the Charge to Transform with Artificial Intelligence

Your company’s IT strategy has a direct impact on its business outcomes. By focusing on the above areas, you can prepare for the inevitable onslaught of AI projects and set your business up to succeed.

For additional resources and tips for IT leaders, Forrester Consulting’s checklist 8 Steps CIOs Must Take to Transform with Artificial Intelligence provides specific recommendations for CIOs to modernize their compute and take their companies to the next level.


[i] Source: Forrester Data Global Technographics Data & Analytics Survey, 2017

[ii] Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dell EMC, January 2018.

[iii] Source: Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Checklist Commissioned by Dell EMC, May 2018

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