CEOs are getting savvier about artificial intelligence. But they still have questions. Here are the top 5.
Questions about AI- Recently in a risk management meeting, I watched a data scientist explain to a group of executives why convolutional neural networks were the algorithm of choice to help discover fraudulent transactions. The executives—all of whom agreed that the company needed to invest in artificial intelligence—seemed baffled by the need for so much detail. “How will we know if it’s working?” asked a senior director to the visible relief of his colleagues.
Although they believe AI’s value, many executives are still wondering about its adoption. The following five questions are boardroom staples:
1. “What’s the reporting structure for an AI team?”
Organizational issues are never far from the minds of executives looking to accelerate efficiencies and drive growth. And, while this question isn’t new, the answer might be.
Captivated by the idea of data scientists analyzing potentially competitively-differentiating data, managers often advocate formalizing a data science team as a corporate service. Others assume that AI will fall within an existing analytics or data center-of-excellence (COE).
AI positioning depends on incumbent practices. A retailer’s customer service department designated a group of AI experts to develop “follow the sun chatbots” that would serve the retailer’s increasingly global customer base. Conversely a regional bank considered AI more of an enterprise service, centralizing statisticians and machine learning developers into a separate team reporting to the CIO.
These decisions were vastly different, but they were both the right ones for their respective companies.
- How unique (e.g., competitively differentiating) is the expected outcome? If the proposed AI effort is seen as strategic, it might be better to create team of subject matter experts and developers with its own budget, headcount, and skills so as not distract from or siphon resources from existing projects.
- To what extent are internal skills available? If data scientists and AI developers are already clustered within a COE, it might be better to leave the team as-is, hiring additional experts as demand grows.
- How important will it be to package and brand the results of an AI effort? If AI outcome is a new product or service, it might be better to create a dedicated team that can deliver the product and assume maintenance and enhancement duties as it continues to innovate.
2. “Should we launch our AI effort using some sort of solution, or will coding from scratch distinguish our offering?”
When people hear the term AI they conjure thoughts of smart Menlo Park hipsters stationed at standing desks wearing ear buds in their pierced ears and writing custom code late into the night. Indeed, some version of this scenario is how AI has taken shape in many companies.