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BusinessDay: An artificial intelligence strategy has become vital for business leaders

AI is not merely a technological embellishment but an enabler of strategies for every corner of an organisation.


By Johan Steyn, 12 July 2023


Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful tool for businesses. Business leaders should recognise that AI is not merely a technological add-on but a strategic enabler that can reshape their entire organisation. A comprehensive AI strategy is essential for successfully implementing AI in any business.


Before diving into AI implementation, it is crucial to assess the organisation’s readiness for AI adoption. Data availability and quality, technology infrastructure, skills and in-house expertise are important initial considerations. Leaders have to prepare for potential barriers and challenges, including cultural resistance, lack of awareness and understanding as well as regulatory and ethical considerations.


Strategic business goals should be translated into specific AI objectives. Prioritising AI initiatives based on strategic importance and feasibility is a key consideration and it is essential to ensure clarity and measurability to evaluate the success of AI initiatives.


An AI strategy is only as strong as the team and infrastructure supporting it. Important roles and skills required for building and managing an AI team include data scientists, machine learning engineers, AI ethicists, and domain experts. Developing a talent acquisition and retention strategy is crucial to attract and retain top AI professionals.


Assessing the existing technology infrastructure and identifying the necessary AI tools and platforms will ensure a solid foundation for successful implementation.


Developing a data strategy involves ensuring data availability, quality, and security through effective data collection, storage, integration, and quality assurance practices. Implementing data governance practices is needed to ensure compliance and ethical data usage, addressing aspects such as data ownership, consent management, and regulatory considerations.


Collaboration and partnerships can significantly enhance the effectiveness of AI initiatives. Businesses should consider collaboration opportunities with AI start-ups, technology vendors, and research institutions, which provide access to specialised expertise, foster innovation and drive scalability. Developing a framework for managing partnerships effectively, including clear objectives and alignment, transparent communication and trust, mutual value creation, governance and continuous evaluation, will enable business leaders to navigate the complexities of collaborations.


Introducing AI into the organisation brings about change that must be managed effectively. Leaders should not underestimate the impact of AI on the workforce. Strategies for workforce reskilling and upskilling, communication, employee engagement, and redefining roles and responsibilities are vital. Managing the transition with sensitivity and care is crucial.


Measuring the success of AI initiatives is essential to track progress and make informed decisions. Company executives should focus on the establishment of metrics and key performance indicators aligned with business goals. Implementing monitoring systems and real-time analysis enables businesses to track AI performance, identify areas for improvement, and benchmark against industry standards.


Scaling AI initiatives across the organisation requires careful planning and execution. It is crucial to develop a road map aligned with business objectives, prioritisation and sequencing of initiatives, and resource allocation. Identifying opportunities for expansion and exploring new use cases for AI through cross-functional collaboration, continuous innovation, and a customer-centric approach will enable businesses to unlock the full potential of AI.


To bring the AI strategy to life, a comprehensive action plan is crucial. Establishing key milestones, timelines, and resource allocation for each phase of implementation ensures progress and agility. A framework for continuous learning, adaptation, and scalability will drive the evolution of the AI strategy.

The potential for businesses of all sizes across all industries to harness the power of AI is a reality. Ownership of these initiatives should always reside with the top leadership.


• Steyn is on the faculty at Woxsen University, a research fellow at Stellenbosch University and founder of AIforBusiness.net.

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