What Executives Really Need to Know about AI

November 17, 2023

Tips for Everyday Business, All Hypes Aside: Part 2 AI Strategy

These days, corporate decision-makers can hardly browse a website or crack open a journal without being flooded with good advice on how to use AI for the benefit of their company. But what is sound advice and what isn’t? Which fields should you focus on in your capacity as a manager, and where best to begin? To answer these questions, Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, and digitalization expert Martin Giesswein have summed up the most important and state-of-the-art “AI Thinking Points” in a three-part series.

The range and possibilities of AIs are now huge - so a strategy is needed for their application. Image: created with Dall E in ChatGPT
The range and possibilities of AIs are now huge - so a strategy is needed for their application. Image: created with Dall E in ChatGPT
  1. Your Business with AI
  2. Your AI Strategy for the Upcoming Years
  3. Your Corporate AI Responsibility

Part 2: Your AI Strategy for the Upcoming Years

I Want My Own AI!

AI tools that are available for free download and promise to ease our workload can be as enticing as they are dangerous. Day in and day out, poorly trained employees share loads of confidential company and customer data with outside AI models. Samsung is one of many organizations still licking its wounds from a harrowing experience of AI use gone wrong. Non-EU-based, AI-driven tools that process personal data without the consent of the people involved are another pitfall. In the face of this challenge, many companies opt for internal, tailor-made AI systems (CompanyGPT or CompanyAI), which buys them exclusive rights to use an AI model hosted in Europe. For companies sitting on a treasure trove of data, it can make sense to create, train, and use an AI model of their own.

This is what the drugstore chain dm did with “dmGPT,” their own AI chatbot, which they plan on utilizing to pave the way for AI use in retail. This specially developed bot works in a quite similar way as its big sibling, ChatGPT, with one small difference: it is meant to guarantee a completely safe use of this new technology. As opposed to other large industrial enterprises such as Mercedes, Siemens, Bosch, and Merck, which also draw on exclusively hosted ChatGPT technology, dm decided to operate dmGPT entirely through their own infrastructure. Following successful test runs, dm employees are now using the new tool for a variety of tasks ranging from text processing to generating social media posts.

Chatbots are one of many AI applications that are already in frequent use. Image: created with Dall E in ChatGPT
Chatbots are one of many AI applications that are already in frequent use. Image: created with Dall E in ChatGPT

Have You Already Adopted an AI Guideline?

They’re simply everywhere: company directives or guidebooks on professional conduct on social media, training manuals on how to fend off cyber risks in our everyday work, or regular governance tests. After the early days of completely unguided AI use, more and more companies are now changing tack and laying down rules for employees on how to use AI: Which data can be entered? Which measures safeguard data privacy? Which internal systems are deemed safe and therefore first choice? What does the training program look like? What do you do with freed-up time?

A current example is the City of Vienna’s AI compass. This compass for using generative artificial intelligence for employees and executives of the City of Vienna (https://digitales.wien.gv.at/ki-kompass-fuer-bedienstete-der-stadt-wien) puts the focus on self-responsible use on the part of employees based on their experience and expertise and lists essential rules for using AI in one’s official capacity:

  • Whenever AI-generated content is used, the final responsibility lies with the human.
  • Generative AI can support, facilitate, and accelerate work processes in public administration.
  • It must be ensured that sensitive or personal data are treated in accordance with the legal stipulations and official secrecy.
  • Any AI-generated content must be visibly labeled as such.
  • Employees have the possibility to share experiences through formats established for this purpose.
  • All contents must be critically reviewed and evaluated for accuracy (consider AI-generated deepfakes, for instance).

What Will Your Company Look Like in Five Years? There Are (Many) More Futures Thanks to AI

These days, organizations are haunted by a myriad of questions relevant for business: Which products and services are threatened by AI providers? Will the competition gain an edge because AI will enable them to handle new processes, business models, or markets? An annual forecast or even meticulous strategy planning will not suffice to be prepared for changes as fundamental as these.

What companies need is strategic foresight and scenario planning based on insights gained. This method is so effective because it combines classic performance-management systems, which are focused on data from the past, with operative strategy implementation and situative tools for managing the future.

Strategic foresight is more than just forecasting. AI can provide support, especially when planning different scenarios.
Strategic foresight is more than just forecasting. AI can provide support, especially when planning different scenarios.

Foresight enables us to manage the past, the present, and the future all at once. Companies and their executives that have done their homework in this field thus know exactly what happened in their past, successfully handle the tasks related to their present daily operative business, and proactively shape their future in a BANI world. They are unfazed by blind spots or suddenly emerging new phenomena. Instead, they are able to anticipate alternative futures, react quickly, and deal with new developments in a structured way.

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