2023 will be a year of big decisions
by Enrico Sassoon
It is certainly the topic of the moment. From artificial intelligence (AI) there is more and more talk and we hear from many quarters that 2023 represents a year of great decisions in relation to great progress underway. Or, even, a turning point year. The question is not simple and it is necessary to separate the real events from the background noise. In a recent article on Harvard Business Review Italia, Tom Davenport and Nitin Mittal argue that most companies that have started AI and ML (machine learning) projects have so far not seen significant improvements in efficiency and competitiveness. On the other hand, many studies, especially of large consultancy firms, report the intention of companies, not only large ones, to increase investment in AI in 2023 and following years. Are we therefore faced with technological investment initiatives with scarce or, at least, uncertain returns? And, when this is the case, how to improve the selection and investment processes to improve their effectiveness and success rate?
A survey of several surveys on the introduction of data management processes, analytics and AI (see Randy Bean in www.hbritalia.it) highlights that, in fact, investment growth is important but at the same time effectiveness is low because these processes, and related tools, do not penetrate the organization widely. Often these projects are not adequately introduced at all organizational levels, sometimes they are managed in a non-participatory way by innovation managers and frequently it is necessary to complain about a corporate cultural lag that few seem to worry about.
In their article, Davenport and Mittal confirm this stalemate and propose one methodology to unlock it in a practical and concrete way. There are ten actions that aim to spread the culture of innovation and the ability to activate it with the most advanced tools for using data, analytics and AI, integrating all actions into the organization. However, the premise for carrying out this operation successfully is that the top management has the goal to be achieved in mind, make sure you have some capable partners (ecosystem) with which to introduce AI in a progressive and flexible way into existing workflows and, above all, which conceives the investment not in an episodic way, but having in mind a path to be implemented while maintaining the governance of the operation firm over time.
But there are many important aspects to introducing AI into the enterprise. An important point highlighted by the McKinsey experts concerns the governance of the process which, it is underlined, must be endorsed and supported not only by the top management but also by the board of directors. A delicate and important step given that this implies that the boards have the ability to grasp the importance of the transition to AI and that there is a willingness to support it.
This aspect is connected to the evolution of technologies which, in the near future, will assume an even more relevant weight as a function of a convergence of many of them in creating powerful and innovative combinations. It is, moreover, what was anticipated a few months ago again on HBR Italia by Giorgio Metta, director of the Italian Institute of Technology in the framework of Macrotrends project (November 2022).
It is also necessary to highlight the evolution taking place in the field of artificial intelligence, especially that defined as generative AI, which has been much talked about in recent months in connection with the explosive entry of tools such as the well-known ChatGPT by OpenAI and other similar applications (for example, Bard by Google) being introduced on the market. It is not yet fully clear what implications and what impact natural language-based tools will have on companies, but also on society and people. However, it is clear that we are facing a development of primary importance: we have now reached a phase, feared by many, in which the relationship with AI takes on a dimension of great power and effectiveness. Natural language interaction is probably only the aspect that most strikes the imagination but, in fact, we are faced with new capabilities that are capable of extraordinary performances that will impact different segments of the world of work, including many of the more creative professions.
We are therefore faced, if not with an inflection point that necessarily concentrates in this disturbed 2023, certainly with a series of evolutions that center on different, convergent and powerful technologies often based on expansive uses of artificial intelligence. A passage that, evidently, we will have to learn to understand and manage in the best possible way.