Landing AI Q&A

AI Adoption in Business

In our new “AI Adoption in Business” blog series, we’ll be showcasing thought leaders and business executives and their perspectives on AI in the enterprise. Our first guest is Isaac Sacolick, the President of StarCIO, who shared with us his insight into AI and his advice to CIOs and business leaders.

Tell us about yourself.

Today, I lead StarCIO, where we guide organizations on digital transformations that deliver results. I’ve been a CTO in startups and a CIO in transforming organizations where developing strategic advantages with data and technology was mandated. I started working with AI, machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing in graduate school, coding neural networks by hand, and sometimes waiting days to train models. Experimenting with AI is one of my passions, along with leading culture changes, teaching agile planning methodologies, and enabling experiences that delight people.

What is your perspective on the effectiveness of AI?

Many surveys show that enterprises today are mostly experimenting with machine learning and many face operational hurdles deploying models into business operations. Enterprises must start their journeys by targeting opportunities with significant business value, where there’s organizational patience to support experimentation, and where they have sufficient volumes of cleansed data. Organizations adopting agile data methodologies, proactive data governance, and MLOps practices are more likely to show successes.

From your conversations with CIOs, how important is AI when it comes to their 2021 and beyond technology roadmap?

Many transformational CIOs recognize AI’s opportunities and potential to disrupt lagging businesses. These CIOs seek practical AI applications that demonstrate medium-term business outcomes and are less likely to pursue moonshots. Their technology roadmaps often start with selecting cloud platforms, choosing data stacks, implementing dataops, and instituting data governance. In parallel, they have data science teams experimenting with mainstream machine learning capabilities, including pattern recognition, clustering, segmentation, anomaly detection, image processing, and natural language processing.

What are the top business challenges that AI can address for enterprises?

Business leaders need to embrace an experimental mindset regarding AI and shouldn’t manage machine learning projects with top-down timelines and budgets. Business leaders should also be cognizant that some employees are concerned about how AI impacts their jobs, even though many machine learning models augment business processes. Most important, business leaders must take an active role in improving data quality and prioritizing AI experiments that have the greatest business potentials.

What hurdles do enterprises need to overcome in order to successfully adopt and operationalize AI?

Business leaders need to embrace an experimental mindset regarding AI and shouldn’t manage machine learning projects with top-down timelines and budgets. Business leaders should also be cognizant that some employees are concerned about how AI impacts their jobs, even though many machine learning models augment business processes. Most important, business leaders must take an active role in improving data quality and prioritizing AI experiments that have the greatest business potentials.

What recommendations do you have for the CEO or CIO at enterprises who are beginning their AI journey?

When I talk to CEOs and CIOs, I remind them that AI’s capabilities are built on top of digital disciplines in asking questions, focusing on customer experiences, managing data, learning new skills, experimenting with new capabilities, and advancing technologies. Second, I always recommend that organizations start with opportunities tied to products, growth, and experiences rather than focusing only on automations or efficiencies. Lastly and probably most important, succeeding with AI requires a commitment to culture change, a willingness to challenge the status quo,
and a mandate for agile collaboration.

About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick (@NYIke) is the President of StarCIO, where he guides leaders on winning with data and technology while executing smarter, faster, safer, and more innovative transformation programs. His Driving Digital Workshops and StarCIO Guides help people learn digital transformation, agile planning, devops, proactive data governance, and citizen development. Isaac is a successful digital transformation CIO, author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Biz Transformation Through Tech, and has 600+ articles at InfoWorld, CIO.com, and Social, Agile and Transformation. He is also a keynote speaker on digital transformation, agile leadership, data management, analytics/AI, IoT, DevOps, and winning cultures.