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Getting Executive Buy-In On AI And Emerging Tech

Arka Dhar

This article was originally posted on the Forbes Technology Council. Click here to read the original article.

Driving north on the 101 from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, there are dozens of billboards promoting new artificial intelligence (AI) ventures. According to PricewaterhouseCooper and CB Insights (via Bloomberg), venture capitalists poured a record $9.3 billion into AI startups last year, and this is just the beginning.

For many business leaders, AI is still a buzzword. This largely stems from an obsessive marketing regime that hypes up technologies like AI, machine learning (ML) and the internet of things (IoT). But behind the billboards and eye-watering funding rounds are industry-disrupting technologies, and understanding their potential impact as well as how to get executive buy-in are pivotal to the future of work.

Here are some considerations when preparing yourself to get the thumbs up on your next technology project:

Focus on the mission, not the hype

During initial meetings I’ve had with decision makers, it’s been tremendously helpful to demystify AI from the start and translate it into language that aligns with business goals. “Oh! It is automation?” For many leaders that I talk to, the largest concern is the cost of reworking their systems by testing new technologies. Getting past the hype of AI and digging into what it really means and looks like for a business is essential in getting executive support.

Plug in rather than redo

Nothing is worse than telling a board that years of work and money spent on building out an IT project were wasted and that the project is going to be replaced to accommodate a newer, “cooler” product. But today, organizations can manage change by prioritizing AI solutions that can easily plug into their existing systems rather than overhaul what’s in place.

Prioritizing open systems for AI integration also saves companies on the huge costs of maintaining proprietary software in the long term. Looking beyond the wasted time, money and a guaranteed migraine, proprietary solutions that need to be built on a specific platform isn’t a strategic long-term solution anyway.

Show the numbers

Beyond solution cost, executives need the numbers (i.e., data and funds saved). AI provides clear advantages here. A Deloitte study found 83% of early AI adopters have already achieved moderate to substantial economic benefits. There’s no better way to get the attention of executives than showing the impact of a proposed project on the organization’s bottom line.

Flash forward five years

When evaluating solutions, IT leaders often prioritize the short-term impact that AI can have on their business. But we need to think beyond the immediate return on investment of data collection. It’s important to consider the long-term business impact and consequences of not starting to learn from your data. Executives tend to focus on pleasing shareholders now, forgetting that not investing in emerging technology today can put them behind or completely out of the picture in the very near future.

Building toward the future

AI, ML and IoT are on most enterprises’ to-do lists, but cutting through the hype and focusing on how they complement your existing systems and business plan will be critical in securing internal approvals. Getting executive buy-in on anything new and unknown can be challenging, but the potential repercussions of not adopting technologies like AI will be worse.