Qantm AI Chief on Artificial Intelligence Use Cases – and What the C-Suite Wants

The former IBM AI chief says companies must “ask the right questions” when setting artificial intelligence goals.

U.S. companies are eager to get into the artificial intelligence business – 61% of chief financial officers say investing in AI is a “top priority” in 224, according to a recent Grant Thornton survey.

Actual deployments are at risk, however, as C-suite executives are asking the wrong questions when they set out to capitalize on their AI investments.

That’s the outlook from Qantm AI founder and former IBM AI chief Seth Dobrin on a new AI Business Podcast out this week.

“At IBM, part of my job was transforming a Fortune 500 company using data and AI,” Dobrin recalled . “They wanted me to share my experience, not just with IBM, but with IBM customers.”

Dobrin said he spent the first two years at Big Blue flying around the world talking about corporate AI strategies and wound up authoring an article on his findings titled ‘Data Science is a Scam.’

“I did so because company leaders were asking the question, ‘How do I use AI?’ and not asking the right questions, which are, ‘What are my strategic business objectives? And how does technology help me accelerate or meet those objectives?” he said.

Data, AI, and today, generative AI will be part of the solution, but they’re not 100% of the solution, Dobrin explained.

Business Strategy First

“When people ask me for help implementing generative AI, the first thing I talk to them about is their business strategy and strategic objectives,” he told AI Business. “Let’s figure out how you use technology to shore up your moat and accelerate the strategic objectives around that defensible position.”

The companies that get the AI questions right are the companies that will prosper.

“Look at WPP, one of the largest media companies in the world,” Dobrin said. “One of their businesses, Wunderman Thompson Data, had this massive dataset they had never been able to use.”

In the past, Wunderman Thompson Data built custom marketing campaigns for clients using a small number of features or elements of data. They wanted to use the entire dataset, which included 25,000 features or data elements.

“Leveraging AI, Wunderman Thompson Data amplified the business model around their moat, which was this massive dataset to create truly custom marketing plans,” Dobrin noted.

Seed and agricultural giant Monsanto is another good example of a “strategy first” company succeeding with its AI rollout.

“Monsanto had decades of agricultural data,” Dobrin recalled, who worked on its AI strategy with the company. “We used testing data from all the crops grown to transform the process of growing crops using DNA markers, data science, or AI to accelerate things like disease resistance and drought tolerance.”

Monsanto also studied AI’s capabilities in helping to accelerate animal and crop yields using conventional breeding technologies.

“The company’s strategic objective was to feed the world, but there were more strategic objectives, such as to improve yield, and by improving things like disease resistance, we were able to improve overall yield,” Dobrin noted.

Strategizing Launch Points

CFOs looking for a launching point for their company’s AI campaigns should meet with their fellow C-suite executives and agree on the business’s core objectives. Next, they should discuss and agree on how technology will help accelerate those objectives.

“After identifying the business objectives can technology help accelerate, you want to build out a plan at a very high level with the focus on the technology,” he said.

Another key is aligning artificial intelligence use cases to KPIs that matter to the business.

“The C-suite doesn’t care how many models you have, the C-suite doesn’t care about recall or your precision,” Dobrin said. “They care about how much money you’re saving and making, and maybe cost avoidance in some cases.”

“Those are your KPIs,” he added. “And they need to be done in agreement with the CFO so that when they roll up, they matter.”

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