For AI adoption, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’
For many companies, artificial intellitence (AI) is poised to go beyond the hype and deliver actual business value. According to the 2022 NewVantage Partners executive survey, nine out of 10 Fortune 1000 companies are investing in AI. Yet only 26% of the survey respondents have been able to deploy it at scale.
The majority identified culture — organizational alignment, business processes, change management, communication, “people” skill sets and resistance or lack of understanding to enable change — as the biggest impediment to widespread AI adoption.
Preliminary ‘shifts’ to rewire your company for AI
The first step towards looking at culture from a technology perspective — including where AI adoption is concerned — is to stop viewing HR professionals as the sole stewards of company culture, prescribing initiatives and perks to lift employees’ spirits. According to Siobhan McHale, culture change expert and author of The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change: Creating a Workplace That Delivers, Grows, and Adapts, “Culture change is more likely to succeed when line managers and HR are both taking up the appropriate roles during the transformation process.”
Second, it’s important to understand that AI is complex, and not plug-and-play. “In any organization, AI has to align with business goals, data, people and process,” said Sudhi Ranjan, product manager and tech head of AI-powered ecommerce accelerator Assiduus Global.
Companies need to rigorously assess their needs and priorities, then transform their business processes and adopt the right tools and technologies to enable the change. However, Ranjan said, this can be a challenge where the organizational setup to facilitate AI adoption is not well understood. AI’s core objective is to be customer- and people-centric. So cultural transformation requires a shift in focus toward using AI to aid innovation and democratizing its use across the organization.
The biggest barrier to adoption of not just AI, but any technology, is the people. “Employees and executives alike can slow the adoption,” said Manish Narayanaswami, associate director at workflow management company Kissflow Inc. “This can be due to fear of being made redundant, lack of understanding of the benefits and what it would mean to them and their function, and lack of quick access to the technology and its training. There is also anxiety involved in terms of change and adopting new technologies.”
So organizations must focus on sensitizing all stakeholders, including senior executives, with the right information and training. Manish said that this will in turn set the right mindset, expectation and culture to adopt the technology together, not in silos. A company might, for example, identify which team is culturally most attuned to experiment with, adopt and scale AI pilots. This group can then lead and evangelize to accelerate adoption among other teams.