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A few months back, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the VentureBeat Summit, which gathers senior leaders across various industries to discuss the emerging technologies disrupting the global business agenda. The theme of this year’s summit was “Riding the AI Wave,” focusing on the explosion of AI in business, specifically how today’s leaders use AI to extract meaningful ROI.

While the summit touched on a diverse portfolio of use cases, spanning from transportation to data visualization to emotional language technology, one sentiment remained certain: We’ve raised the bar on AI, and those who don’t embrace it risk lagging behind.

AI alters more than strategic goals and corporate agendas — it transforms the C-suite of organizations around the world. As AI becomes more prevalent, the time is now for senior leaders to consider its implications for their businesses’ top and bottom lines. According to a recent study, 85 percent of executives believe AI will be transformative for their companies and provide a competitive advantage, yet only 1 out of 5 have extensively incorporated AI into their current processes. The reason: While enterprises know what AI can do for them, senior leaders often struggle around how to drive adaptation and implementation in ways that enhance business outcomes.

As AI initiatives become table stakes, the C-suite must rethink implementation strategies to properly adopt and execute the AI strategy that works best for their business. Here’s how.

Ensure senior leadership is onboard and adding value

There is more to AI than complex algorithms and large data sets. True success lies in executives’ ability to embrace the managerial challenges that come with introducing AI into their business models while simultaneously ensuring that the needs of its end users are accounted for across all touchpoints.

Senior leaders must also understand the technology behind AI and how to properly incorporate it into the company culture. In fact, the most successful AI adopters cited having strong executive leadership support, not only from the CEO and IT executives, but from all C-level and board officers. Firms that successfully deploy automation at scale rated C-suite support as being nearly twice as high as companies that have not adopted any AI technology.

Spread AI accountability across all business silos

Compartmentalizing accountability of AI within technology and IT is a recipe for disaster. To reach its full potential, AI must transcend silos and strike the right balance between IT and business objectives. This balance starts with a comprehensive strategy defined by leadership — one that is understood and integrated across all departments (IT, HR, etc.) and across the C-suite.

However, business and IT leaders often speak different languages. For example, IT focuses on emerging technologies, while the C-suite prioritizes finances and assets. By defining a comprehensive AI strategy from the outset — one that is agreed upon by all departments — companies can ensure the successful development of AI, eliminating potential pushback or conflicting opinions later in the process.

If enterprises cannot rethink their implementation strategies, they risk falling behind the curve; 44 percent of executives agree that delaying AI implementation will make their business vulnerable to new, disruptive tech startups.

Treat AI as a journey, not a one-time implementation

There’s no one-size-fits-all AI solution. It is vital to treat AI as a journey and not a one-time shrinkwrap implementation, addressing issues that are relevant across all departments, positions, and employee skill sets.

Leveraging the ecosystem of partners for AI and automation will be key, as it is vital for enterprises to leverage the plethora of capabilities available in the market to augment their abilities.

By varying AI strategy based on users’ unique needs and digital goals, companies are best equipped to handle solve real-life business outcomes — and can cater to the varying starting points in a business’ digital transformation without compromising existing employees.

Reskill for the digital age

AI changes the nature of many jobs and will transform industries from health care to retail to education.

While AI will render many jobs obsolete, it will also create a plethora of new professions and in-demand skill sets. According to Gartner, AI will automate 1.8 million people out of work by 2020, but it will also create 2.3 million jobs — that’s a net gain of 500,000 new jobs.

Instead of concentrating on what jobs won’t be here in the age of automation, the C-suite must establish how humans and automated systems can work together to make processes more effective via technology. The first step: Retrain, upskill, and redeploy talent to create a more holistic workforce, one where humans and AI can coexist. With proper training and education, we can augment the human workforce with the digital workforce, eliminating mundane tasks and streamlining responsibilities via automation to drive speed, efficiency, and accuracy.

The Fourth Revolution is well underway. The question is no longer whether AI will fundamentally change the enterprise, but how the C-suite can leverage this technology to transform their business across all silos.

Rohit Adlakha is vice president and global head for automation at Wipro Holmes, a global information technology, consulting, and business process services company.

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