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The quick-start guide to implementing AI in your business

march 13, 2024

2023 was a breakout year for AI adoption in the business world. As we move into 2024, even more businesses are looking to take advantage of AI and its benefits.

For curious people, getting started with AI is relatively simple. There are countless AI tools out there, and within just a few clicks, someone can find value fast. People have already started integrating these tools into their life in unique ways—from using AI in the classroom to making content more accessible.

Businesses face a different challenge, though. Not everyone within a company may share an inherent curiosity for AI, and for a business to genuinely succeed in AI adoption, a coordinated effort is needed. The business must answer questions like:

  • How can they effectively onboard an entire staff and integrate AI solutions?
  • What tools should they implement?
  • More importantly, how do they identify the right problems to solve with AI?

Every business owner I talk to knows they need to implement AI, but only a few know where to begin. In this article, I’m going to give you a quick-start guide to implementing AI into your business.

What does business implementation of AI even mean?

When we talk about business implementation of AI, we're referring to a coordinated effort across a company to identify opportunities where AI can be used to enhance and optimize specific roles and functions. This technology is incredibly powerful and for many of us, it was introduced only a year ago. But we still know its unparalleled potential to revolutionize how we work, make decisions, and interact with customers.

That said, AI is not a silver bullet. It's not magic. It cannot intuitively figure out how to integrate itself into your business processes or automatically solve every challenge your company faces. The true power of AI lies in the hands of those who are willing to put in the effort to understand its capabilities, explore its potential applications, and thoughtfully implement it to solve specific problems and achieve measurable goals.

Implementing AI means creating a strategic vision for its use, training staff to work with AI tools effectively, and continuously evaluating its impact on business processes.

Find problems. Play with tools.

To begin, it's essential to take a step back and understand two things:

  1. Your team's capabilities.
  2. The market for new players (in this case, AI tools).

Without an honest evaluation of your team's capabilities, needs, and existing processes, you won't be able to successfully integrate AI into your company. And without a deep understanding of the current AI tools market, you won't know how to best support your team.

To understand your team’s current capabilities, start by identifying inefficiencies and areas where employees are struggling. Encourage your team to openly discuss what tasks are most time-consuming, error-prone, or simply unenjoyable. This could be anything from data entry, scheduling, or even customer service workflows. Have your employees write out the areas of their work they're most dissatisfied with. This exercise not only helps pinpoint where AI can make a significant impact but also engages your team in the solution-finding process, ensuring your AI integrations address their real problems.

From there, you can start aligning specific AI tools with your business’s existing problems.

While I wish there was some AI tool that could magically tell you what your team needs, I believe the best way to figure this out is embracing the “unscalable” strategy. You’ve spent time figuring out the areas of the company that you think need the most help. Now, it is time to invest time and money by playing with and testing new tools.

I say “play” because there’s only one way to understand what these tools can do: Explore each one, noting its features, strengths, and weaknesses. You're not just looking for any tool; you're looking for the right fit.

Investing resources to explore and test new AI tools can be invaluable, even if you don't see immediate returns. Think of it as giving yourself (and your team) an education in AI products and their potential.

Pro tip:You might not realize it, but some of your team members are likely already using AI tools! I’ve heard of cases where employees are afraid to tell their bosses about their use of AI tools for fear of getting in trouble. Make sure to ask your team if they’re testing out AI tools, because it could save you tons of time if they’ve already found valid use cases for different tools. And frankly, not knowing this could also mean missing out on managing potential risks to your business (more on this later).

Matching problems with solutions

So, you’ve played with a bunch of tools, you know what's out there, and you understand what areas of the business you want to focus on. What now?

In my opinion, it’s best to start small. Begin by writing out a list of the problems you want to solve and the corresponding AI tool(s) that can help. Prioritize these problems based on their impact on business objectives and the resources required to address them. This strategic alignment ensures you’re not only solving immediate issues but also investing in areas that will drive true value.

This might look like:

  • The marketing team is overwhelmed with writing blogs: Use a shared custom GPT that’s custom-prompted with your brand’s writing style to automatically generate SEO blog posts.
  • The sales team struggles to scale customer sales decks: Use Microsoft Copilot to create personalized, automatically generated presentations at scale.
  • The sales team spends too much time responding to RFPS: Use a program like CassidyAI to automate and streamline RFP responses by feeding the tool legacy company knowledge and previously stored RFP responses. You can also use Copilot to draft email replies.

Now, which problem will be the most important one for your business to address? That’s up to you. AI can help you address these business problems, but it will always take a human decision to figure out where to pull the AI lever first and with how much force.

Once you’ve decided where to add AI, you’ll need to start mapping out new responsibilities for your team. Then the AI integration can really begin.

But first, compliance

Before you integrate AI tools into your company’s tech stack, work with your team to address any security and legal considerations. Every company is different, but it's crucial to think about the risks. First, be aware of the accuracy of the information AI produces. Hallucinations (incorrect or misleading results that AI models generate) could lead to the unintentional spread of false information.

Data privacy is also critical. Ensure that the tools you choose don't repurpose your company’s sensitive data for model training without clear consent.

Finally, keep an eye on the cost implications. The benefits of AI should outweigh its expenses without leading to unexpected financial consequences.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t treat AI any differently than any other tool or new process in the business. It’s always important to make sure everyone is aligned, especially the legal and IT teams.

Okay, now on to the fun stuff.

Adopt and train

This step is the most fun—and the most challenging! After all the hard work of finding your use cases and tools, it’s time to implement each new process and start measuring your ROI.

The main thing to keep in mind is, simply handing the tools over to your team isn’t enough.

This is why I believe every company needs a designated AI point person who’s focused on finding or creating AI solutions within your company. It can be you, but ideally, it should be you and at least one other person. The point person must provide hands-on training to allow employees to ask questions and become comfortable using the tools. Learning by doing is crucial.

For example, I recently participated in a GenAI day at a large corporation. The entire day was dedicated to bringing the team together to start learning how to make the most of the AI tools the company was promoting internally. A hands-on training session with tools like Midjourney and ChatGPT enabled everyone to try different features and use cases together in the same room. The AI point person was there to answer any questions, and by the end of the session, everyone not only understood how to use the tools, but also how each tool would make a difference in their specific daily workflow.

Beyond the training sessions, consider creating a feedback loop where team members can share their experiences, challenges, and successes. This could be a shared “AI Channel” in the company Teams or Slack. It's a place to maintain ongoing collaboration and discover new ways people can use the tools.

Without the proper training, feedback and troubleshooting, adoption simply won’t happen.

Measuring success (with patience)

Finally, the big thing to keep in mind is that integrating AI tools into your company isn’t a one-and-done thing. It's just as crucial to adopt a structured approach to monitoring and evaluation. Start by defining clear, actionable KPIs that align with your business objectives. Whether it's improving customer satisfaction, reducing operational costs, or enhancing employee productivity, ensure these KPIs reflect the impact you anticipate from each AI integration.

Engage in regular review sessions to assess tool usage and effectiveness. This isn't just about tracking metrics; it's about understanding the narrative behind them. How are AI tools reshaping workflows, decision-making, and customer interactions? Are they meeting, exceeding, or falling short of expectations? This continuous evaluation loop will help you identify success patterns, areas for improvement, and opportunities for further AI exploration.

With countless new tools coming out every day, integrating AI is going to be a lifelong process. So the last thing to remember, which is probably the most important, is this: Be patient. Be patient with yourself, be patient with your team, and be patient with the tools.

Anyone who has experimented with AI tools knows it takes quite a bit of tinkering to figure out which prompts and strategies work best for each use case. Don't expect your business to transform overnight. AI is powerful, but it's not magic. Seeing the full benefits of AI requires a coordinated effort to work as a team, identifying areas of the business where technology can assist, and proper coordination to implement and pull it off.

Stay consistent, keep experimenting, and most importantly, have fun bringing your company into the AI Revolution.

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