Recently, like millions of people, I used a ride-sharing app on my smartphone. It was pretty random and not something I thought too much about. Ride sharing is simple and easy, and it’s one now $80+ billion industry. But it wasn’t that long ago. We have cars, we have riders, and we have drivers; but to work, ride-sharing requires smartphones. As they arrived, so did many different conveniences and new experiences – some of which turned into entire industries – that we had not imagined.
Artificial intelligence is a similar type of catalyst; it’s the next wave of truly transformative technology with potential we can’t yet fully imagine or appreciate. It is the defining technology of our time, changing the way we live and work. Throughout my career in tech, I have there is no greater excitement and optimistic than I am now. I have a colleague at Microsoft who talks about AI like this: You have to use “new stuff” to make old stuff better. Then, you use the new thing to … do new things. He was right.
Consider an example from health care. Paige is a software company that uses AI to change the way doctors identify, diagnose, and treat cancers. With properly trained and learned models, AI can look at thousands of digital pathology images, pixel by pixel, and detect abnormalities faster and more accurately. Imagine what these tools will open not only for pathologists and doctors, but also for patients. This means earlier disease detection, healthier lives, and more time with loved ones.
Today every company, regardless of size or industry, must think about AI. AI has moved on from its auto-pilot phase, which was about narrow, purpose-built tools that use machine learning models to make predictions, recommendations, and automation. , to its copilot stage, where there is a great opportunity to change the way almost everything finish. Leaders who embrace AI today and act to understand it, experiment with it, and envision how it can solve difficult problems are the ones who will run the companies that thrive in an AI world.
But where do they start? Almost every day, I talk to business leaders who ask important questions about the potential of AI. No matter where you are in your AI journey, it is incumbent on every leader to embrace this unique time and take advantage of this powerful technology. If you feel unsure of how to start, or how to proceed, you are not alone. As with any business planning exercise, think about your AI strategy in phases. Embrace agility and change, and maintain a continuous learning mindset, calibrating and adjusting your gameplan as you go.
Start by Experimenting
The best way to learn about AI is to use it. It’s rare for new and disruptive technology to be so easily accessible. This is. Most of the leaders I talked to tried popular AI applications like ChatGPT or the new Bing. There are many other options out there, but the point is curiosity.
Try using it in whatever task you have in front of you and see what works well and what doesn’t. Use it to generate interview questions, write a memo, research and summarize a topic you want to learn more about, or get starting thoughts for a document. I use Bing and ChatGPT to help me get ideas for a talk. I use Microsoft 365 Copilot, the AI integration of Microsoft apps to create slides, to find and summarize documents with a topic, and to recap email exchanges with colleagues . By using and experimenting with AI, you are in a better position to imagine how it can be used in your organization – and you probably know better than anyone else where the opportunities and potential lie.
Deploy for Productivity
When it comes to productivity, AI copilots – from Microsoft and from others – can be deployed or embedded in applications to assist or simplify certain tasks. Less than two years since its launch, GitHub’s Copilot is already writing 46% of code in its repository and helps developers code up to 55% faster. Imagine what the developers did with that extra time. Three out of four users say it helps them save mental energy and focus on more fulfilling work. Said another way: Create new things and solve new problems.
Consider the workflows and activities that your business process enables: things like payroll, on-boarding, or IT help desk support. These are all repetitive, rules-based processes that can be streamlined with AI. It is the driver behind a whole new category of AI software that can take over manual tasks and transform many business processes.
There’s another way to think about AI for productivity: time. If you’re in fraud detection, or you’re a security analyst, time can be your biggest asset or your biggest challenge. If you can reduce the amount of time it takes to analyze large amounts of data-rich, time-sensitive information, you’ll be better and more effective at your job.
Today, AI is already affecting how businesses provide experiences that are better, faster, more efficient, or completely new, from predictive text on your phone to chatbots on websites to suggested that search when you open a browser.
As an example, PwC uses Azure OpenAI Service to expand and scale its own AI offerings while also helping clients in industries such as insurance or healthcare reimagine their businesses by harnessing the power of generative AI. CarMax used it to analyze hundreds of thousands of customer reviews and top key takeaways for buyers about every make, model, and year of vehicle in its inventory.
Even in its early stages, AI is making employee experiences better as well. A recent Microsoft survey found that 89% of employees and business decision makers who have access to automation and AI-powered tools feel more satisfied. They say that because they can spend time on work that is very important. Nine out of 10 said they would like the opportunity to use AI solutions more tasks and activities.
I’ve seen that happen in some of the organizations I’ve worked with. They are looking for more advanced AI in use cases such as customer support, writing assistance, or data extraction and classification. The common thread in each of these involves the use of AI to leverage resources or information you already have it to transform experiences for people.
Building New Things
The steps above are versions of using “something new” to make old things better, to borrow my colleague’s turn of phrase. But how do you use the new thing to actually do new things? What could you have done differently? How can you delight customers and create new lines of business and, with them, new revenue?
This is the challenge before business leaders today; and it’s a tough one. The answer starts with integrating AI into your organization and iterate from there. Because although AI will enable people and organizations to achieve more, we are at the beginning of defining what “more” looks like. But in order to move forward, we need to set the conditions that will help us discover what happens next.
One of the exciting things about using AI to be more efficient — whether that’s using generative AI to get ideas or conduct research — it allows you to think more deeply about a concept or a problem. that you are trying to solve. It is not a far leap to imagine how this level of concentrated effort will enable companies to develop truly new and innovative solutions faster; and then enjoy the snowball effect at that speed.
Across: Security and Responsible AI First
With all the promise of AI, one thing is certain. We cannot realize the full potential of AI without safeguards. Technology has always been an accelerator and an enabler. AI is no different, but it presents potential risks that need to be managed.
For any company, the success of Responsible AI initiatives depends on at least three things. First, it requires commitment and inclusive leadership. (Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President, Brad Smith, and our Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Scott, chair our Responsible AI Council.) Second, companies must build inclusive management models and actionable guidelines, as we do. Finally, they also need to invest in responsible AI in the form of new engineering systems, research-led incubators, and people who will ensure that responsible AI principles are implemented. At Microsoft, we have hundreds of people working on this, and for many of them, it’s their full-time job. Beyond that, we embrace the mindset that using AI responsibly is the responsibility of all of us, regardless of your role.
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The AI roadmap will be different for every organization, and it will look different depending on whether you are a tech company or not. Tech companies are more likely to already implement some form of intelligent agent in their software experiences, for example. But for everyone, the potential is huge, and the time to start is now.
Just like ride-sharing required smartphones, there are industries still being created that require AI to get off the ground. Most of us know that AI will be a complete game changer. We see practical applications – not just for the tech scene but for humanity, and that’s what’s really profound about it.
The AI market is moving fast, and the cycles in and around AI are faster than we’ve ever seen. Today, there is a huge opportunity for business leaders to embrace AI and adapt to the profound changes that lie ahead. There is greater opportunity for businesses that use AI to lead and drive that change.