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How to turn AI’s potential into progress in 2024

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Aisha Mendez, Associate Partner for AI & Automation at Infosys Consulting UK, takes a look at why businesses must prioritise AI to stay ahead, unlock productivity gains, and embrace the cutting-edge of technological development.

Aisha Mendez is Associate Partner for AI & Automation at Infosys Consulting UK.

AI

Aisha has held senior AI and automation roles at BNP Paribas and IBM, and now advises some of the world’s biggest companies in their AI strategy and implementation for Infosys Consulting. In her current role, Aisha is responsible for orchestrating end-to-end transformation programs, technology implementation and also large-scale re-engineering and digitisation initiatives, invariably rooted in data science and pure tech paradigms. 

“How do you measure a year in the life?” asked Rent, the hit 1996 Broadway show.

Many music fans would point to the annual release of their Spotify Wrapped playlists, with their favourite songs and artists defining their experiences over the year. But more broadly, dictionaries’ “words of the year” can offer a headline insight into the worldwide events, emotions, and ideas that dominated the previous twelve months. And in 2023, there was only one contender.

Collins Dictionary was the most direct, simply selecting “AI” as its defining 2023 word. Meanwhile, Cambridge Dictionary picked “hallucinate” and Merriam-Webster chose “authentic”— not for their traditional definitions, but for their new connections to generative AI and its intermittent production of both genuine and false information.

Simply, AI dominated 2023. But some sceptics continue to dismiss it as hype, while less technologically literate users remain unsure or unwilling to embrace it. I can say with confidence that AI is not only here to stay, but that it’s perhaps the most revolutionary technology of our lifetimes to date. So, moving into 2024, businesses must prioritise AI to stay ahead of competitors, unlock unprecedented productivity gains, and embrace the cutting-edge of technological development.

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Will AI become even more significant in 2024?

An exciting and unique element of generative AI is that it can be used by almost anyone – you don’t need to be a traditional coder or even an expert in AI at all. This massively widens the possibilities for its application within a business, as well as by consumers. Of course, the better you understand generative AI, the better-quality prompts you can provide it with (and therefore get more valuable outputs in return), but the wider skillset needed is changing to be more accessible.

Generative AI can do so much more than provide conversational responses to written questions. From automating code generation to synthesising pharmaceutical molecules, the technology is a multi-tool of digital transformation. It can be harnessed for personalised marketing at scale, predictive analytics, and even creating digital art. In the realm of cybersecurity, generative models can simulate network behaviour to identify vulnerabilities before they’re exploited. In my personal working life, I rely on a suite of ‘helpers’, from ChatGPT to MidJourney and Gamma (the latter is especially useful, because who actually enjoys pulling PowerPoints together?).” 

Generative AI is poised to be a transformative force across industries, reshaping how we solve complex problems, generate content, and even make decisions. Its applications are only limited by our imagination. Ignoring this technology doesn’t just mean missing out on incremental improvements, but risks making a company obsolete as competitors leverage AI to revolutionize workflows and customer experiences. It’s not just a game-changer; it’s table stakes for future relevance. So, how can you successfully harness it in 2024 and beyond?

Top tips for integrating AI into your business next year

First things first: stop overthinking it. Generative AI isn’t some esoteric riddle wrapped in an enigma; it’s a tool. A fantastic, gloriously complex tool, but a tool, nonetheless. Start by looking at your business processes and asking, “Where am I tired of saying, ‘There must be a better way!’?” That’s your sweet spot for generative AI. As for who should be around the table, you need your decision-makers, of course—the CEO and CTOs—but please don’t ignore your front-line workers. They know the processes better than anyone. Add a few sceptics in for good measure; you need people who’ll ask the hard questions.

In the journey to implement generative AI technologies, a multidisciplinary approach is not just beneficial—it’s essential. Naturally, IT and Operations are cornerstone departments, responsible for the technical implementation and ongoing support of these solutions. They function as the backbone of any AI initiative. However, the ecosystem that sustains and governs generative AI is complex and touches upon various areas of an organisation. For instance, Legal and Compliance teams are equally crucial; they help navigate the regulatory landscape and ethical considerations around AI use, ensuring that the organisation’s policies reflect the highest standards of responsible conduct.

Human Resources also plays a vital role in the adoption and integration of generative AI technologies. As job roles evolve and responsibilities shift, HR becomes central to the change management process, ensuring a smooth transition for staff and maintaining organisational health. Business changes around generative AI that impact employees must be announced in a manner that helps ensure it’s used/seen in a positive way. Leaders often communicate change as if they’re announcing a weather report: factual and devoid of emotion. But change is emotional! Especially when it’s about something as life-altering as AI. Lead with empathy, not just facts.

Be sure to introduce a Generative AI Use Policy, but please make it understandable. Legal jargon is as appealing as soggy chips. A well-crafted policy will educate your team on the potential pitfalls, from accuracy to copyright issues. Remember, a policy isn’t there to cover your back; it’s there to empower your people. Speaking of rules and regulations, let’s take a look at the wider evolutions happening across the AI industry.

How lawmakers and tech companies can safely foster future innovation

At the UK AI Summit in November, 28 countries agreed to work together to combat the risks posed by AI development under the ‘Bletchley Declaration’, while the UK and the US also announced the creation of collaborative AI Safety Institutes for the research and testing of emerging AI.

I was thrilled to see participating nations unite to address common challenges and formulate a cohesive approach to responsible AI development. But while regulations are necessary as we move into 2024, we should also prioritise the nurturing of innovation. Supporting start-ups and smaller AI firms with incentives, funding, and access to data is key to fostering continued progress in AI development.

Similarly, we need to acknowledge the underrepresentation of female-led AI start-ups in funding. We must foster a more inclusive environment within the AI industry, where diversity is celebrated and promoted and this should extend to funding channels, so female-founded AI companies have equal access to the investment opportunities required for responsible AI development. These types of diverse perspectives in AI are not just about fairness—they are utterly crucial for mitigating biases and discrimination within AI systems. AI learns from the humans building and using it, so ensuring it isn’t skewed or stunted because only a select few are involved in it is important.

Progress in 2024 will likely involve encouraging venture capital firms to adopt more inclusive policies, fostering an environment where all founders are subjected to fair scrutiny, and actively promoting diversity in the AI ecosystem. A diverse development team translates to more comprehensive and effective solutions. The future of work isn’t human vs. machine; it’s human and machine—co-creating value in ways we’ve just started to realise.

Channelling AI’s potential for good

If 2023 was the year of AI discovery and experimentation, 2024 is the time to get serious about using it for tangible progress. Here, getting your employees on board is crucial. You must ensure AI is treated as a collaborative tool for your staff rather than a substitute for human creativity and intelligence.

Minimising fears, whilst maximising excitement around generative AI, transparency and vision-setting, are paramount. Employees should be part of the conversation from the get-go, and continually involved in AI’s role within the organization. Open dialogues create a space for staff to voice concerns and for leadership to address them head-on, setting the record straight that AI is a tool to augment, not replace, human capabilities. Moreover, re-skilling and upskilling programs are non-negotiables. In 2024, many businesses will likely invest in a training ecosystem that demystifies AI and empowers employees to leverage it in their roles. When people see first-hand how these tools make their work more impactful, concerns often give way to enthusiasm.

Lastly, celebrate the wins, big and small, achieved through human-AI collaboration. Showcase these as case studies to the entire organization. This not only fosters a positive narrative around AI but also instils a culture of innovation. By making the workforce part of the AI journey, you replace fear with ownership and future-proof your human capital. AI is here to stay—but it’s still no match for your people’s wisdom, empathy, and creativity.

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