Six Considerations To Help Speed Your AI-Readiness

6 minute read | 06 Feb 2024

By Michael Bachman

“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

If you didn’t doze through your high school literature classes, you might recognize those as the famous last words from the classic novel, “The Great Gatsby.” Relax, there’s no pop quiz about the meaning of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s concluding line. I’m not an English teacher.

But there is very much a teaching component to what I do because I help business leaders use technology more effectively. More and more, that means showing them how to adapt their operations for implementing generative artificial intelligence. When presenting my workshops about making organizations more AI-ready, I introduce a helpful thought exercise called GATSBY.  It’s short for:

  • Goals
  • As-is
  • To-be
  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
  • Budget
  • Why and Why Now

I know. The last thing any of us need is yet another business acronym. (Yes, I also took some grammar liberties with the “Y.”) But I’ve found this is a great way, so to speak, of framing the discussion about whether or not it’s a good idea to implement AI in particular use cases.

Every business is facing two big questions today. First, how can they profit from the AI revolution instead of being left behind? Second, how can they avoid the risks of implementing AI recklessly?

It’s apparent to everyone that our businesses must move fast to incorporate this breakthrough technology. But with the rush to climb aboard the bandwagon, there’s also the risk of indiscriminately shoveling AI into your processes without thoroughly vetting all the possible ramifications.

In other words, you might not like the results. It could even make your processes worse.

My GATSBY structure helps you decide where and (where not) infusing AI into your operations can be useful. If you can’t come up with satisfactory reasons in these six areas for implementing AI, you should think twice.

Goals: Being known as a hip company on the cutting edge of AI is not a goal. You should have reasons for implementing AI that are clear, measurable, and make sense for your business. Is your motivation saving time and money? Increasing market share? Improving customer experience? Staying ahead of competitors? You need to know what you want to achieve.

As-Is: This is the current state of your processes. What are the gaps between what you do now and achieving the goals that you’ve set for yourself? Thoroughly explore your current limitations.

To-Be: This is your desired future state. What are the best possible outcomes – your dreams and aspirations – if you were to see success using AI?

SWOT: We’re all familiar with this technique for analyzing the health of businesses. But I think of this as broader than evaluating your risk envelope for IT. Rather, it includes considering strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats from the business stakeholders’ perspective. What are the potential benefits versus the negatives of not doing it for the business?

Budget: Budget is always a priority. But I’m not just talking about cost in terms of finances. This also includes people and their mindshare. What will be the investment of their time and effort? Will it take away from other projects deemed critical to the business? This involves evaluating (and setting) your priorities.

Why and Why Now: Sure, you should also begin with the why. But why is there a need to do it right now? Again, keeping up with the Joneses in the race to implement AI in your business is not a reason. Will it demonstrably benefit the company to justify the time and effort at this point in time?

At workshops, we use a whiteboard to brainstorm common use cases – such as quote-to-cash processes – where AI may be helpful. I’ve also authored a guide called “AI and the End of Business as Usual” that offers more practical guidance for making your enterprise AI-ready. My goal is never to tell you how to use AI but to ensure that your processes and data are ready to feed whatever AI engine you seek to create to drive the business forward.

One last thing about GATSBY. The novel, indeed, was on my mind when I came up with this acronym. I believe there’s some symmetry between the book’s themes – our endless striving to be better and the desire to escape the past – and what businesses now face with generative AI.

It’s a general-purpose technology that offers tantalizing possibilities for achieving more with less to run our businesses. But without thoughtfully executing initiatives, there’s also the potential to drag us back and leave us even further behind the competition. I don’t want AI to become a cautionary tale for your businesses.

That’s as much poetry as you’ll get from this technologist for now. If you download our guide, I promise you’ll read more practical advice and guidance to help you see success with AI.

Download your copy of “AI and the End of Business as Usual: A Framework for the AI-Ready Enterprise” to get started on the path to practical AI.