How to successfully pick your first AI project?

Artificial Intelligence is constantly making headlines in the business world and has been for a few years now. In fact, the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation has announced more than $2.3 billion in investments since 2017 to support the development of technologies and/or the adoption of artificial intelligence solutions[1] in organizations.

Indeed, according to Harvard Business Review, (HBR, 2019), “companies that do not use artificial intelligence will soon be obsolete“. Whether it is to accelerate operational processes, facilitate decision making, or even facilitate data management and processing, AI is increasingly becoming an essential tool if the goal is business optimization, all sectors considered.

Decision-makers and managers often perceive AI as a key technology, their employees fear it and see it as a threat to their jobs, while consultants present it as a panacea or an all-purpose solution (HBR,2019). It should not be seen as an enemy, on the contrary. A.I. works, above all, for people.

AI is far from being just a matter of technology! It is above all a problem of adoption, support and appropriation by men and women. And this, whether in the phases of upstream learning and then supervision, the human being is at the center of the system.
(Jean Philippe Desbiolles, 2019)

Evaluate your needs and choose your first AI project

Before considering the integration of AI into its operations, one must be able to properly assess its needs as an organization. There are many possibilities, but if we are looking to optimize our operations, it is essential to focus our efforts and resources in the right place. Here are five steps, suggested by Harvard Business Reviews (2019), to properly select your first AI project.

  1. Does the project generate value quickly?
    The first AI project should be achievable in six (6) to twelve (12) months with a high success rate and low risk. Thus, it will not consume too much time and resources to the organization. It is important, especially for a first AI project, to minimize the risks and maximize its contribution.

2. Analyze the task and what it will fulfill as needed.
A first AI project should never be colossal in terms of investment and resources to be deployed. Indeed, HBR recommends to aim at a small project with a potential for quick gains when you start AI. It is therefore important to analyze the following points in order to choose your first project:
    • Where are we in our technology lifecycle (is the project too ambitious)?
    • What are the strengths of our organization and how can they guide and support the choice of an AI project?
    • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the project?
    • Which opportunity(ies) are we trying to seize through the realization of this project?

3. Will the project allow me to stand out in my field of activity?
According to HBR, by choosing an industry-oriented project rather than a company-oriented one, investors and business partners will be more confident in supporting your project and will more easily understand its value. Company-oriented projects can be simplistic and present barriers to solutions that could be offered by AI. Targeting industry-oriented AI integrations will ensure that you evolve within the industry and put the organization in a better competitive position. Nothing prevents you from observing what the competition is doing!

4. Choosing the right partners & allies
If your AI/technology development team is still incomplete or under construction, no problem. Montreal has been, for a few years now, a hub of the AI and innovation world. Take advantage of this opportunity! Working with an external team will allow you to mobilize a smaller number of your staff, who will be able to pursue their tasks and projects. As a result, your organization will generate value faster. Obviously, you should consider building a complete technical team eventually, but considering the high speed at which AI evolves, it is better to start by subcontracting if you do not want to fall behind.

5. Does your project really generate value?
When the time comes to choose your first AI project, it must demonstrate a real and tangible contribution. An AI project can generate value in three different ways:
• Reducing costs (automation of operations is a good example, all industries combined)
• Increase revenues (predictive analytics has the potential to significantly increase sales, for example)
• Increase business opportunities (AI allows to widen business opportunities by allowing to consider projects that were not possible without its integration)

Benefit for employees

Indeed, there are many opportunities where artificial intelligence and its foundations in robotic or machine learning can automate important, manual and time-consuming tasks. The added value is to allow employees to focus solely on their work and thus contribute more effectively to the growth of the company they serve. AI is an operations assistant, a tool at our disposal that we cannot afford to neglect today.

Advantage for decision-makers

In the past, the decision-making process was based mostly on *a lot* of research and analysis of the sector, but also on the instinct of the person making the decision. Obviously, error is human, not mechanical. Artificial intelligence has opened the door to a new way of doing things. A continuous process of automation, enabling business leaders to make more informed decisions based on factual information, allows the margin of error to be considerably minimized. The growing amount of data generated by the Big Data era now makes it possible to make much more accurate predictions to guide decisions and assist organizations in the process.

In short, AI not only offers great potential for cost reduction and productivity increase, but its deep value lies in the assistance and guidance it provides to the company in which it is implemented. Now more than ever, companies have the ability to make better business decisions based on factual data.

If you have any questions, queries, or potential projects but don’t know how to make the first move, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or to consult our webinars, they are a great way to have first insight on abstract concepts.

Neos Group Inc.


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