AI insights: Going from buzzword to business advantage
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AI: Going from buzzword to business advantage

AI: Going from buzzword to business advantage

Here are key tips from AI early adopters to help IT teams focus on the benefits rather than the hype

Gulf Business
AI: From buzzword to business advantage

Few topics could rival the clutch that artificial intelligence (AI) has had on humanity’s collective attention through 2023 – an achievement for which it was named the ‘word of the year’ by Collins Dictionary. It’s therefore easy to overlook that in terms of the promises it has claimed to deliver on, artificial intelligence is still very much in its infancy. Consequently, tech pros often find themselves pulled in two different directions.

On the one hand, they feel a need to act with urgency to implement AI-powered solutions to enjoy the benefits of increased productivity and efficiency. But at the same time, there is hesitancy about the potential unintended consequences of AI and the risks involved with implementing potentially unproven tools too quickly.

Adoption is inevitable

Whether or not to embrace AI is no longer the question. After all, AI spending in the Middle East and Africa is forecasted to increase at a CAGR of 29.7 per cent over the 2022–2026 period. Instead, tech pros are now struggling to answer the question of whether they are adding AI solutions into processes too aggressively or at exactly the rate innovation demands. The push and pull of AI can be exhausting. Being too cautious risks falling behind competitors who are more boldly embracing AI. Move too quickly and your team risks stumbling on implementing new – and, in some cases – largely unproven AI tools.

While Middle Eastern economies have largely bucked the global trend, enterprises in the region must still seek to maximise productivity, performance, growth potential, and interconnectivity. As software companies increasingly integrate AI features into their products and digital ecosystems evolve at a breakneck pace, tech professionals continue to struggle to understand how solutions available on the market can address the specific challenges they face.

With constrained resources, limited time, and mounting workloads due to increasingly complex environments, IT teams have embraced AI tools to provide a critical lift. AI can pre-define processes, automate repetitive workflows, set reminders, filter, and tag projects, helping team members focus on other important business needs. AI-powered IT service management features can support troubleshooting and guided incident resolution. AIOps is already hard at work helping with proactive digital services management and paving the road toward autonomous operations, which will require little to no human intervention.

The IT sector is also beginning to understand how the benefits of advances in natural language processing can aid DevOps, SecOps, and CloudOps teams.

While already highly effective in IT, AI has historically had a long adoption timeframe, like other emerging technologies.

IT teams that have successfully integrated AI, offer lessons for others seeking to understand how to strike the balance on how quickly to implement AI solutions for tasks previously managed by humans.

To make sure your organisation can win with AI, consider the following steps:

01. Analyse your needs and understand what challenges you are seeking to overcome: No one rushes out to buy a new car. Instead, you look at the various models on the market and think about which ones meet your driving needs. This is the same approach organisations should take when considering how to deploy AI.

Our customers have found that IT teams can save an average of 23 hours per week on IT service management tasks. However, you must think critically about where best to deploy AI.

02. To decide where AI is most helpful, you first must audit your organisation and learn where that extra productivity would be most impactful. AI can help save costs and quickly provide a return on investment if you approach it correctly and deploy it where the need is greatest.

By understanding the unique challenges your organisation faces, you can better determine where and how AI can be most impactful.

03. Understand AI can’t replace your team. Rather, when implemented well, AI becomes part of your team: With a PwC study highlighting that 46 per cent of UAE organisations, and 58 per cent of Saudi organisations face a skills shortage, it’s tempting to think that AI could plug shortfalls in the workforce.

However, when it comes to adopting AI, prioritising ethical implementation is critical. That means making the tools part of your team rather than a replacement for human team members. Our human teams will always make up the core of a successful business.

AI is not a replacement for human critical thinking. We can’t abandon the creativity driving successful human teams. Rather, AI should be a tool that enhances a team’s creativity. AI is helping to automate mundane tasks, but humans will continue to play the role of creativity driver.

04. Keep your finger on the pulse of AI: New AI developments are happening almost every day. Teams need to stay up to date on the latest developments, such as Abu Dhabi making Falcon 40B – a foundational large language model (LLM) with 40 billion parameters and trained on one trillion tokens – available open source for research and commercial use. This can be as simple as following a few trusted reporters or subscribing to newsletters covering updates and new solution providers offer.

Remaining up to date on the latest developments is critical to ensuring teams are getting the most out of the AI technologies they deploy.

05. Don’t be afraid to change the plan once it’s in motion: Every organisation is responsible for keeping its finger on the pulse of industry shifts and customer needs. It is critical to continue to evolve and grow as these needs change. As your company prepares to use AI to reach the next level, ensure there’s a strong foundation to build on that allows you to quickly adapt.

Keep in mind…

While AI may be the most popular buzzword in tech right now, it’s a relatively young technology that holds plenty of promise. By 2030, AI is expected to contribute an estimated $320bn to the Middle East’s economy. Tech professionals must therefore be prepared to deal with the push and pull.

When getting started with AI, as with any new technologies, you should keep in mind one of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library guiding principles: Start where you are. Take stock of the solutions and tools already available. Communicate with your teams regularly. Share the latest developments in AI and automation tools with them, so that any implementations are less jarring and easier to acclimate to.

In other words: Don’t stall innovation, but don’t spend your whole technology budget on new AI tools until you have a plan for how you’ll use them.

Regardless of how strong of a pull AI has on us these days, the process of adoption is about endurance – keeping up momentum for the long haul without getting exhausted.

The writer is the SVP – SolarWinds.

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