Planning for a successful AI journey

By Jamie Popkin, Gartner, Inc.

Today cars are the norm, but it took decades for the automobile to develop from an idea to the car-oriented life we now lead. Similarly, the idea for artificial intelligence emerged more than 60 years ago but will likely take another 60 years to be woven into the fabric of modern life.

As will be discussed during the upcoming Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Toronto, most CEOs recognize that AI will be critical to their business, but few enterprises have yet to undertake AI initiatives. A Gartner CIO survey found only four per cent of respondents had deployed AI in their organizations.

AI has remarkable potential, but such an immature technology also poses severe risks for those investing in it.

Key Takeaways for CIOs

AI can solve business problems today if you develop applications carefully. But don’t let early success mislead you. Instead, recognize that we’re in the pioneering era.

In the long run, you’ll get more value out of what you learn about AI than from the uses it addresses today. As the technology matures, the more obsolete today’s applications, uses and AI-driven business models will become.

AI is still immature across key dimensions of its future function and capabilities. It’s heavily focused on core generic technologies like graphical processing units, deep neural networks and natural-language processing.

A rapid set of improvement cycles will occur as AI develops, along with a diffusion of the core technology. This will result in a vast array of everyday products and services.

Over the next 75 years, we’ll see multiple generations of the AI industry, spawning new uses, markets, and possibly industries.

Planning for the future

Your strategic planning process today needs to have a forward-looking perspective for the long journey ahead. Inspire the executive team to ask, “What will our use of AI look like in another 60 years?”

Zoom out your strategic planning lens to seven – 10 years to avoid hyperlocal planning horizons. Otherwise, R&D, business planning and investment decisions may be negatively affected.

Why is it hard to plan on long timescales? Most strategic planning processes are short-term relative to a 75-year cycle. They focus on three- to five-year strategic business plans, two-year budgeting cycles and quarterly financial results.

An extended planning horizon will help you avoid several common pitfalls:

  • Failure to build required competencies
  • Over-investment in short-lived products and architectures
  • Opportunity costs of flawed decisions or investments
  • Inability to detect and interpret important technical, social, economic and political events that will determine the course of AI over time


Jamie Popkin is a Distinguished VP analyst in the Office of the CIO research team of Gartner Research.  Mr. Popkin covers digital business transformation topics, and data and analytics strategy for the CIO.

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