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Jan 21, 2022

AI: How to Explain the Inertia of Companies?

by Hugues Foltz Executive vice-president

Artificial intelligence

It’s moose hunting season, a most sacred week for a Saguenay guy like me. No cellphones, text messages, emails, or internet… There is no greater way to take a step back on certain issues!

It’s precisely in this context that the idea of this article came to me. There is indeed one question that annoys me and for which I can’t find a clear answer: why do so many entrepreneurs and managers still hesitate to use artificial intelligence (AI) in their business to transform it?
Let’s put aside the common fear and incomprehension of technologies. These reasons have become all too common to explain the inertia of a staggering number of companies when it comes to AI, and I personally see them as an excuse not to innovate. In most cases, there is a lack of will towards innovation that is generally anchored in the very culture of many businesses.
However, there are definitely some entrepreneurs who wish to innovate – and, above all, who wish to do it right. Keeping them in mind, I was able to come up with an obvious, yet helpful conclusion that will surely point many companies in the right direction.
Implanting AI in your business is one thing, but you’ll still need a good leader to carry out your digital transformation. Someone to help you prioritize the right projects and work alongside your suppliers. In short, you’ll need a project manager to carry and supervise your company’s digital shift… and finding such a person can indeed be a real head-scratcher!

Interestingly, one of the first reflexes of companies is often to hire “AI experts” or data scientists to act as a watchdog against service providers, software solutions and even their own partners. Even though the virtues of AI and its countless opportunities are better understood, many are still afraid of never being able to master this “obscure” technology. That’s why hiring AI experts is often motivated by a fear of the unknown rather than common sense. Before adding an AI scientist to your team, ask yourself how such a person would actually make a good project manager.

Becoming an AI expert is no easy task, and it requires a high level of education to be able to create efficient algorithms and take advantage of a wide range of data. Asking them to manage your projects is a bit like asking a heart surgeon to stop operating and simply fill out paperwork or make schedules.

What’s more, skilled AI resources are scarce and in great demand. And that's not to mention the different areas of expertise in artificial intelligence, which may or may not be relevant to the specific problem you want to solve. Do you really wish to enter this race, when what you’re really looking for is a good project manager with an affinity for new technologies?
Who should you hire, then? The answer is more obvious than you might think. I have a simple formula that will allow you to hit the mark and put the right person at the head of your digital transformation projects. Here are, in my opinion, the four elements to consider if you want to find the perfect candidate:

  • The best person to manage your digital transformation projects and work with your suppliers should come from your own organization – or, at the very least, thoroughly understand its critical processes.
  • The crux of the matter with AI is to implement it at the right place in order to transform your company. Consequently, you need to bet on someone methodical, who fully understands the importance of trusting numbers and data.
  • This person must also be comfortable working with complex technologies, without necessarily being able to program them. The general understanding of their functioning and concept should be enough.
  • Lastly, look for someone who may not have studied in artificial intelligence, but who grasps the full potential of new technologies and enjoys learning about them.

Engineers often make excellent candidates for such a role. Through their training, they are used to juggling complex or abstract concepts and working on projects where several fields of expertise are required. Their background and skills are perfect for AI implementation.
Please don’t forget the accountants! These number-lovers know better than anyone how to make data talk. With this kind of reflex, it’s easier to achieve a digital transformation. They can also ensure a good Return on Investment (ROI), a must-have for any projects whatsoever!
To sum things up, the ideal candidate is someone who, by nature, believes in numbers and is comfortable with making decisions based solely on data. A person with a thirst for knowledge on new technologies and whom you can fully trust. Of course, one should not neglect the typical characteristics of any good project manager: rigorous, professional, result-oriented, etc.
As a final advice, make sure you do not overcomplicate the task of whomever is in charge of your AI projects. Remember that for most companies, artificial intelligence no longer needs to go through basic research. It has to be implanted with precision by qualified experts, and your projects should be managed by someone who knows your business – and what sets it apart from your competitors – like the back of their hands. That’s how you’ll use technologies to their full potential!