AI Readiness – “Ready for what, exactly?”

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AI Readiness – “Ready for what, exactly?”

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By default, information managers and the broader information management community should be left, right, and at the center of the AI revolution.

I spent this past week in San Antonio (the coolest city by far in Texas) for the AIIM conference, and just like at every other tech conference, discussions surrounding AI have been the show’s star. But this conference is a little different —in that though there are many IT folks in attendance, just as many attendees are on the business side of things, tasked with using tech to improve or govern their organization’s operations. One of the highlights of the conference for me was a round table on “AI Readiness” I attended, which, on the one hand, came off the rails immediately but simultaneously hit the nail on the head in quite a profound manner.

The entire industry is talking about “AI Readiness.” These discussions logically focus on questions and challenges such as data hygiene, process awareness, and change management. But this round table posed a profoundly different question, call it a ‘meta’ question, “Ready for What?”

Meta-questions are, by definition, questions about questions, and the assumption that we all need to be ready for AI spawns a vast array of questions in and of itself. I want to be clear here: I am all in favor of organizations preparing their organization’s data, technology investments, processes, and people to be ready for AI advances and potential adoption. However, there are more significant questions to be answered in this equation: How exactly will those advances impact my organization? Where, when, and how should I adopt AI? Maybe most important of all, why should I adopt AI? Do we have to? Is it mandatory? 

What is worrying is that there are currently few clear answers to these critical questions, yet as one attendee stated, “AI is sucking all the air out of the room.”. So, there should be clearer answers and much more rigorous and honest debate, joined by tech giants with a vested interest in AI’s commercial success but led by communities of practice within organizations and across industries. Yet, the dazzle of the AI marketing machine seems to have temporarily blinded many. If the best we can come up with is summarizing documents efficiently and processing invoices faster, AI isn’t worth the cost and effort. Both the challenge and the opportunity of AI are to figure out what we can do that we could never do before, how we can bring about positive change in our organizations, and how we can reimagine and reinvent our working world for the better. Right now, though, we are preparing for something nebulous and, based on the history of enterprise software, likely to fall short of expectations.

That is what the closing keynote I hosted aimed to stimulate; my guests on stage, Galina Datskovsky and Kashyap Kompella, didn’t pull any punches. AI is coming; whether we like it or not, we can do AI, or AI will do us, simple. AI depends on feeding on high-quality, accurate, and relevant data. By default, information managers and the broader information management community should be left, right, and at the center of the AI revolution. As of today, though, it is not, and that needs to change fast before it’s too late. Galina and Kashyap made it abundantly clear that information managers need to shout louder and, if necessary, force themselves into the conversation, if for no other reason that they are the ones that know what will and will not work. As a society, though, we need to consider that meta-question ‘ready for what?’ and figure out what we want, as otherwise, the only benefits AI might provide in the enterprise are cost cuts.

On a more positive note, the AIIM conference has long been one of my favorites and provides a chance to network with brilliant people from diverse industries and perspectives. AI ethics alongside traditional document and record managers worldwide, representing oil and gas, government, higher education, manufacturing, etc. It’s how conferences should be: good informative sessions followed by deep, supportive, and insightful discussions. The fact that it was held this year in San Antonio, a charming location, to say the least, was the cherry on top. 

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