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How to Talk to Executives About AI

What executives need to understand is the data, content and knowledge that feeds AI and machine learning algorithms are more important than the algorithms themselves.

Some vendors are positioning AI as something completely new and different - a game changing way of looking at data and information.  That is true in some respects, but in many respects, AI is an evolution of elements that have been part of the technology world for decades. 

In fact, new AI-related technologies are following patterns that all disruptive technologies have followed – a drastic reframing of capabilities, but still requiring a strong data and architectural foundation.  What is getting lost in the discussions is the role of traditional information practices and the vital role of people like information architects, user experience professionals and usability experts

Data Scientist or Information Architect? Yes!

User experience and information architecture professionals are being left out of important AI programs and initiatives because vendors are telling business people that they need completely new skill sets.  Executives now believe they only need “data scientists“; and that the activities of information architects and user experience professionals are no longer relevant or necessary. The fallacy being perpetuated is that the systems will build their own architecture and figure out organizing principles for content and data. In short, they will provide everything that’s needed – all through the magical algorithm built by data scientists.

Information executives, business executives, and information practitioners need to understand how to dispel these myths. They need to have the talking points to respond to colleagues and leaders who may be looking for other resources while missing out on the critical value of the individuals who know the business--those who understand foundational information management principles that are still necessary for success.

Rethinking Roles - Adapting to and Embracing Change

While the IA professional's experience is still highly relevant, some adjustment is needed to reinvent what they do to suit the needs of this changing marketplace. They can then rebrand themselves and communicate their capabilities in order to have a seat at the table.  The rapid pace of AI progress is going to require that every profession is going to have to adapt.  This means flexibility in their jobs and rethinking their organization’s place in the value chain.  Without that mindset, many people and businesses will be left behind those who understand and embrace these new capabilities and new ways of working and producing value.

The themes of re-think, reinvent and rebrand can be applied to virtually all industries and roles. The point is that AI is real. In some cases, it’s overblown and overhyped, there are lots of unrealistic expectations and there will be lots of failures. However, it can provide tremendous value to the organization if people don’t abandon the traditional foundational principles that are required for any information initiative.

Every organization is going to be facing the same issues – how do you adapt what you’re doing to take advantage of this game changing class of technologies? What is real about AI and what do you need to know? What do you need to be able to identify as important versus what is irrelevant, so you don’t make career limiting mistakes.

Uncertainty is Certain but Help is at Hand

At any point when a new set of technologies results in big changes in the marketplace confusion and uncertainty are inevitable. This confusion leads to wasted resources through due to poor decisions that lead to poorly conceived projects. The key is to sort out the dynamics so that you and your organization can move ahead with the times, while still benefiting from your core knowledge and experience.

Need help with your own transformation program? Lay the foundation for your organization’s success with our Digital Transformation Roadmap. With this whitepaper, assess and identify the gaps within your company, then define the actions and resources you need to fill those gaps.

Seth Earley
Seth Earley
Seth Earley is the Founder & CEO of Earley Information Science and the author of the award winning book The AI-Powered Enterprise: Harness the Power of Ontologies to Make Your Business Smarter, Faster, and More Profitable. An expert with 20+ years experience in Knowledge Strategy, Data and Information Architecture, Search-based Applications and Information Findability solutions. He has worked with a diverse roster of Fortune 1000 companies helping them to achieve higher levels of operating performance.

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