My Story as a CEO Adopting AI: Let's Dissect!

AI for Decision Makers

Manuela-Bianca Steinhuebel

7/24/20234 min read

Dear Decision Maker,

In the ever-evolving landscape of business and technology, the rise of AI has become an undeniable force that shapes the destiny of companies worldwide. As a fellow CEO, I understand the questions and uncertainties that AI brings to the forefront of our minds. Today, I want to take you on a journey through my personal experiences and insights in adopting AI as a strategic leader, and how it has transformed my organization.

During my career, I have witnessed the journeys of two distinct types of CEOs. Some are driven by FOMO, chasing every new technology that comes their way, hoping it will be their magic ticket to success. Others stick to the comfort of old technologies, afraid to embrace the unknown until it's too late. As we explore the realm of AI together, we will unveil the importance of strategy, timing, and the impact of AI on different aspects of your organization.

As a CEO myself, I found myself at a crossroads when AI came knocking at our door in 2015. The urgency was real, and I knew we had to act swiftly. The sales director was excitedly pitching AI products, and my gut told me this was a game-changer. But as an engineering leader, I was faced with the challenge of delivering the seemingly impossible. Yet, deep inside, I knew I had to seize this unique opportunity.

Now, let's be honest, there is never a "perfect" time to adopt AI. It's not about FOMO; it's about seizing the moment to create a competitive edge. Delaying the inevitable only widens the gap, making it harder to catch up. An AI strategy is essential to understand your ROI and the tangible benefits of AI.

In the realm of AI, there are three categories that captivate my attention. First, the powerful Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPC, Bart, and Orca, which can serve as virtual assistants and more. But let's remember, they learn from data, including yours. Caution and a clear data policy are vital.

Allow me to offer a suggestion; if you still wish to proceed with ChatGPT & Co., consider adopting an approach similar to that of cybersecurity. In most companies, information is categorized based on its confidentiality level, ranging from secret and confidential to internal and public. Just as with cybersecurity, assess the appropriate level of information you can share with ChatGPT. Ensure it aligns with your company's policies, and don't forget to train your team to comply with these guidelines.

Next, let's explore the world of off-the-shelf AI products that seem to be everywhere these days, enticing businesses with their promises of improved customer service, marketing efficiency, cyber security and HR capabilities. No doubt, these tools can streamline and automatize operations, contributing to your company's overall efficiency. It's essential to remember that optimizing processes is indeed mandatory for future survival in the ever-evolving business landscape, but it's not the ultimate competitive edge we are seeking. As visionary leaders, we must set our sights on more profound and impactful transformation. This leads us to the third category of AI adoption, where visionary companies focus on developing individual AI solutions tailored to their unique needs.

The third category is where the real magic happens. These custom-made AI solutions hold the power to unlock your company's full potential by harnessing the true value of your data in three distinct areas: improving your own products, revolutionizing internal workflows, and identifying new revenue streams. The statistics speak for themselves; AI adoption is no longer a luxury but a crucial technology for business survival, projected to see an annual growth rate of 37.3% from 2023 to 2030, with most revenue being generated from this category.

Now, you may wonder, how easy or difficult is it to embark on this AI journey? Allow me to be frank. The journey to AI success is not without its challenges. Digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation pave the way for AI adoption. However, a staggering 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail to achieve their objectives, often with profoundly damaging consequences, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group. I don’t believe too much in surveys, but this time I must agree with that. It’s also what I’ve observed myself. Even the language barrier adds complexity; certain languages, like my mother tongue, German, lack distinct words to differentiate between digitization and digitalization, leading to further confusion. Many executives use these three terms interchangeably. However, it’s essential to understand that for each stage different skills, accountabilities and invests are required. You can read more about it in my next edition.

Yet, with the right approach, owning and utilizing your data can lead to a quantum leap with AI. The secret to success lies in finding a guide, be it internal or external, who effortlessly weaves together technology expertise and a CEO's perspective. This harmonious blend ensures that these crucial aspects align and pave the path to transformative AI adoption, propelling your organization to new heights.

The journey ahead is both thrilling and challenging, but rest assured, you are not alone. As a seasoned professional with over two decades of experience at the forefront of disruptive technologies, I have successfully introduced innovative products in cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and software-defined vehicles. My journey from a software developer to a C-level executive has given me invaluable insights into the challenges tech companies face at every level.

If you're keen on demystifying the complexities of AI, avoiding costly mistakes, and harnessing its true potential, I warmly welcome you to connect with me. Let's embark on this transformative journey together and clear the fog around AI.

Wishing you continued success,