5 minute read 2 Feb 2022
AI transformation

How C-suite support can put AI at the heart and centre of Irish businesses

By John Ward

EY Ireland Partner, Head of Digital & Emerging Technology

Skilled communicator with strengths in distilling complex architectural designs.

5 minute read 2 Feb 2022

Having leadership buy-in for the AI journey becomes increasingly critical as organisations aspire for potential return on investment.

In brief
  • If the leadership can identify points along the value stream that can better leverage AI, it will help smoothen the uncertainties along the way.
  • Leadership commitment needs to be toward sustainable and value-driven AI initiatives that are embedded across the organisation.
  • The C-suite’s support and buy-in are imperative for businesses to create an innovation ecosystem for artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been creating value in all organisations – across sectors and functions. It is now at that inflection point where conversations have veered from value-based aspects of AI to the business imperatives of taking AI to scale. As organisations meander through the AI productivity paradox – where it is not seen garnering the kind of big productivity gains that it was expected to – the scalability of AI is where the Irish organisations need to keep the focus on.


To make AI the true competitive differentiator, the opportunity lies in taking it to scale for better decisions, better actions, and better throughput. Having leadership commitment to the AI journey becomes increasingly critical as industrialisation of AI picks up momentum and every organisation aspires to see the potential return on investment. The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the pace of digital transformation in Ireland that is being led by large businesses and SMEs’ increased adoption of AI. Ireland’s pledge to innovation and digital transformation, as spelt out in its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy¹, has at its heart the National AI Digital Innovation Hub that will take on the role of the national first stop for AI.

Leadership can unveil hidden opportunities

Unstinted C-suite support is key for businesses to create AI innovation ecosystems, build AI rapidly and at scale as organisations grapple with post-pandemic recovery. AI adoption is a journey. It is not a point-in-time project. There is no straight path from beginning an AI project to achieving its real value. And there may not be successes at each step of the way.

Not every organisation is reaping the expected ROI or is doing what they would like to do around AI. The journey becomes easier when leadership understands the gaps and the pain points. To build a seamless enterprise AI model that embraces the power of data and cloud, here are some of the steps the C-suite can take to smoothen the uncertainties along the way:

To maximise the transformative effects of artificial intelligence, speed and scale are critical factors. The C-suite can take AI beyond dashboards and insights into more specific, action-oriented areas that provide opportunities for managing business in a better way. Leadership commitment needs to be toward value-driven and sustainable AI initiatives that are embedded across the organisation ‑ in workflows, core business processes, and customer journeys. The C-suite needs to provide that strategic push but must also drive mindset shifts, domain-based strategies and cultural changes that can help scale AI projects.

The European Commission has made digital transformation, including through AI technologies, one of the pillars of its €672.5b Recovery and Resilience facility, which has been developed to mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic. Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan includes an €85m programme to drive adoption of digital technologies, including AI, by businesses². There can be no better time for the C-suite in Ireland to lead from the front on accelerated AI adoption and strengthening of the AI ecosystem with such targeted funding in the offing.

Summary

To make AI the true competitive differentiator, the scalability of AI is where the Irish organisations need to focus on. The journey becomes easier when leadership understands the gaps and the pain points, especially in terms of workflows and core business processes.

About this article

By John Ward

EY Ireland Partner, Head of Digital & Emerging Technology

Skilled communicator with strengths in distilling complex architectural designs.