“Can I have an AI, please” – the challenge of being the company AI Champion

05.03.2024

Every hype cycle in AI brings its curiosities. Back in 2018, during the previous cycle, every newspaper was filled with headlines like “AI will take these jobs” and “Top 10 jobs that will be replaced by AI”. Being pragmatic technologists we partnered with the University of Helsinki to launch the Elements of AI – a free primer on AI. Our goal was to dispel unnecessary fear around the topic and to enable non-technical people to have a discussion around a topic normally reserved only for the few.

During that time, the maturity level at companies was not high either. Every self-respecting company was running experiments and trying to squeeze AI algorithms into their existing products, trying to make them marginally better and much harder to maintain. Only to have the revelation later that AI is not a solution to every business problem, nor should it be. Most problems you can solve much faster and cheaper with something less fancy.

In 2024 the hype is not that different – this time it is generative AI instead of machine learning, the “AI” of 2018. Organizations are again asking for a magic cure by name – AI – that would solve their business problems. And the answer still stands: AI most likely will not solve them.

To solve the dilemma between supply and demand, many companies have created the role of an internal AI champion. These people are usually AI enthusiasts tasked with building AI competence, strategy, and practical use cases.

To achieve these goals, these champions try to bridge the gap between AI solutions and practical business applications. They chart existing solutions on the market, lead pilot projects within the organization, and grow the internal maturity level by educating the rest of the company.

The role is far from easy. Sometimes it might feel like being a cook in a vegan kitchen serving customers asking for a perfectly cooked steak. For example, business developers might ask for AI solutions for problems that might better be solved in traditional automation.

You might have many challenges, but education does not need to be one of them. The next time somebody asks you for “an AI” you might redirect them to take the free Elements of AI online course first and come back after that. Having the patience to do this gently a thousand times is one of the biggest traits of a successful AI champion.

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