Honest assessment always needed before making next plan

By JJ Rosen March 13, 2024
Honest assessment always needed before making next plan

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.

Our company had its annual strategic planning retreat a few weeks ago.

We usually start with a recap of the past year and then move on to defining our plan of attack for the next 12 months. How can we grow? What mistakes have we made that we can learn from?  Do we need to adjust our budgets?

There are a ton of questions we hope to answer over a couple of days camped out in our conference room.  All of them are important in helping us on our constant quest to be the best we can be.

But this year, there was one question that stood out among all the others.

Are we ready for AI?

As a software development and IT support firm, AI has been top-of-mind for us for the past decade or so. We initially saw demand for AI development only from larger companies and well-funded startups who could afford its relatively high cost.

But in the past couple of years the AI landscape has changed.

With the advent of ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot, Google’s Gemini, and literally thousands of other great products, the costs have dropped, and technology has improved.

Large, medium, small—AI is now within reach of pretty much every company.  And what’s more, those who struggle to implement it are likely to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

But where to start?

The first step is to do what we call an “AI Assessment.”

This is the all-important planning phase, the blueprints for the house.  It’s essential. Without some planning and analysis, there’s a risk of making an AI mess.

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Our own AI assessment project, which we code-named “AtibaAI” so it sounded cooler, took shape as a planning phase with the goal of defining the internal business challenges and opportunities that AI could help us solve.

Some of the challenges we have are common to most every company.  Sales, marketing, finance, and operations—there’s always room to improve.  And other challenges are unique to us, or at least unique to our industry.

To organize our AI assessment, we decided to focus on three areas:

  • Risks. This is simply a list of the “what could go wrong” items that we could potentially mitigate with AI tools.
  • Operational inefficiencies. This is a list of routine tasks and processes that AI might help us do better.
  • Opportunities.  This is the fun one and explores how we can use AI to meet our long-term growth goals.

We then ranked our list by priority, putting the items with the highest potential impacts at the top.

We were now ready to find AI solutions to help us reduce risk, become more efficient, and help us grow.

Finding the best AI-based solutions for any business takes some time.

Just like every organization can have its own unique challenges, choosing the right AI solutions is not a one-size-fits-all.

Cost constraints, ease of implementation, cultural implications and ROI (return on investment) calculations all come into play. We were of course tempted to use AI to help us do our AI assessment, but we quickly realized this was a process that needed the human touch.

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The end result of our AI assessment project is our “AI Tech Stack,” a set of tools we decided to use and in some cases program ourselves to meet our needs.

Embracing AI as an opportunity rather than a threat is our mindset.  In my next column, I will share the AI tools that are working for us and some of the ones we recommend to our clients.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a custom software development firm and Nashville IT support company. Visit Atiba.com for more info.

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