Aims to make companies smarter about artificial intelligence
The software behemoth has rolled out AI Business School as a resource for executives looking to craft an AI strategy that resonates across their organizations.
The Lowdown: While AI Business School does address the technology fundamentals of artificial intelligence, technology is not the focal point, per se, of the initiative. Rather, Microsoft is focusing on helping business leaders strategize their approach to AI, develop a corporate culture that fosters the adoption of AI from top to bottom, and identify ways of using AI that are responsible, secure, and compliant with government rules and regulations.
The Details: Developed in partnership with INSEAD, a graduate business school with campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Microsoft’s new AI education program offers a curriculum with four learning modules:
• Strategy: Organizations from different verticals, such as manufacturing, retail, telecom, and health care, share knowledge and best practices for driving successful strategic approaches to AI.
• Culture: Through detailed case studies, “students” learn best approaches for building an AI-ready culture.
• Responsibility: Microsoft President Brad Smith leads a discussion on responsible AI approaches, sharing white papers that detail lessons learned by Microsoft in its early AI efforts, as well as guidelines on how to approach and use AI in an ethical, responsible way.
• Technology: Microsoft leaders Harry Shum (EVP), Lili Cheng (CVP), Steve Guggenheimer (CVP), and others explain the fundamentals of AI, laying the groundwork for successful AI deployments.
The master class series is available online, at no cost, in an on-demand, easy-to-digest format, which means that business leaders and management teams can pick and choose the content most relevant to their needs and most convenient for their schedules. Course materials include brief written case studies and guides, plus videos of lectures, perspectives, and talks that busy executives can access in their own time.
The business school complements other, more technology-focused AI learning initiatives from Microsoft, including the developer-focused AI School and the Microsoft Professional Program for Artificial Intelligence, which provides job-ready skills and real-world experience to engineers and others looking to improve their skills in AI and data science.
Background: According to a number of recent research studies, businesses show sufficient interest in deploying AI solutions but face key obstacles in doing so.
Research from Microsoft found that high-growth companies are leveraging AI more than their low-growth counterparts, with about half of high-growth respondents planning to use more AI to improve decision-making in the coming year. At the same time, less than 20 percent of those high-growth organizations are integrating AI across their operations.
What’s standing in the way of AI deployments? In its latest survey on the topic, O’Reilly, a company that delivers knowledge and training for technology-driven transformation, 23 percent of respondents cited “company culture” as a key factor that’s slowing down AI implementations. Other high-ranking factors include a “lack of skilled people” (18 percent) and “difficulties identifying use cases” (17 percent).
In a survey of nearly 500 U.S. Federal employees by the Government Business Council (GBC), respondents said they recognize the value of artificial intelligence and related technologies but want to know more about the platforms’ potential impact on their roles and responsibilities.
About three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) in that study acknowledged it will be important for them to develop AI skills in the next three to five years, but only 26 percent said their agency has communicated AI’s potential impact adequately, well, or very well. At the same time, more than half of those respondents (61 percent) expressed concern about a lack of technical support and training around AI.
The Buzz: “There’s a gap between what people want to do and the reality of what is going on in their organizations today, and the reality of whether their organization is ready,” said Mitra Azizirad, corporate vice president for AI marketing at Microsoft. “Developing a strategy for AI extends beyond the business issues. It goes all the way to the leadership, behaviors, and capabilities required to instill an AI-ready culture in your organization.
“This school is a deep dive into how you develop a strategy and identify blockers before they happen in the implementation of AI in your organization,” added Azizirad.
Nick McQuire, an analyst covering AI for CCS Insight, said more than half of the companies surveyed by CCS are already researching, implementing, or trying out AI- or machine learning-related projects, but very few are using it across their organizations and identifying business opportunities and problems that AI can address. “That’s because there’s limited understanding in the business community about what AI is, what it can do, and, ultimately, what are the applications,” he said. “Microsoft is trying to fill that gap.”
Channelnomics Point of View: Initiatives like Microsoft’s demonstrate just how challenging it can be for organizations to leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence successfully. Faced with a lack of technical know-how and strategic planning, and a corporate culture that doesn’t embrace AI adoption across the board, many businesses have chosen to take a wait-and-see approach to implementation. By taking advantage of these kinds of vendor programs, while recruiting solution providers for their technical acumen and knowledge of specific use cases, organizations can stop stalling and take the next step forward.