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Want to introduce AI into your workflows? Here’s some advice.

By Lianne Stewart

Published March 15, 2024 • 6 Min Read

To set you up for AI success in 2024, we spoke with experts and early adopters to understand ways to introduce AI technology to your organization this year.

Over the past few year, artificial intelligence has transformed work, providing quick support for tasks such as writing, coding or information gathering. It may seem like everyone is jumping aboard the AI train, but a recent report on its Adoption from Toronto Metropolitan University’s think tank The Dais reveals that only 3.7% of Canadian businesses deployed AI by 2021.

It can feel overwhelming to embrace a world-changing technology without understanding its complexities and challenges. To set you up for AI success in 2024, we spoke with experts and early adopters to understand ways to introduce AI technology to your organization this year.

Start by Starting: Overcoming the Knowledge Gap

Embracing constantly changing technologies is challenging, and Angus Lockhart, Senior Policy Analyst at The Dais, says the cost of knowledge is a primary obstacle that hinders businesses from experimenting in artificial intelligence. “Taking time to learn about potential AI solutions means spending less time on other parts of the business and in many cases that is hard to justify with unknown returns,” he says.

April Hicke has a potential solution to any reservations about new tech. She is the co-founder & Chief Growth Officer of Toast, a Canadian-grown collective focused on advancing gender equity in the tech industry, and says experimenting in the AI space with a low-cost, low risk starting point can uncover both growth opportunities and immediate returns.

“Just get in there and start playing around,” Hicke recommends. “It’s accessible, but you just need to access it, see how it works, and then you can start to determine use-cases that work for your business.”

Niket Shah, co-founder of Toronto-based performance marketing agency Acceler8 Labs, only engaged with AI tools that mapped to a broad business goal, such as discovering efficiencies. Early experiments with free tools, like Open AI’s ChatGPT, demonstrated that AI was good at addressing routine work tasks and allowed his team to redirect their efforts on fostering growth in other areas of the business.

While it does take time for a business to discover and adapt new AI solutions, the initial investment can unlock efficiencies that free-up employee time to build and grow the business in other areas.

Empowering employees with new technology

Boosting efficiencies can energize businesses, yet introducing a new technology like AI may spark genuine concerns about potential job displacement. Empowering employees and investing in their learning and development can circumvent any digital reluctance within teams. “Upskilling your existing team members solves the skill gap while keeping the deep knowledge of business operations that those employees already have,“ Lockhart says.

As leaders, both Shah and Hicke wanted their teams to have input in these new tools, and relied on their feedback and quantified the time they saved to determine next steps in this new technology. “We wanted to ensure that these tools were additive to our business rather than a distraction, which can often be the case with new tools,” Shah says.

Once Acceler8 noted that AI adoption saved about 40 hours of work per week, employees played a role in making a business case to invest in subscriptions to programs like Jasper.AI for copywriting, Canva and Adobe CS for design, MidJourney for image creation, and ChatGPT Plus for insight work.

Toast saved from 250 hours to 520 hours per year by employing AI, so the leadership team not only invested in more tools, but they went one step further to create custom-tailored bots that meet Toast’s marketing voice and tone: all without any knowledge of coding. “Custom GPTs have given us a substantial lift in our internal business processes as we’ve been able to fine tune a few GPTs to help us with things such as writing newsletters, grant applications, and even creating our bias-free job profiles,” Hicke explains.

Employee learning and development not only encourages teams to actively participate in the exploration of AI, it also empowers them to write the path on how the new technology should integrate as a complementary tool to their work.

Where AI needs more support

While AI has some proven efficiency benefits for businesses, it’s not foolproof. Blindly trusting the technology without any human input can land businesses in trouble with their brand voice and put their information at risk. 

When first adopting AI, Acceler8 considered how each AI tool’s privacy and security aligned with their own company’s values and those of their partners.  “Once we had determined that these were the right tools for us, we set up processes on how we can utilize them to make our entire team stronger and deliver better output,” Shah says.

“Businesses should always be careful when implementing AI systems – especially if the system will have access to any kind of private information,” Lockhart says, stressing the importance of knowing how information is used, who has access to it, and where it is being stored.

Fortunately, he says work is underway on a new Canadian effort, Bill C-27, that aims to create a framework for how Canada is going to handle privacy when it comes to AI systems. Until there’s more clarity on what that looks like, it’s important to always exercise caution.

“Don’t fall behind”

Despite Canada’s current AI adoption challenges, early adopters in Canada see clear pathways for businesses to navigate this new technology. Businesses that align their AI exploration to a broad business goal and provide their teams with learning and development support, including around privacy and security, may unlock potential benefits.  Lockhart stresses that if a business is already taking a proactive stop to seek out AI information, they’ve already done the heavy lifting.

For those eager to learn more, Lockhart says initiatives from Canada’s AI institutes, including AMII in Alberta, Vector in Ontario, and Mila in Quebec, can guide businesses to success in this burgeoning space. 

“This is one of the largest shifts in the industry since the mobile phone,” Shah says. “Don’t fall behind or you will be playing catch up very soon.”

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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