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Embracing Generative AI: Opportunities and Challenges at CDO Vision New York

The key, according to experts, lies in straddling this paradox skilfully

AIM Research recently hosted the highly anticipated CDO Vision New York, bringing together industry experts and New York’s elite Chief Data Officers (CDOs) for an exclusive networking event. Presented by AIM Research, attendees engaged in stimulating dialogues during an intimate lunch in the heart of the city, exchanging insights on critical business issues.

One of the event’s highlights was a panel discussion on “Embracing Generative AI: Opportunities and Challenges,” tailored for industry leaders and innovators. This session explored the vast potential and inherent complexities of Generative AI technologies. Esteemed panelists delved into the exciting opportunities that Generative AI presents, while also addressing the multifaceted challenges it poses. Attendees gained valuable insights and actionable strategies for effectively harnessing Generative AI to drive innovation and overcome obstacles in today’s dynamic business landscape. We have encapsulated the panel discussion and brought together some insights from the conversation.

The Dual Mood Around Gen AI in Business Today

The business world is buzzing with enthusiasm about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly Generative AI capabilities. However, industry experts advise tempering this fervor with a nuanced perspective on the technology’s current state and limitations – drawing parallels to the semiconductor industry’s own transformative journey.

Just as “solid-state electronics” became a popular term in the 1960s despite the transistor being invented in 1947 and the diode preceding it in 1904, the wave of Generative AI hype today belies the field’s more profound technological roots over decades of research.

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While forms of AI have existed for years, recent breakthroughs in areas like large language models have reignited interest and generated significant hype. There is widespread discussion about infusing generative AI into business systems and processes. Yet Generative AI is a layered concept, and organizations will need time to fully comprehend its complexities as the field progresses.

Across industries, employees at various levels are exploring ways to harness AI for productivity gains. However, there seems to be a knowledge gap, where users may lack a deep understanding of the underlying technologies, their full range of possibilities, and the associated risks involved.

Despite the hype cycle, many see Generative AI as truly transformative. Experts envision it revolutionizing endeavors from text and media generation to accelerated development of cutting-edge engineering marvels through its ability to expedite innovation cycles dramatically.

The overarching sentiment balances genuine enthusiasm about AI’s disruptive potential with an acknowledgment that the technology landscape is nuanced. As businesses integrate Generative AI capabilities, they must pair optimism with a realistic grasp of current limitations to drive meaningful, responsible innovation over time – heeding lessons from past technological revolutions like semiconductors.

Generative AI’s ROI Is Rising

For companies across industries, artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives are already delivering a substantial financial windfall. According to industry experts, companies are seeing annual profitability improvements to the tune of half a billion dollars from their AI programs. This eye-catching return on investment has chief financial officers happily greenlighting increased investments in AI.

The impacts are particularly pronounced in sectors like aerospace and defense. One intelligence analysis program entirely substituted AI for human analysts, resulting in savings of $20 million while achieving comparable output quality. This successful proof case highlights AI’s potential to drive massive cost efficiencies.

The time and cost savings extend to even mundane but expensive processes. Requests for Information (RFIs), which can cost $60-80 million annually in personnel time for some companies, represent a prime target for AI-driven acceleration. Pilot projects demonstrate the ability to generate initial RFI drafts with a single click instead of weeks or months of arduous work, promising huge downstream efficiencies.

As companies reap the benefits of AI, they are also strategically positioning themselves for the next frontier – Generative AI. Their priorities span three key areas:

  • Maximizing the value of existing data assets, both quantitative and qualitative, by leveraging Generative AI’s analysis capabilities.
  • For consumer packaged goods companies, building internal creative abilities using generative AI for content production is crucial.
  • Democratizing AI as a ubiquitous “copilot” by enabling every employee to access and utilize these transformative technologies through “evangelizing AI for all associates.”

As businesses race to unlock Generative AI’s potential, service providers are strategically positioning to capitalize on emerging revenue opportunities tied to the technology’s ROI impacts. For these firms, the money lies in helping organizations maximize value addition while realizing substantial cost savings.

Three key categories are emerging:

  • Individual Productivity Consulting: While not a huge money-maker currently, this involves advising clients on use cases, ROI determination frameworks, and governance policies for individual Generative AI copilots boosting personal productivity. Revenue opportunities lie in consulting services.
  • Efficiency-Seeking Process Automation: This category represents the biggest revenue stream presently. By deploying Generative language models for highly repetitive, costly processes like contract review, providers can demonstrably reduce human effort and costs for clients. Proving ROI is straightforward – calculate current costs, project future optimized costs, and balance against compliance risks. Major contracts are being awarded in this space.
  • Domain-Specific Model Fine-Tuning: The largest long-term opportunity lies in developing customized Generative AI models for niche industry verticals. By training systems on proprietary data to perform tasks not currently feasible, providers can surface new value. However, ROI realization will require longer incubation periods for model refinement and value validation.

As Generative AI’s ROI story strengthens, service providers are strategically investing across all three categories. While process automation represents the current profit  pool, building specializedAI capabilities promises to be a future gold mine for those who can uncover novel value opportunities.

Managing Hype and Identifying Real Value

Managing User Expectations

A major challenge has been setting appropriate expectations among business users regarding Generative AI’s current capabilities and limitations. Unlike previous technologies adopted behind-the-scenes, Generative AI has created mass awareness and hype, with even C-suite executives expecting it to work like consumer applications seamlessly providing answers via API calls.

However, the reality is far more nuanced – enterprise deployment requires extensive training data and model customization. Managing these heightened expectations and educating users on Generative AI’s complexities within an enterprise context has proven to be a significant undertaking.

Identifying Value-Driving Use Cases

With the fear of missing out driving many Generative AI initiatives, there is pressure on CDOs to take action. However, a surprise has been how many organizations are struggling to identify and calculate the business value, ROI, and actual use cases that Generative AI can improve.

The hype has organizations rushing to “do something” with the technology without first establishing the fundamentals – what processes or outcomes will genuinely benefit, and what tangible returns can realistically be expected. Cutting through the noise to methodically map valuable use cases remains an obstinate challenge.

Resolving Generative AI’s Learning vs Value Paradox

While managing hype and identifying valuable use cases pose challenges, there is also an inherent paradox organizations must resolve – balancing the learning process required for Generative AI with the imperative to deliver measurable business value.

On one hand, Generative AI represents uncharted territory where experimentation, proof-of-concepts, and an exploratory mindset are critical for understanding the technology’s potential and developing an organizational capability.

However, this learning journey can sometimes appear at odds with the need to quickly surface value-driving solutions that solve real business problems and impact key metrics. Experimenting without a clear path to ROI is unsustainable.

The key, according to experts, lies in straddling this paradox skilfully. A laser focus on defining the specific business problems Generative AI can address is paramount from the outset. But that must be coupled with an organizational willingness to iterate through multiple prototypes and failed experiments.

Critically, these learning cycles should be treated as stepping stones toward integrated solutions that blend Generative AI into existing processes and workflows. Isolated proofs-of-concept devoid of this context are unlikely to translate into lasting value.

In conclusion, it’s evident that there’s still a considerable level of excitement surrounding Gen AI, presenting a significant opportunity for all involved. However, there’s also recognition that there’s still progress to be made in realizing its full value, with expectation management playing a crucial role along the journey. Developing a solution mindset and adapting to the discontinuity inherent in AI advancements are key skills for navigating this space. As we move forward, it’s essential to acknowledge and address the potential winners and losers in careers and companies, shaping the conversation for the future.

Anshika Mathews
Anshika Mathews
Anshika is an Associate Research Analyst working for the AIM Leaders Council. She holds a keen interest in technology and related policy-making and its impact on society. She can be reached at anshika.mathews@aimresearch.co
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