Artificial intelligence
May 6, 2024
May 6, 2024

Accelerating AI Adoption in the Enterprise: Key Lessons for CEOs


As generative AI sparks a technological revolution, CEOs face both unprecedented opportunities and daunting challenges in harnessing its potential. The latest IBM CEO study1 offers valuable insights into how business leaders can evaluate their processes, people and priorities to drive successful enterprise-wide AI adoption.

6 ways CEOs can accelerate the adoption of AI

1. Prioritise Talent Over Technology

While the technology itself is remarkable, the report emphasises that people are the biggest factor determining AI success or failure. Over half of CEOs say they are struggling to fill key tech roles. Retraining a third of their workforce is a priority over the next three years. However, many underestimate the workforce impacts and lack a clear strategy.

The lesson? Rigorously assess your AI talent needs and be prepared to invest heavily in reskilling, recruiting and empowering employees. Identify forward-thinkers doing the jobs of the future today and have them help to redefine roles and ways of working. Cultivate a culture of curiosity where experimentation with AI is encouraged and rewarded.

2. Put your Customers at the Core of Innovation

The survey reveals that product and service innovation has emerged as the top priority for CEOs, enabled by AI's ability to harness customer data and feedback for breakthrough ideas. However, introducing hyper-personalized experiences at scale requires building and maintaining customer trust through transparency around data usage.

CEOs must deftly balance driving innovation with earning customer confidence. Adopt a design-thinking approach of constantly incorporating user feedback. Be upfront about data collection practices and let customers control their privacy permissions.

3. Embrace Ecosystem Partnerships

CEOs recognise they cannot go it alone, with most planning to concentrate on fewer, higher-quality external partnerships to access expertise. Yet there is ambivalence about reconfiguring existing relationships, which may prove short-sighted.

The key is being ruthlessly objective about which partners offer the most relevant capabilities for your AI strategy. Forge symbiotic relationships where you invest in each other's goals. Decide where to cede control to trusted specialists. Don't let nostalgia override harsh assessments of where you need an infusion of fresh thinking and skills.

4. Foster Constructive Debate

With the uncertainties of an AI-driven future, CEOs benefit from empowering divergent perspectives among their leadership team, within defined principles. Emphasise speaking each other's languages and finding common ground through healthy tension.

Create forums for productive debate around AI opportunities, challenges and use cases. Ensure technology and finance leaders in particular are aligned. Clarify decision-making authorities but incentivise healthy debate.

5. Inspire While Instilling Trust

CEOs acknowledge the human wariness, even fear, around AI's impact on jobs and privacy. Yet they recognise that trusted governance cannot be an afterthought - it must be baked into AI solutions from the outset.

More than rules and processes, CEOs must articulate an inspiring vision of how AI elevates employees and creates value for customers. Proactively address concerns and be radically transparent about AI deployments. Establish clear ethical guidelines but implement in a way that drives innovation, not bureaucracy.

6. Modernise from the Core

Finally, the study underscores that while AI presents shiny new use cases, CEOs cannot shortcut fundamental technology modernisation required to realise its full potential. Top-performers have prioritised building robust digital infrastructure to rapidly scale innovations.

Avoid the catch-22 of quick AI wins - invest for the long-term. Ruthlessly assess technical debt and create a roadmap for mission-critical upgrades. Align generative AI projects to your enterprise strategy, not as disconnected initiatives doomed for stagnation. Prepare to make bold moves like sunsetting legacy systems or low-growth product lines to free up resources.

The generative AI era will create immense opportunities also demands a clear vision, tough decisions and an enterprise-wide commitment to change. By putting people first, elevating the right partners, encouraging constructive collaboration, and modernising strategically, CEOs can capitalise on AI's potential to transform their business.

Therefore, for the C-suite, and for leaders of businesses of all sizes, it's clear that building a strategy around how to harness AI and align the business around optimising it's potential are critical factors to get right. For advice, or simply to share ideas about how you can best innovate with next-gen AI technology get in touch at or call us on 0333 6000360

Source: 16 hard truths CEOs must face, IBM C-Suite Study Series 2024