The three cornerstones of a successful AI strategy

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Shamus Rae, Head of Innovation and Investments, KPMG

Shamus is responsible for understanding how AI will impact KMPG’s business and the wider professional services industry. In his thoughts, Shamus outlines where he believes take up of AI is within the sector and his recommendations for a successful AI strategy. Shamus spoke on professional services pricing at the sold-out event Alternative AI for Professional Services in November.

Currently firms have a people-first, technology-second strategy.  Yet our research shows that in ten years’ time, clients will expect their first interaction with a professional services company to be via a device.’ 

Read more about how Shamus recommends companies consider their approach to AI adoption below.

In all likelihood, professional services organisations are utilising AI without even realising it. For example, when they look through documents in a deal room, AI will be embedded to help them find the prevalent information quickly.

This is pretty representative of most AI investment within the sector. However, times are changing. Shifting operational environments mean that companies are having to reimagine what their business might look like in five or ten years’ time in order to remain competitive and profitable. That is giving them the impetus to think about how AI can positively impact their business.

The first thing that strikes our clients when they look into the future is how the dynamic between people and technology is changing. Currently firms have a people-first, technology-second strategy.  Yet our research shows that in ten years’ time, clients will expect their first interaction with a professional services company to be via a device. To be considered innovative and ahead of the game, the net result is that professional services will need to flip the coin, putting tech first and people second.

‘Moving to a technology first, people second approach will necessitate cultural change. Think about the calibre of people you need to be able to manage that shift and the disruption it will bring to your organisation.’

That’s a fairly disruptive business model and a big transition for companies to make. A sound strategy for AI is therefore needed. Here are the three cornerstones to success as I see them:

  1. Think, and I mean really think, about how your business will look in five years’ time with technology as the first point of interaction. That’s the starting point for your AI strategy – not your business as it is today otherwise any investment is based on a legacy view
  2. Data is like water for professional services firms. And you’ll need that data to train the AI system. You therefore need to start thinking now about to clean it and remove any unconscious bias. It’s the age-old adage, bad data in, bad data out. This is a considerable time consuming undertaking, so even if you aren’t going to implement AI strategically for another three years, the process needs to start now
  3. Moving to a technology first, people second approach will necessitate cultural change. Think about the calibre of people you need to be able to manage that shift and the disruption it will bring to your organisation

Finally, I would say to companies hesitating in investing in AI because they think there is a secret development being worked in somewhere in an underground lab – there isn’t. Don’t wait. The tech exists to transform your business now.

 Shamus Rae, Head of Innovation and Investments, KPMG