Here’s a look at how AI is transforming entire enterprises, particularly through the lens of marketing and IT, and why the two teams must work together.
The massive impact AI has already had in marketing, and what we expect to see of it in the near future, is a hot topic here at MarTech Today. In my previous columns, we’ve explored how AI will be woven into marketing organizations, where it belongs in your marketing stack, and where CMOs should focus today to get the best results from their investments in AI.
There’s no doubt it’s become widespread; in fact, global spend on artificial intelligence is expected to grow from an estimated $2 billion this year to $7.3 billion per year by 2022, according to a study from Juniper Research. Yet, as abundant as it is, artificial intelligence is still a mystery to many.
Case in point: Only 33 percent of consumers think they use AI-enabled technology, yet new research shows that 77 percent actually use an AI-powered service or device.
Marketers are perhaps savvier to the opportunities than most, so it was no surprise that when my company, BrightEdge, recently asked over 500 marketers to identify the next “big trend in marketing,” 75 percent pointed to some type of AI application.
CMOs are challenged now to not only identify the right AI applications to solve specific problems but to then sell those to the CEO, other company leaders and the teams that will use the technology. Today, we’re going to broaden the scope and take a look at just a few of the ways AI is transforming entire enterprises, particularly through the lens of marketing and IT integration.
The CIO, CMO and AI
We learned in recent Adobe research that 47 percent of digitally mature organizations, or those that have advanced digital practices, said they have a defined AI strategy.
We all know that Google has one. The search giant dropped a whopping $3.2 billion acquiring Nest Labs, the largest of its $3.9 billion in disclosed AI acquisitions since 2006. All told, Google has invested $3.9 billion in AI deals, more than any other company.
Microsoft, Apple, Intel and SalesForce behind Google round out the top five companies making acquisitions of AI. (Intel takes the crown for the highest number of unique investments in AI companies, at 81.)
Sixty-one percent of over 1,600 marketing professionals from companies of all sizes pointed to machine learning and AI as their company’s most significant data initiative for next year, a MemSQL survey found.
But where is all of this interest and investment headed?
Take a look at Amazon for a sneak preview. The e-commerce giant completely rebuilt itself around AI, with spectacular results, according to a feature published in Wired. In 2014, according to the article, Srikanth Thirumalai, computer scientist and head of Amazon’s recommendations team, brought CEO Jeff Bezos the idea that Amazon could use deep learning to revamp the way recommendations work.
Thirumalai was only one department leader who included AI in his visionary proposal to Bezos. The revolution came, he told Wired, when leaders in isolated pockets of AI came together to discuss the possibilities and ultimately begin collaborating across projects. As Thirumalai told Wired:
We would talk, we would have conversations, but we wouldn’t share a lot of artifacts with each other because the lessons were not easily or directly transferable.
What followed was a revolutionary AI-centric management strategy that has baked artificial intelligence into Alexa, Amazon Web Services and almost every other facet of the $1 trillion company. Amazon takes a “flywheel” approach to AI.
Modeled after the simple tool that stores rotational energy, Amazon’s AI flywheel enables teams to build off of AI applications developed elsewhere in the organization. It’s an entirely collaborative approach that has proven a revenue generator, as well, by offering select tools to third-party companies.
That collaboration — the shift from competing for the budget for AI to working across departments — has paid huge dividends for Amazon. What could it do for your brand?
Solving persistent challenges
In 2018, CMOs have had access to more third-party AI-powered tool options than they can shake a stick at. Our firm found in recent research that more than 50 percent of marketers simply expect marketing technology providers to have native AI capabilities and consider it important or a must-have.
CIOs have been slower on the draw. Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Survey found that just 4 percent of CIOs have already implemented AI in the corporate realm. However, 46 percent plan to do so in the near future. This doesn’t mean IT is being left behind. After all, the best use of AI isn’t about providing tools; it’s the catalyst in massive organizational change and even creating a new type of organization.
In the Texas A&M University System, for example, Cyber Security Intelligence reports that AI has been put to work in IT enhancing cybersecurity via Artemis, an intelligent assistant from Endgame.
“We monitor the networks for 11 universities and 7 state agencies,” said Barbara Gallaway, a security analyst at Texas A&M University System, told the publication.
Using an AI application that enables her staff to ask simple questions has helped train them in their jobs as a side benefit, she reportedly said. Her team now includes eight part-time student workers who don’t need extensive experience in dealing with security incidents in addition to nine full-time IT staff.
AI-powered products and services are helping IT teams improve productivity and effectiveness through logs analysis, employee support, enhanced cybersecurity, deep learning, natural-language processing and more. CIOs have the opportunity to transform IT from cost center to organizational trailblazer with AI.
However, as we’ve seen with Amazon, the real magic happens when CMOs, CIOs and other company leaders work together to facilitate collaborative workflows and enhanced customer experiences through AI.
Analysis of data is already a key AI focus for businesses, with on-site personalization the second most commonly cited use case for AI. Working across departments and projects, teams are discovering new and unexpected use cases for AI in their organizations.
For example, Mike Orr, IT director of digital transformation at Murphy Oil, shared the following story with CIO.com. Murphy Oil turned to an AI-powered system from Turbonomic to make recommendations about how to optimize their infrastructure while moving it from traditional on-premises and colocation to cloud and SaaS models. Once the company grew comfortable with the system, they began to trust it to perform placement and sizing automatically. Prior to the move, Orr had 4 1/2 full-time equivalents working on nothing but tickets. “Now it’s one-tenth of an FTE [full-time employee],” he says.
This is something we’re going to see more and more; in fact, Gartner predicts that while 1.8 million jobs will be eliminated due to AI by 2020, 2.3 million more jobs will be created in their place. Rather than the robots “stealing our jobs,” the impact of AI technologies on business is projected to increase labor productivity by up to 40 percent and enable people to make more efficient use of their time.
So, how can CIOs and CMOs work together?
As the worldwide volume of data continues to grow at some 40 percent per year, the CIO and CMO need to work closely and collaborate early on new initiatives. IT is a critical strategic partner for marketing and should be involved and consulted from conception and through all stages of planning.
Constantly connected consumers are generating a wealth of data for marketing — so much that most teams struggle to uncover the actionable insights that drive smarter, more informed campaigns. Who better than IT to assist? In addition to their information architecture and analysis prowess, IT is also in a position to share relevant insights with other departments as well. CMOs and CIOs must each take steps to come closer together. For CMOs, this means mastering not only the art of creativity and strategy but also the science of analytics. CIOs need to shift from a mindset of control and prevention to that of a facilitator and enabler.
The CIO is in a position to execute massive organizational change, while the CMO can be critical in selling it internally, to the rest of the C-suite and right on down to individual team members.
The CMO must be able to articulate and clearly define business goals for the CIO to evaluate and cost out. This is a give-and-take relationship that may require some negotiation but is sure to result in more purposeful tracking, measurement, and analysis.
Each must demonstrate a willingness to communicate on the level; to adopt a common vernacular and clear set of expectations of one another.
Both the CIO and CMO must enable and support integrated teams. This means not only giving employees the time and space to work together, but also giving recognition and sharing results out to the company when these partnerships result in innovative, successful uses of AI within the organization.
It all sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? In reality, changing up the complexities of traditional organizational hierarchy and deep-seeded business practice has proven incredibly challenging. Industry recommendations suggest CIOs and CMOs ensure they have these five prerequisites in place (with the CEO’s explicit support) as the foundation on which to build this relationship:
Be clear on decision governance.
Build the right teams.
Hire IT and marketing translators.
Learn to drive before you fly.