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Microsoft Partner
Why enterprise needs to catch up with employee AI adoption

Why enterprise needs to catch up with employee AI adoption


Your organisation may not be ready, but your employees are already using AI. This makes it imperative to recognise and catch up with employee adoption, and to ensure robust and adaptive governance, rather than covert adoption that could have serious consequences.

2024 – the year of organisational AI adoption

AI has dominated conversations around tech over the past year. Even if the initial fervour has died down, the rise of generative AI technology continues. While 2023 was marked as a year in which AI’s capabilities expanded, with a new tool released every day, 2024 is the year of organisational adoption.

But there’s a critical question we should be asking ourselves: are organisations integrating AI technologies without even realising it?

Generative AI: already an indispensable workplace assistant

ChatGPT has quickly emerged as the poster child for the mainstream adoption of generative AI. Launched in late 2022, ChatGPT astonished the tech world by attracting over 1 million users within just 5 days. It has now firmly entered the mainstream with hundreds of millions of active monthly users globally.

What began as an AI chatbot for personalised recommendations has transformed into an indispensable workplace assistant. Individuals are eagerly integrating ChatGPT into their professional workflows for myriad applications – from summarising extensive documents, generating visuals, modulating the tone of emails to generating social media content.

But ChatGPT isn’t the only GenAI tool out there; there are many other LLMs (Large Language Models) that are similar to ChatGPT or have been tuned to particular applications like software development. This growing catalogue of LLMs is providing a natural language assistant for every division of an organisation. Microsoft is adding Copilot AI features to almost all of its topline products enabling individuals to interact more naturally with Microsoft Azure, for instance to ask about resource usage or to get a summary of an Office-365-Word-based report.

Employee adoption of AI bypassing traditional software technology procurement

Even though these tools are being added to the roster of tools and services being offered to organisations by providers (albeit at an extra cost), not every employee is gaining access to them via the traditional route of asking their IT department. Instead they’re proliferating by stealth with individuals either using free services or meeting cost of the tools themselves.

You only have to look at the way the use of communication tools like Slack and Notion spread to see how that works. Decision making is slow, downloads are fast. In the past, new software tools were carefully evaluated and approved by IT departments before being rolled out to employees. Now, individuals are acting as their own IT departments, adopting AI tools that improve their productivity as they hear about them, without waiting for formal approval. If a tool like ChatGPT can double your productivity, you can understand why people aren’t waiting for traditional technology software procurement to catch up.

Organisational reaction to employee adoption of AI

Luckily organisations are starting to recognise their employees' use of these tools. Many have reacted, predictably, by blocking access due to concerns about risk exposure. Fears, reported in the media, around copyright infringement, dissemination of erroneous information, and data exposure is getting a lot of organisations worried. However, the benefits that generative AI can offer an organisation should prompt a rethink. Blocking might be an understandable first reaction; it's less understandable as a considered response.

If generative AI enhances productivity for employees, they are unlikely to stop using it. Instead, they may use it covertly, without the business's knowledge and with little regard for the potential organisational consequences such as sharing sensitive information.

Proof-of-concept projects facilitate enterprise adoption of AI

In this cycle of rapid AI innovation, organisations will have to adapt to leverage generative AI strategically before informal usage becomes ubiquitous. After all, if all your competitors have adopted GenAI by default, do you want to be left miles behind?

Organisations need to evaluate how to integrate GenAI into workflows, content creation, customer service, and other areas effectively. This can be done through robust and adaptive governance, quick responses to the evolving landscape of available tools, and by leveraging the underlying technology through proof-of-concept projects that solve real problems for staff and customers.

PoC projects can highlight the technology's potential to internal stakeholders, and hopefully inspire them to get behind the upcoming wave of GenAI-driven transformation at the same time as reassuring those eager to use the latest and most cutting-edge tools that their organisation embraces innovation; rather than using AI tools outside corporate oversight, it may encourage them to wait for the green light from a proactive IT department.

Key drivers for enterprise AI adoption

If your organisation wants to embrace AI you need to start the conversation now to:

  1. Develop a flexible governance policy that evolves with the AI landscape while safeguarding the organisation and its critical data.
  2. Promote the use of AI by highlighting instances within the organisation where AI has enhanced customer satisfaction and/or operational efficiency. Share these success stories broadly to illustrate the potential benefits of AI.
  3. Enhance staff capabilities through targeted training on AI tools, ensuring a thorough understanding of their functionality and the implications of their use, such as uploading documents for analysis.
  4. Leverage technical teams to showcase how AI can address specific business and customer challenges through the execution of proof-of-concept projects.
  5. Allocate budgets specifically for AI initiatives, allowing team members to access premium AI tools like a proprietary version of ChatGPT, which offers a higher level of data protection compared to free versions.

AI adoption done right – key benefits

2024 will be a pivotal year for the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). The focus needs to be on embedding robust governance, enhancing complexity, and bolstering security within this technology. It's also a time to demonstrate AI's immense capability to enhance significantly both internal operations and the external experiences of employees and customers alike.

This dual approach underscores the necessity of integrating AI responsibly and innovatively, ensuring that its deployment not only adheres to high standards of security and ethical considerations but also makes full use of its potential to streamline processes, improve service delivery, and drive overall organisational efficiency.

If you want to get your organisation ready for AI, try our AI Readiness Assessment.