AI Strategy Essentials: What is an AI Strategy?

Mar 15, 2024

We’re going back to basics in this article to help break down what an AI strategy actually is and why you (and other business leaders like you) need to develop one before embarking on any experimentation or adoption of AI systems. AI is new and exciting, but losing sight of your goals can also be easy.

Our AI strategy approach creates an effective AI strategy to calm the chaos caused by new artificial intelligence technologies in your organization. We’ll help you align AI to your mission and vision, create an ethical AI policy, and a prioritized roadmap of AI opportunities to help your team realize the promise of AI.

What is an AI Strategy?

An AI strategy is a comprehensive plan for integrating AI into your organization to support your mission, vision, and organization-wide goals.

A successful AI strategy should act as a roadmap to implement the biggest AI opportunities in your organization. It can be a standalone plan, or it can be integrated with your current strategic plan. It should be created with guidance from an AI expert!

Should your AI strategy integrate with your strategic plan?

Ideally, your AI strategy should integrate with your overall organizational strategy, but it doesn’t have to. In a perfect world, you should establish a strategic plan that allows for a supporting and aligned AI strategy. It can be implemented as an additional building block.

Need help using this AI framework and building your AI roadmap? We’re here to help!

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Later in this post, we’ll explain how organizations should ensure that their AI strategy is aligned with their greater organization-wide strategy by aligning their AI vision with their organization’s vision and more.

Pro Tip:

If you cannot integrate your AI strategy into one document with your larger organization-wide strategic plan, keeping them as two separate documents is okay. However, ensure your AI action items and OKRs are aligned to form a cohesive set of priorities across your organization.

Who creates an AI strategy?

It depends on your organization! Ultimately, you need strong leaders on your team, especially as it pertains to AI leadership. Your team should comprise your typical strategic planning team, including your executive team and department leads. But as you create an AI strategy, you’ll need help from AI experts, contributors, and facilitators to guide you through the process.

The 5 Groups You Need on Your AI Strategy Planning Team

✅ Executive team

Like any planning process, you’ll need your executive team as part of the conversation. Your leadership team, specifically your CEO or Executive Director, makes the final strategic decisions regarding the adoption of new technologies and approves your AI strategy. Moreover, they are equally critical in helping to establish governance and responsible AI approaches.

✅ Individuals/staff

Individual contributors should be in the room as you set your AI strategy. As workers on the frontlines, they can easily source ideas for automation and provide use cases for AI solutions and generative AI tools within their workflows. This will ultimately help with the AI adoption and AI implementation process.

Pro Tip:

Ensure a piece of this process includes a “bottom-up” or a “middle-up” planning engagement so your staff can help identify big AI opportunities.

✅ Strategic planning facilitator

It can also be helpful to bring in an external strategic planning facilitator to guide the process, particularly given that this is a new type of strategic planning effort. Facilitators help organizations connect the logistics of AI with their best resources — human intelligence! AI strategy is one part technology and four parts people, so having an outside facilitator helps guide this AI journey and encourages engagement.

Plus, AI is pushing a major culture shift and change management effort, so a third-party consultant will help guide change management efforts with your team through facilitation sessions and AI transformation workshops.

✅ IT team

Your IT team must be part of this process as they set and manage your technical infrastructure. They’ll be pivotal for implementing your AI opportunities, so you will need their voices at the table to speak on your current tech stack’s structure, capabilities, and limitations.

✅ AI expert

It is highly [highly] recommended you bring an AI expert to your AI strategy sessions. They will help you evaluate your AI opportunities, size them, and guide the conversation based on what AI can do. Plus, they’ll help your team understand the differences between generative AI, machine learning, natural language processing, and new AI tools available.

We promise they’ll be invaluable in guiding your decision-making process. You can put our strategy consultants and AI experts on your team if you need help.

✅ Legal team

Finally, in this brave new world of advancing AI technology, you’ll need someone well-versed in legal issues related to our business use of AI. The legal team will help you ask important questions and can advise your team on risk management, intellectual property protection, and compliance.

What is an AI Strategy and AI Strategy Framework

An Overview of the OnStrategy AI Strategy Framework

OnStrategy’s AI Framework includes five phases and allows organizations to build an entire AI strategy for any business or organization, regardless of industry or business case. Read below for a quick recap on each phase of the AI strategy framework or read the full article!

AI Strategy Phase 1: Aligned Vision

Phase 1: Aligning Core Purpose, Vision, & Winning Strategy

The first step to building your AI strategy is ensuring it’s guided by your organization’s core purpose, direction for the future, and your winning strategy. AI is a mission multiplier – it’s not the endgame for your organization. So, we recommend using your Mission, Vision, and Winning Strategy as the guardrails for creating your approach to AI.

An AI strategy and initiatives should be aligned with your organization’s strategic plan. This alignment ensures AI serves as a catalyst, amplifying your mission’s impact. Ensure your AI strategy is in alignment with your organizational foundation by answering these questions:

  • How does our AI strategy support our mission?
  • How does our AI strategy support our vision?
  • How does AI support our growth strategy?

An AI strategy and initiatives should be aligned with your organization’s strategic plan. This alignment ensures AI serves as a catalyst, amplifying your mission’s impact.

Pro Tip:

Reflect on how AI can ‘multiply’ your mission, considering questions about your mission, business value proposition, improve customer experiences, and the significant impact AI could have on your organization and stakeholders.

AI Strategy Phase 2: Governance and Ethics

Phase 2: Creating AI Governance & Ethics

Your AI governance blueprint establishes your organization’s guiding principles for responsible AI use at every level, including business processes, management, deployment, and learning.

This blueprint is crucial for laying down the ethical guidelines and principles regarding AI usage within your organization. It is about embedding responsible AI practices to navigate the risks and ensure alignment with your organization’s values. Your blueprint should answer these questions:

  • What is the scope of AI in your organization and market? Clarify your ethics policy’s objectives and understand the scope of AI applications within your organization, the regulatory landscape, and the essential stakeholders.
  • What are your AI guiding principles? Decide on the ethical boundaries and risk mitigation strategies for AI use, covering areas like usage limitations, cybersecurity, bias reduction, data protection, and team training on responsible AI use.
  • What is your AI governance structure? Implement a governance body or committee to oversee AI applications, ensuring security and compliance, and integrate this structure into your organizational processes.
  • How will you empower your team? Empower your workforce for successful AI adoption through comprehensive training and create platforms for knowledge sharing and discussing AI tools.

Pro Tip:

Do not create an AI strategy without doing this first! It might be tempting to skip identifying your AI opportunities, but this is foundational work that will protect your organization in this process.

AI Strategy Phase 3: AI Opportunities

Phase 3: Identifying AI Opportunities

With your AI vision aligned and governance in place, the next step is to explore the landscape of AI opportunities to help you create a more efficient organization – or even completely transform your organization!

This phase of our AI framework requires examining your organization’s current processes and dreaming big about the AI applications that could revolutionize how you create value for customers or deliver your product/services.

We recommend approaching this phase in two steps – identifying how AI will make your organization more efficient (step 1) and how AI might transform your organization (step 2).

AI for Process Improvements

We usually recommend tackling this work first, as it’s easier to grasp. In this step, you’ll consider how AI can optimize or automate your current processes.

These initiatives target the efficiency and effectiveness of work tasks through automation and optimization, referred to as “everyday AI.”

Consider how AI might accelerate…

  • Highly manual activities.
  • Repeatable patterns or processes with clear instructions.
  • A high volume of activity – e.g., processing lots of requests, support tickets, chats, etc.
  • Everyday AI tools that will make your team faster, more efficient, or increase the quality of their work.

AI for Organizational Transformation

After working through your productivity opportunities, switch your focus to the big swings on how AI could transform your organization.

This is about thinking holistically about using artificial intelligence to…

  • Transform how you create value for customers.
  • Deliver your products or services.
  • Find new fields of play or new markets to compete in.
  • How you run your entire organization.
AI Strategy Phase 4: AI Roadmap

Phase 4: Building an AI Roadmap

After pinpointing your AI opportunities, the next crucial step is crafting a detailed AI roadmap. The best practices for creating your AI roadmap is developing a thorough outline and timeline of your goals. This roadmap prioritizes AI initiatives and outlines a strategic plan to turn these opportunities into reality.Here are a few key questions you can ask yourself while building your AI roadmap:

  • What is the low-hanging fruit or opportunity we can begin working on now?
  • Who is going to be the champion for this opportunity?
  • What skills are needed to accomplish this?
  • What specific needs must we meet to accomplish this?

Is an AI roadmap necessary?

A well-structured AI roadmap provides a clear path forward, detailing the prioritized AI initiatives and the steps needed to implement them. It ensures that AI projects align with strategic goals and are executed orderly and impactfully. Check out our AI Strategy Framework post for an exercise to prioritize your AI opportunities.

AI Strategy Phase 5: Organization Enablement

Phase 5: Ensuring Organizational Enablement

This final phase of your AI strategy framework is considering how you’ll retrain, reskill, and restructure your workforce to adapt to new ways of working enabled by AI.

At the end of the day, one of every team’s fears about AI is the question, “Is AI going to replace my job?”

We believe AI is a mission multiplier and gives your team superpowers – and we shouldn’t just replace our team with tech. As you roll out your AI projects, it’s important to think about how you’ll…

  • Reskill your workforce to use AI efficiently.
  • Restructure your organization with AI as part of your talent pool.
  • Restructure your data architecture for AI

AI Strategy Checklist

The following sections represent your checklist for a complete AI strategy. Make sure that your AI strategy roadmap answers all these questions. This is how you know you have an excellent AI strategy!

✅ How does AI support your mission?

Integrating AI with your organization’s mission involves identifying ways in which AI can enhance or accelerate the fulfillment of that mission. AI should not just be an addition to your technological arsenal, but a tool that supports your core purpose and mission.

✅ How does AI support your vision?

A great AI strategy clearly defines how AI supports achieving your organization’s broader vision of success. It can be helpful to think about how AI looks in your organization in 12 and 24 months in support of your broader vision of success.

✅ What ethical AI policies should be in place?

This policy should outline your organization’s principles and standards for responsible AI development and usage. It should cover data privacy, bias mitigation, transparency, and accountability.

Establishing clear guidelines ensures AI technologies are safe and have guiding principles for decision-making aligned with your organization’s core values.

✅ How will AI optimize your current workflows?

Your AI strategy will clearly outline workflows, processes, or systems that can be automated or improved with “Everyday AI”, aka tools you can buy today. This piece of your AI strategy helps make existing processes smoother and more efficient, freeing up valuable human resources for more strategic tasks.

✅ How might AI transform your organization?

Transformative AI strategy includes clearly defined and prioritized opportunities to change your organization fundamentally. This can consist of how AI redefines your business model, opens new markets, or revolutionizes how you deliver value to your stakeholders.

✅ What action is needed to implement your AI strategy?

Your AI strategy requires a detailed action plan outlining the steps, milestones, and metrics for success. This plan should include timelines, resource allocations, and clear responsibilities to guide the implementation of AI initiatives.

It’s also crucial to incorporate mechanisms for monitoring progress and adapting the strategy as needed, ensuring that your AI projects stay aligned with organizational goals.

✅ How will you reskill, restructure, and retool your organization?

Adopting AI will necessitate changes in your workforce’s skills, organizational structure, and the tools you use. Planning for this transition means identifying the current skills gaps in your team, new competencies required, a potential need for new hires, redefining roles and teams to align with AI-driven processes, and equipping your staff with the necessary tools and training.

What is an AI strategy? A Wrap-up.

As you progress, let your AI strategy be a dynamic blueprint that evolves, adapts, and propels your organization toward its most ambitious goals. In this rapidly changing landscape, your AI strategy is more than a plan — it is a commitment to continuous innovation, ethical consideration, and strategic excellence that will define your organization’s competitive advantage and place in the future.



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