AI and Machine Learning: How Independent AI Experts Are Helping Companies Get Ahead of Disruption

September 1, 2023 Rachel Halversen

Seemingly overnight, generative AI became a front-page story and the hottest topic for companies large and small across industries. With estimates suggesting that $4.4 trillion in potential economic value could be unlocked through savvy use of generative AI, it’s no surprise that 75% of CEOs believe that organizations with the most advanced generative AI have a competitive advantage, and 74% of executives believe the benefits of AI will outweigh associated concerns.

However, despite the generally positive outlook, there are multiple hurdles associated with adoption. Some of the top challenges that organizations anticipate include:

  • A lack of clarity on the regulation of AI
  • A lack of engagement at senior levels
  • Little understanding about where these technologies can be best applied
  • Leaders too busy with other things
  • Concerns about data lineage, provenance, and security

As companies seek to gain insight on AI opportunities and chart a path through disruption, highly skilled independent experts are proving to be invaluable in helping leaders harness these advanced technologies in pursuit of their business goals.

In fact, Business Talent Group’s 2023 Skills Index revealed spiking demand for talent with the strategic, technical, and operational skills to help, including a 100% YOY increase in requests for AI and machine learning skills, another +100% YOY increase for data science skills, and tech and systems implementation ranking as the #6 most in-demand skill overall. With 71% of executives saying their organizations don’t have the in-house expertise to adequately adopt generative AI, it’s no wonder independent, on-demand talent have become a key resource in this area.

Let’s dig into four key ways to leverage on-demand talent on your AI journey:

1. Leverage on-demand talent to support AI Assessment and Strategy

McKinsey’s recent State of AI report revealed that while AI adoption and investment continue to rise, some organizations are definitively pulling ahead. These AI high performers are seeing the biggest bottom-line impact from their investments and are more likely to report that AI is driving revenue. One key commonality among them: linking AI strategy to business outcomes.

But when the talent needed to develop and implement a strategy for this emerging technology is in short supply, it’s easy to fall behind. Many of today’s best AI business strategists and tech experts are working independently—stepping into an organization quickly to assess AI opportunities, craft an AI strategy, or create a practical roadmap for experimentation and beyond. Let’s look at how two BTG clients recently made significant strides by tapping independent AI strategy consultants:

The business development team of an intelligence technology company wanted to explore and take advantage of recent AI developments within a manufacturing environment. BTG provided a knowledgeable AI and new markets specialist with extensive experience finding whitespace opportunities, building business plans, creating market entry and adjacency strategy, and building corporate innovation units and capabilities. The consultant evaluated the customer base and built recommendations for the top emerging areas in AI by industry vertical.

In another case, a multinational technology corporation was looking for a hands-on consultant to conduct market landscape assessments related to startups utilizing AI. BTG sourced an impact-driven innovator with extensive growth strategy, marketing, and business development expertise. The consultant produced the requested landscape analysis and research that identified and informed about the leading competitors and startups in the space and aggregated competitive embedded technology products organized by vertical.

2. Data Foundation Development is an essential step on an AI journey

According to McKinsey, key AI roles are shifting fast—favoring data and machine learning engineers and generative AI adoption experts over last year’s in-demand software engineers.

With the talent pool for full-time expertise drying up as demand heightens, leaders are accessing independent, on-demand data scientists and advanced analytics consultants to refine data strategies, data processes, data organization, data quality, and data security to capture the most value from AI.

For instance, a leading pharmaceutical company needed an advisor to inform the company on sustainable capabilities within its digital workforce. BTG connected the client with a former PwC leader with a background in agile product management, strategic programs, go-to-market strategies, and proficiency with emerging technologies including AI and automation.The consultant was instrumental in establishing and maintaining health monitoring across the clients’ ecosystem of intelligent automation solutions and guided internal automation teams to build and refine capabilities to kickstart solution maturation while supporting the discovery of innovative use cases across the enterprise.

Or, when a multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation sought to validate its Long COVID model, generalize an AI model, and establish disease definition workflows to other disease types, BTG paired the client with an award-winning scholar and entrepreneur who holds a PhD from MIT in artificial intelligence and has extensive experience in technical and strategic consulting. The team wanted to include user interface development for marketers to surface market access related insights and provide guidance on data processing, modeling, operationalization, and visualization efforts across multiple workstreams. The consultant supported the initiative by cleansing and preparing data assets, characterizing performance, and preparing figures and materials to communicate results as a scientific paper in order to prepare the Long COVID model for deployment by healthcare providers.

3. Digital transformation starts with AI innovation

It’s no secret that digital transformation requires much more than plugging in new tech. Successful transformation relies on deep and meaningful shifts in the way a company operates and requires a wide range of expertise. AI is no exception. BTG’s network of trained management consultants, project managers, and change managers are exactly what’s needed to lead critical transformations and help clients navigate disruptive change, digitally or otherwise.

For instance, the data management and governance team within the neuroscience unit at an F500 pharma company was looking for a senior business analyst to support the re-architecture of various data feeds within their internal data warehouse—with the ultimate goal of breaking dependency on the internal system in favor of establishing direct connections to their third-party managed database. BTG paired the client with a hands-on data scientist and former Senior Analyst at Novartis who worked to ensure data quality by monitoring operational quality control and evaluating data anomalies to determine remediation.

Additionally, the talent defined and documented business and functional requirements for new and enhanced data capabilities, developed business and data process maps, swim lane diagrams, and definitions for data operation, and performed and managed User Acceptance Testing (UAT) for new data capabilities.

In another case, the AI and machine learning team at an F500 chemicals company needed strong digital talent to support ongoing digital transformation efforts. BTG provided a flexible, on-demand solution: a skilled strategy, digital transformation, and product management leader and McKinsey data product owner with key experience in Agile/Scrum product management, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science.

4. Interim leaders are adept to advance AI capabilities and internal know-how

BTG’s 2023 High-End Independent Talent Report revealed that there has been a significant increase in demand for interim leadership—up 116%, to be exact. And while these interim executives fit the bill for an extensive list of initiatives, they’re especially keen to tackle special projects. By engaging an interim AI, data, digital, or tech leader with experience overseeing the strategic direction of technology, data, and IT functions at an enterprise scale, organizations can advance big-picture initiatives and learn from industry thought leaders directly, fueling awareness and knowledge from the inside out.

For example, a UK-based medical affairs and healthcare communications company faced challenges with its IT team—ineffective internal leadership coupled with inexperienced team members had led to stagnation and a lack of focus. In order to revitalize the function and get a handle on team dynamics, the CHRO reached out to BTG looking for an interim CIO. BTG provided a seasoned UK-based technology executive and strategist with 25+ years of experience as an IT leader. He was able to manage the team effectively while helping the organization develop a plan to transform the IT function—addressing organizational development and assessing people, skills, and technology. He also acted as a strategic advisor to the CEO on key technology concerns.

Or, consider this example in which a large healthcare company had recently launched a subsidiary and was in the process of setting up the organization and laying out the infrastructure. The client reached out to BTG, looking for hands-on interim leaders to step in as CIO and CISO, as well as several IT experts to support them.

BTG provided an interim CIO, who collaborated with leaders of other business units to ultimately create a product delivery function, develop a tech platform and IT infrastructure, and deliver a beta release for physician users, and an interim CISO, who worked with the product and development teams on business requirements, maintained and implemented security-related controls, assessed the current risk state, and directed the staff in security planning and design. BTG also provided a support team that included a senior IT architect, IT design consultant, and technical project manager.

AI experts are hard to come by, so don’t wait around

Quick adopters and AI innovators have competitive advantage and will retain the upper hand so long as slow adopters and skeptics persist. While questions and challenges abound, the opportunities and benefits connected with AI are almost endless. From automation, recommendation, generation, translation, and more, this is just the tip of the iceberg for AI business deployment.

For leaders looking to keep pace with the near-constant technological advances in today’s business landscape, explore new horizons with BTG and our network of high-end independent talent.

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