Beyond Generative AI: Building a Comprehensive and Scalable Digital Infrastructure

Hardly a day goes by when Generative AI (GenAI) doesn’t dominate the business media headlines. In the last 12 months, it has become ubiquitous in business strategy and organizations across industries are increasingly investing in GenAI solutions.

Google Trends data visualizes GenAI’s rise to the center of business relevance since 2022, peaking in June 2023. While we certainly can’t ignore the transformative potential of GenAI, jumping right in without adequate planning means risking resources without a guaranteed ROI.

Custom GenAI solutions are expensive, costing up to three hundred thousand dollars annually according to WebFX, and require deep technical expertise to maintain. The reality is that only some organizations are ready to invest in GenAI. While leaders may feel pressure to buy into the hype, taking on GenAI before it’s operationally realistic can mean a huge drain on resources.  According to McKinsey, the business areas that stand to benefit the most from Gen AI include sales, marketing, customer relations, customer operations, software development and research and development. Using Gen AI in other business functions like finance and HR may not yield the same return.

In the meantime, as the hype wanes and GenAI becomes more polished and accessible, other ways exist to move innovation forward. Prioritizing operational efficiency is the best way to guarantee measurable ROI. The largest benefits are most likely to come from the following use cases. If your organization is strong in these areas already or is not relevant to your business’s goals, a Gen AI solution may not be necessary. Here’s how to know when to make a move:

Take an Internal Inventory

Before making a major investment, organizations should take a pause and assess their internal structure to identify gaps in their data, process inefficiencies, or silos between business functions.

Along the way, knowing that successful GenAI implementation relies on quality data, leaders should ask what processes can be digitized, automated, and better organized to maximize their resources and streamline operations to optimize efficiency and scalability. The CEO should ask the following questions, are we ready, do we have the right people, are we aiming right and are we generating more revenue?

Consider Amazon’s relentless focus on customer experience, a philosophy embedded deeply in its operational ethos. This approach has led to innovations like Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology, leveraging AI and machine learning to reimagine retail.

Similarly, businesses contemplating GenAI investments must start with a deep dive into their operational fabric, identifying inefficiencies and areas where digital transformation can catalyze revolutionary customer experiences.

Empower Your Talent

With a clear understanding of where operational processes can be improved, consider how to give time back to your teams—freeing up space for continued learning in preparation for GenAI.

One option is to embrace citizen development, allowing your non-technical employees to build apps that simply and quickly bring efficiency and scalability to mundane tasks. Using low-code and no-code tools, general business users can build custom apps without burdening the IT team.

The team at Pepsi relied heavily on low-code/no-code to build and deploy digital applications for its inventory and merchandising functions, saving the company $500,000 in the first year without a professional developer on staff according to VentureBeat.

Intuitive visual interfaces, pre-built templates, and drag-and-drop elements can solve a seemingly complicated business problem that once required coding knowledge in as little as a day with minimal reeducation. Embracing this approach allows your IT teams, who understand the nuances of digital engineering, to turn their focus to GenAI, without sacrificing your team’s productivity.

Work up to Big Innovation

Creating an infrastructure that is designed to grow as the business does should be a top priority for technology leaders in 2024. Were inefficiencies created during the first wave of digital transformation that need to be corrected?

The key to maximizing return on GenAI investment is to aim big, but start small and grow incrementally, following a well-planned roadmap. By focusing first on streamlining existing processes and gradually introducing GenAI, one use case at a time, organizations can ensure that when GenAI is integrated, it amplifies rather than disrupts operational effectiveness.

So, When is it Time for GenAI?

To truly capitalize on the transformative potential of GenAI, businesses must approach its integration incrementally, focusing on long-term improvement. The journey toward GenAI efficiency is not just a technical upgrade but a strategic initiative that requires a holistic view of business processes, technical culture, and goals.

By embedding GenAI into operations that are already optimized for agility and innovation, companies can ensure that their investment enhances not only current capabilities but also opens new avenues for growth and differentiation. The real return on GenAI investment lies not in the adoption of technology for the sake of it but in its strategic integration into the core of the business.

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