Afiniti Insights

Artificial Intelligence in Business: 5 Tips for Successful Adoption

Artificial intelligence in business has to be one of the biggest topics this year, and for good reason. By January 2023, ChatGPT had become the fastest-growing consumer software application in history, gaining over 100 million users, and over the next ten years the global AI market is expected to exceed $2.5 trillion.

Of course, the concept of artificial intelligence was established 70 years ago, and the scaremongering stories that come with it are just as old, ranging from mass job losses to the end of the human race. Fortunately, we don’t expect to see either of these scenarios any time soon, because as with any technology, it is reliant on skilled people to effectively leverage it.

However, the unprecedented recent pace of AI acceleration, particularly of generative tools like the aforementioned ChatGPT, is undeniably driving major organisational change around the world. And, like any change, the incorporation of AI into your operations must be properly planned, communicated and executed to ensure successful adoption.

Conversely, although your employees may not be replaced by AI, it is fair to say that without effective change management, many will be confused and alienated by it. So, this insight explores the people change management factors you should address when considering the implementation of AI tools.   

Start with the end

With the applications of artificial intelligence in business in the news so much, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, but a lot harder to discern what these tools can actually do for you. For example, public generative tools like ChatGPT or the browser-integrated Bing Chat are available to all for a variety of purposes. However, perhaps Microsoft’s Copilot tool, which can draw from your 365 files to inform outputs, might be more suitable for specific requirements.

The right tool(s) for your organisation will be determined by your strategic goals. As with any technology, you shouldn’t rush in and roll it out just because you’ve heard good things or because one of them is free. Take time to discuss your objectives and options at board level and jointly decide what benefits you hope to realise from AI adoption. This will reveal the right tools for you and will help ensure cross-functional cohesion during rollout.

We’ve written extensively about the importance of aligned change drivers and leadership in a previous insight.

It’s only as good as your data

Artificial Intelligence in business, whether generative or automated, doesn’t work from thin air. Most work by drawing on available pools of big data, be these publicly accessible or fed in. This means that the quality of your AI output will only be as good as the data input.

Robust, standardised and high-quality data is an absolute prerequisite for optimised AI adoption, and because data is ultimately (currently) generated by your people, just reaching this stage can be a major transformation in itself.

For example, we recently completed discovery work for a client who was struggling to automate a particular set of processes. The work revealed that the type, format and quality of data that fed into their AI solution was vastly different across functions, as were the expected outputs from the tool. This helped to align leaders on those outputs so they could then embed the processes to standardise data. This people-focused response successfully resolved the issue, which was technical on the surface.

Better data processes will also enable more agile responses to rapidly evolving regulation in the data and AI space, which will help you stay ahead of the curve as automation opportunities arise.

The skills to succeed

While popular AI tools are available to all, true mastery of them, as with any tool, requires a specific skill set. These skills are still being defined and developed, which means they will be in extremely high demand as AI proliferates.

Therefore, hiring, training and upskilling the right people for new technologies and roles should be a central part of your AI journey.

And it’s not just the administrators of these tools that will be impacted, but the users too. In the same way that AI is only as good as the data that feeds it, the quality of output is also directly influenced by the quality of user input.

Conducting a change impact assessment will help you to identify skills gaps you might need to hire or train for and will reveal roles that need specific education or upskilling to effectively leverage new tools.

But before you train your people, you need to make them aware of the change that’s coming.

Get your people on board

Change can be scary, especially when that change is around AI that might steal your job. Of course, you might know that your new AI solution will actually enhance your people’s experience, removing admin and freeing them up to do more enjoyable, value-adding work, but until they know this, they might assume the worst.

An organisational engagement plan should be developed to make teams across the business aware of what’s changing, why it’s changing and what the benefit is for them. Transparency is key to any successful change communications, so you should also share a roadmap for the rollout so your people know what’s happening and when.

Communications should be tailored to different personas or user groups so they’re relevant and engaging. This means using different formats, mediums and messaging depending on the audience. Understanding and planning for these can be difficult, but it is not a step to be skipped.

And no, please don’t use ChatGPT to write your change communications and send them out; not only are the results blatantly inauthentic, but the tool also lacks the knowledge of your organisation’s dynamics and nuances that only a genuine, people-focused approach to communications can incorporate.

Get ahead now

A lot can change in one year, and the pace of acceleration is only increasing. As these tools become more advanced, more quickly, organisations that take advantage now will be able to respond more rapidly to AI innovations in the future.

Make no mistake, engaging your people with your change journey is never easy, especially in the perceived novel area of AI. But those organisations that make the extra effort to bring their people on the journey with them will undoubtedly reap the rewards in the long term.

If you’d like support on any aspect of incorporating artificial intelligence in business, from education to engagement or execution, I’d be happy to learn more about your organisation and people. Please feel welcome to get in touch and arrange a call. 

Caroline Morley
Caroline Morley
Partner, Principal Consultant
Caroline firmly believes that meaningful change happens and is sustained when we understand and address the needs of those involved. She’s spent 25 years in change and communications and is driven by a deep passion for empowering individuals and organisations to navigate transformative journeys successfully.
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