The secret to success: implementing an effective AI roadmap

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In order to gain competitive advantage, organisations should put in place a roadmap for their AI programme. It’s this roadmap that will make sure they tackle the right projects in the optimum places and achieve ROI quickly. 

This process begins by auditing your organization to identify the areas in which AI can have the greatest impact. Look at the AI applications that could impact or streamline your processes across operations, sales, marketing, customer service and the supply chain. With ongoing developments in the AI landscape, developing a team of enthusiasts who can scan the horizon for new tech and opportunities to implement AI will ensure you stay current.

Engineer value

Extracting value from your digital and AI projects starts with understanding where value lies. When introducing AI tools, a common initial mistake businesses make is not deciding what meaningful and relevant value looks like in advance. This means beginning by deciding on your strategic business initiatives. 

These initiatives are often found in annual reports, on company websites, in press releases or as part of annual executive conference presentations. They are aspirational and speak to the future drive, direction and momentum of the organisation. They don’t speak to specific technologies, such as moving your video meeting technology from Zoom to Microsoft Teams or transitioning from desktop to laptop PCs. Instead, they talk about the financially measurable initiatives – things that will impact the way in which your company derives value. This might be through its operations, sales and marketing or customer relationships. 

Your strategic business initiatives are ways to re-engineer your ability to bring value into the business. These often simply boil down to things like ‘optimizing operational efficiency’ or ‘creating new opportunities for revenue’; where you can, you should make them specific to your business in its current context.

Peter Verster

Author of “AI for Business” and Founder of Northell Partners, a data and AI solutions consultancy in the UK. 

Create objectives and key results

Once you have defined your strategic business initiatives with your leadership team, it is time to decide on and understand the company’s short-, medium-and long-term goals, then build a framework, such as objectives and key results (OKRs), around them. 

This framework will help to ensure that your initiatives focus on positively impacting company performance. OKRs use goal-setting with SMART success criteria to make sure the way your strategy is executed links and contributes to your company goals. This then allows you to enhance performance over time. 

The aim is to use this framework to create an environment where there is high engagement with and a focus on continuous improvement, and where there is the flexibility and autonomy to experiment and innovate in a way that is connected to the overall purpose of your business. 

Work with your team to tie together your objectives and a meaningful way of measuring them. This way, you can be sure that you’re accurately assessing your achievement. Your objectives may have multiple key results attached to them. These can be qualitative or quantitative measures, which helps to give a complete view of the impact of your transformation project. 

The adapted version of this OKRs framework, to which I have become accustomed in my work and which is also used by Google, enables teams to work collaboratively across the usual departmental silos that exist within organizations. It helps to address the issue of soft skills through formal training initiatives and ‘learn by doing’ scenarios. 

Objectives are set for each cycle, and key results are defined. These are inspirational, qualitative goals that are obtainable within a quarter and represent the shared imagination of the team. 

By aligning your digital initiatives and the everyday tasks of your teams to the OKRs you’ve set around AI, you will ensure everyone is working towards common goals. Make sure these team-level OKRs contribute to and work towards the company-wide key objectives (which will always drive into the vision of your business). When teams know the organization's goals and vision, they can effectively set their OKRs, which helps maintain motivation. This collaborative effort to set and achieve goals is directly linked to employee engagement and satisfaction, contributing to a culture of purpose, growth and autonomy.

Decide on your AI initiatives

Look, first, for the quick wins – easy-to-implement, low-cost solutions that can act as use cases to prove the value of AI to the wider company. These will often be those that carry out manual, repetitive tasks that are susceptible to human error and act as a drain on employees’ time. You can identify these by engaging with your employees and asking them where they feel their time is most often wasted. 

This will have two key benefits: first, you’ll get your information direct from the frontline, so you’ll address the real, day-to-day problems your workforce encounters. Second, you’ll engage your employees right from the beginning of the project, showing them that AI will be used to make their lives easier and their jobs more enjoyable. 

Line these initiatives up with your strategic business initiatives. It’s OK to start small. This might mean implementing AI tech to take and record the minutes for meetings and emailing all attendees with a summary and key action points, or it might mean bringing AI into your sales process to improve your customer relationship management, identify churn risks, highlight buying patterns or provide personality insights. 

Once you’ve identified these opportunities, anchor them to your strategic business initiatives. If an AI initiative does not fit with your business strategy, then put it to one side and move on to those that do.


Once you have your vision in place, the next step is to inform stakeholders of the potential merits of using AI across the business. This will increase buy-in even further. It doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. 

A regular newsletter will create an opportunity to keep stakeholders up to date with the industry and latest uses of AI, both in the business and the wider sector. It could be the catalyst for a working group to discuss relevant developments and collect new ideas for AI business applications. These will work together to scan the horizon for new opportunities for digital and AI. Furthermore, the working group will identify training needs and invite guest speakers to increase awareness and understanding.

 An effective working group requires a ‘boots on the ground’ approach. Members need to be representative of all levels of the business to avoid an ‘ivory tower’ – the perception that decisions are being made in isolation, from the top, without real engagement with or consideration for those who will be delivering. Engaging people across the organisation will ensure the group has diversity of thought and a wide-ranging, positive business impact. 

In many ways, businesses are like an extensive social network in the way people interact with one another. Because of this, the working group and regular newsletter will raise awareness and create a positive narrative through a network of influencers to reach the key stakeholders. 

If the company has a shared information board, such as an intranet, post regular updates and spotlight the team members involved in the projects to help create buzz around the activities.


Once a dialogue about the potential applications of AI has been opened within the business, use the roadmap to work with engaged stakeholders, and start to address the internal challenges. 

Next, identify the priorities of those stakeholders and work with them to engage with the areas they are passionate about. Assign them a challenge which aligns to their area of interest. As they engage with the newsletter and working group, solicit ideas and feedback from them as to where value can be added or inefficiencies reduced. Use these as a starting point for exploring appropriate digital AI tools. As your key stakeholders see that the project is led by business requirements (including their own), they will lend further support and become champions of the improvement cycle.

Develop the benefits case

Use the links with your key stakeholders to develop the benefits case for each initiative. This could be done in a one-to-one scenario or as part of the wider working group. As you develop those benefits, consider these four points:

1. Go back to the strategic business initiatives and link the AI benefits to the business outcomes.

2. Make sure, wherever possible, that the business outcomes rely on the success of the AI project.

3. Assign each AI initiative a key stakeholder who will champion the project across the business and work with teams to instigate the culture change necessary for acceptance.

4. Identify the disadvantages that could result in objections from the wider business and use both the business plan and your engaged stakeholders to answer these.

Once you have achieved these steps, the next stage is to bring the implementation of AI to life with a prototype. Ensure that the visual elements of the prototype are high impact and use the prototype to iron out any remaining objections and identify flaws or issues.

In summary

To summarize, the steps above outline how organizations should use a structured AI roadmap to effectively implement this technology. This requires strategic alignment with organizational goals and vision, made possible through the adoption of objectives and OKRs. Identifying quick wins and engaging with stakeholders through communicating a clear vision are also necessary to increase enthusiasm for AI projects. This is the secret to success in providing organizations the edge to establish a competitive AI advantage.

An adapted extract from “AI for Business: A practical guide for business leaders to extract value from Artificial Intelligence” by Peter Verster.

Author of “AI for Business” and Founder of Northell Partners, a data and AI solutions consultancy in the UK.