5 essential conversations to have with your CEO and CFO about AI


5 essential conversations about AI

For AI’s potential to be fully realised, important conversations like these need to happen.

Lately, it seems impossible to avoid talking about AI when it comes to work, particularly if you have a role involving customers, logistics or technology. While these conversations are happening around us all the time, it’s important to include other members of the executive management team in these conversations.

The generative AI space is evolving at a blistering pace and it’s easy for executives to be left behind in the discussion. As a technology, generative AI has the potential to rewrite the rulebook on how we create, develop, market and operate, and it’s important to understand the impact it can have on our businesses.

At the recent Salesforce AI Advantage Roadshow in Melbourne, our 8Squad team hosted a discussion session between CEO, Frank Cuiuli, and Daniele Iezzi, Founder of Redwood Consulting and the former GM of Customer Service for David Jones and Country Road. When attendees were asked whose executive teams were leaning into the AI conversation in a meaningful way, no one was quick to raise their hand.

The recent snafu around OpenAI, its board and their decision to axe and then reappoint CEO Sam Altman the following day is a prime example of why executives need to be more included in the AI conversation. There are important discussions to be had around governance, business structure and realising its full potential.

Depending on where your organisation already sits in the AI maturity curve, we’ve pulled together some important conversations for you to have with your CEO and CFO about AI. For today, we’ll focus on conversations to have in the earlier and emerging stages of AI maturity.

Key Conversations

Conversation #1Understanding AI and its Benefits

The first conversation to be had around generative AI begins with helping executive teams and the wider business understand what it is and the potential it has. No, not the potential to take their jobs away, but how they can spend more time on meaningful work rather than administrative tasks. Once people get through the worry they have about threats or change, they begin to understand what it can do for them and that’s when the spark of inspiration ignites.

When it comes to having discussions about the benefits of AI with your CEO or CFO, remember to speak in their professional love language, not yours. Think more about headcount, business goals, iterative revenue generation and stakeholder priorities, than the time it takes to respond to customers or the deflection rate. Now, you’re speaking their language!

Conversation #2Business Culture and Structure

To be a successful modern organisation, businesses need to be agile and adapt quickly to market conditions. Rather than invest in large and lengthy technology projects, which can come at significant cost with a high rate of failure, many businesses are looking at smaller iterative projects instead.

The nature of most AI projects needs the right business structures and a supportive culture to thrive. Having conversations with executive teams about reducing hierarchies and siloes, embracing distributed decision making and building a culture of fallible learning is key to success. If your people aren’t free to fail, then they aren’t empowered to learn.

Conversation #3Funding for Failure

After sorting out business structures and cultures, the CFO will be interested in how these smaller projects get funded. For a truly agile business, the projects should require less senior buy-in and time to approve, and factor failure into the costs. By embracing the cost of an adapt-and-learn culture through providing a persistent funding model, businesses can provide the necessary freedom and guardrails for AI projects to happen sooner.

According to Daniele Iezzi, one of the most impactful things that David Jones and Country Road did to support AI early on, was to develop an agile funding approach. Rather than develop lengthy business cases for approval from the core executive team, each portfolio was allocated a fixed budget, and teams were given more fiscal responsibility for their areas. They could develop a one-page business case to gain faster access to smaller amounts to fund their development projects. Importantly, both successful and failed projects were scrutinised to capture and share the learnings regardless of their outcome.

Conversation #4Identifying Opportunities

When it comes to identifying the best opportunities for AI across a business, the sweet spot can be found by regularly bringing technologists and business visionaries together. Combining the understanding of what AI can do with the longer-term vision of the CEO and board helps to identify where the greatest potential for value might be. It can begin with simply identifying apps or processes that AI can benefit through to thinking about redeploying staff on strategic activities while AI takes over administrative tasks. Salesforce GPT for Service can take tasks such as agents writing case notes and automate this, giving back valuable time to spend with customers. It also makes great use of the Einstein trust layer within the Salesforce ecosystem, allowing you to implement AI solutions without some of the usual concerns around risks. This ongoing and important conversation needs to be encouraged and developed over time to lead to a meaningful impact across the business.

Conversation #5Keeping the Customer at the Centre

According to McKinsey, 75% of the value that generative AI case studies already deliver comes from four areas of the business; customer operations, marketing & sales, software engineering and R&D. These areas each have a strong focus on the customer, improving their experience and the service provided to them. The power of Salesforce customer 360 + Data + AI provides a huge competitive advantage for organisations that are investing in putting the customer at the centre of all of their decision-making.

It’s crucial to not let the shiny, new AI capabilities set the agenda. Once teams start to see the benefits of AI, it’s tempting to try and put it into workflows and systems everywhere. Before letting the AI FOMO take over, it’s always good to have a conversation that grounds the excitement and the energy and brings it back to the customer. Evaluating projects on their potential to improve the customer experience, provides a triage approach that helps to prioritise the importance of each project. The projects that focus on customer experience stand to deliver more value to the business.

8Squad helps to support businesses at every stage in their AI journey. In the earlier stages, customers can partner with us to better understand their readiness through a formal assessment or to help educate their organisation and executive teams about AI and its true potential.

We also offer comprehensive data management solutions that help customers better prepare, clean and collect their data for the purposes of AI. Many of our customers partner with us to pilot small-scale AI programs that build key capabilities and provide iterative value to their businesses. These projects might involve tasks like building AI-driven chatbots, automating specific sales or service processes, or implementing predictive analytics.

For AI’s potential to be fully realised, important conversations like these need to happen between technology and customer leads with their wider executive team and board. We’re fast approaching a period of rapid change to the way we work. For businesses to stay out in front, these conversations about generative AI will become even more important in the months ahead.

To have these conversations and more with your business leaders, reach out to the 8Squad team to help plan your next move.

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