The DoD Just Schooled Us on How to Create an AI strategy

The government has a plan, so why don’t you? This past week the federal government rolled out their plan to use artificial intelligence to advance the security and prosperity of our nation. This comes on the heels of an executive order mandating government agencies to focus on American leadership in AI. The 17-page strategy briefing spells out why our government sees AI as important, how it will benefit our security, and what they plan to focus in on. And yet, roughly 8 of 10 companies still don’t have such a plan. Believe it or not, you should take a page out of the federal government’s innovation playbook. For the majority  in the commercial sector, this report lays out a relevant framework on how to shape your own AI strategy.

 

Start with WHY.

 

A strong, technologically advanced Department is essential for protecting the security of our nation, preserving access to markets that will improve our standard of living, and ensuring that we are capable of passing intact to the younger generations the freedoms we currently enjoy.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

Good AI programs start with a business goal in mind, not a use case or technology. Here the Government is very clear about why technology is critical and the reasons for taking action. Be clear on what your goal is or outcome you wish to achieve. It is important that before actions are  taken, everyone universally agrees on the outcome and that achieving the outcome is a priority.

 

What’s the problem?

 

AI is rapidly changing a wide range of businesses and industries. It is also poised to change the character of the future battlefield and the pace of threats we must face.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

The Government is very clear about a problem they wish to solve with AI. They foresee an AI arms race and a fundamental shift on how nations will compete. In the commercial sector, artificial intelligence is shaping new business models and operations. However, AI should not be a solution for its own sake. The most successful implementations today are being applied as point solutions on narrow use cases. It is important to have all the problems you are looking to solve well defined to assess the viability of any potential AI solution.

 

State your goals.

 

We will harness the potential of AI to transform all functions of the Department positively, thereby supporting and protecting U.S. service members, safeguarding U.S. citizens, defending allies and partners, and improving the affordability, effectiveness, and speed of our operations.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

It is important to be specific on the changes you wish to see. Once the change is defined, identify ways to measure success. That may require you to set benchmarks on the level of achievement today and compare how the AI programs measure against those benchmark.

 

A strategy is HOW you wish to apply AI.

 

Realizing this vision requires identifying appropriate use cases for AI across DoD, rapidly piloting solutions, and scaling successes across our enterprise. The 2018 DoD AI Strategy, summarized here, will drive the urgency, scale, and unity of effort needed to navigate this transformation. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is the focal point for carrying it out. As we systematically explore AI’s full potential, study its implications, and begin the process of learning about its impact on defense, we will remain thoughtful and adaptive in our execution.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

Generally, artificial intelligence is being applied to make predictions and automate tasks. That’s a good starting point for thinking about how it may apply within your company. Think through how you will approach implementing solutions. Some organizations create a center of excellence or innovation team to work on AI solutions as part of a R&D effort. Some start small with a proof-of-concept for a quick win.

 

Identify where in the business AI may apply.

 

With the application of AI to defense, we have an opportunity to improve support for and protection of U.S. service members, safeguard our citizens, defend our allies and partners, and improve the affordability and speed of our operations.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

Once a problem is stated, the goal is set, and a strategy is formulated, it’s time to define the use cases that meet the mission. Make a list of all the things you wish you understood in your data, wish you could predict, and simple tasks you wish to automate. It’s okay to not know if AI can augment those areas. The end goal is to create a heatmap of areas AI can be applied quickly and which are more far reaching.

 

Know how AI will impact culture and explore ethical issues.

 

Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, including in applications that raise questions regarding international norms and human rights. These investments threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the free and open international order.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

With any AI rollout there are people, ethical, and cultural issues to address. It is important to establish boundaries on what lines you will not cross. Be transparent with you company on your plans to embrace AI. Most companies we work with generate a lot of excitement by sharing their plans. People will inevitably be concerned with important issues like the potential for job destruction. State your plans openly and honestly.

 

Know what is at stake if no action is taken.

 

The costs of not implementing this strategy are clear. Failure to adopt AI will result in legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living, and growing challenges to societies that have been built upon individual freedoms.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

Doing nothing is not an option. If that still takes some convincing, do the homework. Quickly. Just as it is important to know what there is to gain, you should quantify the threat of no action. Many companies are not ready for AI but aren’t standing idle. You can be collecting data, modernizing around the cloud, and hiring the appropriate skill sets to ready yourself quickly.

 

Have a plan for scaling prototypes and AI programs. Have on-going support.

 

It will establish a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact across DoD, including shared data, reusable tools, frameworks and standards, and cloud and edge services. It will guide training programs across the Department to ensure broad access to the talent necessary to scale AI applications

 

Taking advantage of this concept of decentralized development and experimentation will require the Department to put in place key building blocks and platforms to scale and democratize access to AI. This includes creating a common foundation of shared data, reusable tools, frameworks and standards, and cloud and edge services.

(SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY)

 

AI will necessitate deploying new technology, hiring new people, and creating new processes. New systems will need to be established for continuous data collection, model training, human-in-the-loop interventions, collaborative development, and non-stop learning. You will need to work with your IT teams and partners to plan for running many AI solutions in parallel. You will need to redefine processes to take advantage of your new ability to go from data, to insight, to action as quickly as possible.

 

It may be strange to hear, but if you want a poster child for how to build a strategy to embrace artificial intelligence, look no further than the U.S. government. There are excellent tools emerging to help broker AI strategy and solution identification.

 

Machine Learning Canvas

 

Partner with objective third parties to help align the organization and ask the right questions.