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Six keys to transforming a company in the era of artificial intelligence

Big technological companies and some banks such as BBVA are already using artificial intelligence (AI) in their products and services. However, the revolution that comes with this new technology has only just begun. At a conference organized by the IESE Business School, Ricardo Forcano, Global Head of Talent and Culture at BBVA, set forth six key issues that companies should bear in mind when adapting to this new environment.

Most companies, regardless of sector, are accustomed to managing projects, which look for new solutions for their customers—products, services, channels—and processes, which facilitate the implementation, maintenance and improvement of these solutions. “But in a world based on artificial intelligence both things change in a very substantial way,” Forcano said at the conference in which business leaders and academics shared their vision of the current state of AI, what the future holds, and how managers should prepare themselves for these changes.

Firstly, Forcano explained that data will soon become the raw material for the development of new services tailored to individual customer needs. As a result, companies will need to win the trust of consumers in order to gain access to customer data and offer personalized experiences.

Data will soon become the raw material for the development of new services tailored to individual customer needs”

“An example of the transformation of products into personalized services is BBVA Valora, a digital service that advises on the process of buying a house, helps determine its market price, and deciding whether it is better to rent or buy. We have moved from offering products such as mortgages to providing integrated advisory services.”

Processes have also already started to transform themselves into automatic algorithms that can learn for themselves and are scalable at a very low cost. This means that the design of algorithms is going to become a critical function for companies “Workers will also no longer have to spend so much time on repetitive manual tasks, and will therefore have to develop new skills,” Forcano said. In this new digital society, competition will be much more global, he added.

Within this landscape, Forcano proposed six key issues that companies need to bear in mind to adapt to this new world.

  1. Firstly, they need to have a long-term strategic vision—a 10-year horizon— of the impact of exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cloud. This vision needs to be combined with increasingly shorter execution capacity cycles.
  2. To be successful, companies also need to always put the customer first and prove they are worthy of customer trust. Data belongs to customers who will be more reluctant to give companies access to it if they cannot guarantee data security and its good use. “The competitive edge will not lie so much in the ownership of the data and algorithms but in gaining the trust of users who give us access to their data”, Forcano explained.
  3. The third challenge facing companies has to do with the knowledge and skills of the professionals who work for them. “New capabilities are needed, particularly in data science and design, attracting new talent and, above all, reskilling and honing the training of thousands of people, which is an enormous challenge,” the BBVA Global Head of Talent and Culture said.
  4. In this new world based on artificial intelligence, consumers will demand surprising and personalized experiences that require high standards of quality in the design of services and in how they are personalized and delivered.
  5. Forcano believes this will require a new form of leadership in running organizations that are increasingly more “liquid”; that is, based on more autonomous teams, empowered to make decisions, and working with agile methodologies.
  6. Lastly, Forcano insisted on the importance of companies having a sense of purpose and clear values to anchor them in an environment where change is constant.

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