Microsoft Launches Free AI Business School for Execs
Machine learning and, more broadly, artificial intelligence (AI) have become the tech industry's most important trends over the past 18 months. And despite the hype and, to some extent, fear surrounding the technology, many businesses are now embracing AI at an impressive speed.
At this rate, by the end of 2020, we predict that upwards of 90 percent of large enterprises will have either pilot or production-level applications of machine learning in their organizations. We're seeing increasing usage of the technology for cybersecurity, sales and marketing, and in contact centers, as well as in sectors such as retail, financial services and media. This suggests that some enterprises are quietly getting on with adopting AI and machine learning. Despite this progress, many of the pilot schemes are still highly experimental, and some organizations are struggling to understand how they can really embrace the technology. A lot of companies are embarking on proofs of concept or implementing point solutions with a narrow focus — justifiably so, in our view, because they need to start on small projects to learn and iterate. We estimate that fewer than 10 percent of companies using AI have yet to fully operationalize it within their business processes or have organization-wide strategies. The main reasons for this are not technological. Rather, firms have been held back by a lack of skills, an inability to define how AI will be used in the business or how it relates to corporate strategies, and uncertainty about governance and trust in AI. Microsoft Sends Execs Back to School Today Microsoft has announced a free, online program that offers training in AI which aims to overcome these barriers. Microsoft's AI Business School is not a technical how-to. It's designed entirely for business leaders, and covers a host of topics to help leaders gain practical knowledge to define and implement strategies for their organizations. There are also guides on helping executives manage the impact AI has on company culture, operations and governance. Microsoft plans to offer a range of case studies, executive insights from Microsoft leaders, academic lectures from INSEAD business school, a partner for the program, and tech talks covering a range of key AI technologies. The course breaks down into four modules: Defining an AI strategy, which includes guidance on creating organizational strategies. It offers case studies from several sectors, including healthcare, financial, manufacturing and retail. Enabling an AI-ready culture, which helps leaders create data-driven and collaborative organizations. It also offers perspectives on how to break down organizational and departmental silos to embed the technology within a company and enable all employees. Microsoft also provides a maturity model assessment and a change management framework to help leaders assess and evolve their approaches. Implications of Responsible AI in Business focuses on the importance of principles and maintaining responsible approaches when building and using AI. It also educates executives about the importance of governance, including topics such as bias, explainability, privacy, security and compliance. AI Technology 101 for Business Leaders gives executives a high-level overview of technologies such as machine learning and deep learning, cognitive services, conversational bots and AI features in applications. The content within each module is grounded in real-life stories told by actual leaders who have taken AI from theory into practice.