The AICD is dedicated to equipping members with the necessary resources, knowledge and expertise to lead with confidence, says AICD CEO Mark Rigotti. 

    The launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November 2022 has sparked a worldwide conversation about the enormous potential, as well as risks, of artificial intelligence (AI). In little more than a year, the public, government and businesses have grappled with the widespread implications of these awesome new tools.

    At the AICD, we have been considering AI and its implications for our enterprise (how we operate), our education products (how we help our learners more, as well as anti-plagarism checks) and our member products (how we engage with our members).

    Last month, the AICD hosted an event in partnership with Microsoft, whose chief commercial officer Judson Althoff spoke on the AI transformation. The event sold out face-to-face in 48 hours and the attendance of more than 1200 AICD members in-person and online underscored AI’s significance in current governance discussions. Judson shared insights on Microsoft’s collaboration with OpenAI and how it incorporates AI into its products and guides others in AI integration, offering valuable lessons for our community.

    The promise of AI is, broadly, speed (doing things more quickly and efficiently), while improving satisfaction (for both customers and employees).

    We will cover Judson’s insights in more detail in the May issue. I took away four key points:

    1. AI’s accelerating pace and impact on industries

    Judson highlighted AI’s role in redefining product development, business processes and industry standards. He shared insights on how Microsoft itself leverages AI to drive innovation, particularly noting the utilisation of AI in software development through GitHub Copilot, which has significantly enhanced productivity and innovation within Microsoft. In other words, the engineers are using AI to help write the code that underpins new and better products.

    2. The importance of responsible AI and data governance

    The discussion underscored the critical importance of responsible AI deployment and the necessity of robust data governance frameworks. This includes addressing ethical considerations, ensuring data privacy (through enterprise systems rather than open systems) and maintaining the integrity and security of AI systems. The Microsoft approach to responsible AI, including the establishment of governance frameworks and principles to guide AI deployment, can serve as a model for other organisations. Key, though, is to be across your own data, how you govern it and how AI will mine it for insight.

    3. AI’s role in enhancing customer and employee experiences

    Telstra product executive Kim Krogh Andersen joined Judson to discuss how the telco approaches AI. The event showed practical examples from Microsoft and Telstra of how AI is used to improve customer service and support, and to enhance employee productivity and job satisfaction. This was chiefly at customer fulfillment centres where operators can utilise AI to better and faster serve customers who phone or email for help. While AI can enhance efficiency and job satisfaction by automating mundane tasks, boards must also consider the implications for job roles and employee skills, ensuring the transition to AI-enhanced processes is handled thoughtfully and inclusively.

    4. Director professional development in AI

    Judson’s advice? “Make a start”. Use accessible tools to experiment with AI and learn about its practical applications in a business context. He emphasises the importance of making the learning process engaging, suggesting directors could benefit from practical exercises or simulations that involve AI to gain a hands-on understanding.

    Bringing insights from a global Microsoft executive to the AICD audience reflects the AICD’s commitment to ensuring members are at the forefront of effective contemporary governance, especially in emerging fields of critical importance like AI.

    The AICD is dedicated to equipping members with the necessary resources, knowledge and expertise to lead with confidence. We will soon publish a resource on the governance of AI, drawing on the expertise and insights of some of our external partners.

    This will extend a range of resources on digital governance we have recently released, including our recent Governing Through a Cyber Crisis guide, developed in partnership with Ashurst and the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre. This guide offers a practical framework for managing cyber incidents, an area where members had called for support as they brace for further proliferation of cyber threats.

    We will continue the conversation at the Australian Governance Summit, which will have just been held in Melbourne as this issue arrives with members. Dr Ayesh Khanna, co-founder and CEO of Addo, a leading AI solutions firm, will deliver a keynote on the challenges and opportunities of AI. Ayesh joins more than 40 leading directors, thinkers and experts who will be speaking at this year’s Summit, which also includes fellow directors Catherine Livingstone AC FAICDLife and Woolworths and Origin Energy chair Scott Perkins.

    It is a tremendously exciting program and I am looking forward to meeting many of you there. For those of you not able to attend the conference this year, we hope to see you for the Summit in Sydney next year (2025). In the meantime, we will feature highlights on the main themes of the conference in Company Director next month.

    This article first appeared under the headline 'The AI Forefront’ in the April 2024 issue of Company Director magazine.

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