Being future ready in a generative AI world

Change is coming fast for many companies, courtesy a raft of new AI-based tools like ChatGPT. So how do corporate leaders adjust to what’s coming?

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Disclosure: All of the companies mentioned are clients of the author.

This week, I’m at HP’s Amplify partner conference in Chicago. Like a lot of companies, HP is struggling with the surprisingly fast adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI). Unlike most firms, HP is expected to conceive of and build products for a future that is anything but static. After all, earlier predictions about AI advances like this focused on the 2030s, not 2023.

I had a chance to ask HP CEO Enrique Lores how he plans to pivot the company to this new AI opportunity and threat. What he said should be a best practice. In short, his view is that since few people yet know the strengths and weaknesses of generative AI, it makes sense to position it as a productivity enhancer that can improve communications and boost efficiency. That way, HP experiences the pain of learning how to best use the tool first, figures out what is missing, and then decides how HP can enhance future products.

It's a measured response, focusing on the quality of the offering over the need to generate immediate revenue.  

Becoming future ready

Over the next several decades, the use of AI will have major reverberations. At the moment, companies are focused on generative AI tools such as ChatGPT — largely because Microsoft is tacking hard to this technology. (It reminds me of Microsoft’s .NET pivot after the emergence of Netscape and the web.) This time Microsoft isn’t chasing someone else; it’s driving the trend.

Generative AI is redefining what we think of as fast — and technology companies are at risk because its adoption will dramatically change the way businesses and people discover, choose, buy and use future products. During the Amplify keynote, Lores pointed to AMD CEO Lisa Su and how AMD is pivoting to the future.

(Su asked who in the Amplify audience had used ChatGPT, and most hands went up, highlighting how quickly this technology is spreading.)

So how do leaders prepare for change at this speed? Both CEOs said success depends on a laser-like focus on the customer; understand how they’re adapting the technology, how it affects hybrid work (which both feel is here to stay), and then develop and modify plans for future products and services accordingly. 

While neither company offers a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams, both are building products that enhance these offerings — and continually looking at ways to make technology easier to use. (HP bought Poly recently.)

As an aside, HP’s latest Windows Notebook, the AMD-based Windows Dragonfly Pro (I’m using it to write this post), was co-developed by the two companies and it provides a far better service experience for those who don’t have an IT department handy. 

It speaks to what both firms meant in terms of being future ready and solidifying trust and deep engagement with their customers. Services are what connect people to the companies they buy from over time. The Dragonfly Pro has a dedicated set of buttons for service and help and it delivers services that’s a step above what anyone else provides.

The lesson here is that good service tends to keep customers happy — and happy customers are less likely to change providers. 

As for generative AI, neither of these CEOs knows what it will mean for their future, but both know they’ll need to pivot to meet the market.

I’m reminded of what happened to IBM in the 1980s when it failed to embrace customers during the far smaller client/server shift and almost went out of business. IBM forgot to embrace its customers during change. Obviously, it learned that lesson well, given that its mainframe technology is again one of the most trusted technologies in the market.

In short, during these times of change, it’s a struggle figuring out how to win a future that has yet to be defined. But if you focus on customer needs, work with customers to understand how they want to deploy technology, and figure out where to focus future products and services, you can do succeed.

Oh, and given that Microsoft is driving so much change at the moment, keeping an eye on it would be prudent.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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