The Challenges and Opportunities of AI in Software Companies

As AI presents a world of unlimited possibilities for software companies, it also has the potential to open Pandora’s box, unleashing unintended consequences. This is especially true as the feature set of AI approaches artificial general intelligence (AGI). However, it can also be used to create useless hype that does not move work or leisure forward significantly.

The Concerns Surrounding AI

Innovation is a wonderful thing — but the question to confront is “Are we creating what customers really want?” Pew Research Center revealed that 52% of Americans feel more concerned than excited about the increased use of AI. This general unease comes from media coverage, coupled with a lack of understanding of how AI will impact people’s day-to-day lives. Meanwhile, companies are frantically creating and shipping a lot of ill-conceived AI features their customers don’t adopt, driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO). This not only costs more money but also has the potential to undermine a company’s reputation.

“In addition, building tools that customers don’t want and won’t use takes valuable time and resources away from investing in other features that may make a difference — a missed opportunity for the company and customers alike,” says Oji Udezue, Chief Product Officer at Typeform.

The Slow Adoption of Technological Breakthroughs

While AI is advancing rapidly, the diffusion of technology into the real economy often occurs at a slower pace than anticipated. Udezue highlights the example of smartphones, where it took a decade for ownership to reach 85% in the US. Similarly, the adoption of AI chatbots remains surprisingly low, with only 19% of respondents having used ChatGPT, according to a survey by Morgan Stanley. It is evident that not everyone adopts new technology at the same rate, and it may take time for people to embrace the latest innovations.

“While these tools are in their early stages, many people will still resort to the tried and true ways they’ve always done things,” Udezue remarks.

Customer-Centric Innovation with AI

To successfully integrate AI in software companies, Udezue emphasizes the importance of keeping customers at the center of innovation. Different customers have different needs and adoption rates. Some are early adopters, while others are laggards. Additionally, there are customers who are experts and desire creative control over the technology they use.

“AI should not be implemented simply to get credit for shipping something cool. Instead, think of AI as a new tool to deliver customer-centric feature sets that can accelerate workflows or increase capabilities given the same workflows,” Udezue suggests.

By tailoring the AI-enhanced software journey to pressing customer problems, companies can deliver thoughtful artificial intelligence-augmented feature sets that are simple, usable, and powerful. This approach ensures that customers find the AI features delightful and useful, encouraging repeated usage.

“Thoughtful AI” is all about using AI as a core building block to deliver features that adapt to how customers work. Rather than forcing customers to adapt to AI, technology should be designed to align with human needs.

The Balancing Act

In the pursuit of innovation, companies must strike a balance between satisfying early adopters and ensuring that AI benefits all customers. Udezue advises companies to build new features around how customers work and enhance these features with AI tools. He also encourages collaborating with customers to co-create solutions that address their pain points and leverage AI’s possibilities.

“Know what your customers need today and anticipate how new, innovative approaches will result in solutions for tomorrow,” Udezue concludes.

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