While GenAI was the enterprise news story of 2023, the technology has yet to have a significant impact on how enterprises work. Deloitte’s recent CFO Signals report found only 15% of organizations are incorporating GenAI into their business strategy, with many more — 42% — experimenting with GenAI at this point. Just less than one-fifth of companies say it’s too early to decide how GenAI will be incorporated into their business.

These numbers are likely to change significantly in the year ahead, and experts advise company leaders to be strategic with their use of GenAI as the technology is liable to bring drastic change — and not all of it for the better, if care isn’t taken. “It is essential to bring everyone along – those in leadership and those who will be using or affected by GenAI solutions daily,” says Monica Cisneros, product marketing for AI at enterprise analytics firm Alteryx.

“It’s akin to ensuring all passengers are comfortable and informed about the journey ahead,” says Cisneros. To help enterprises better prepare for that GenAI “journey ahead,” we reached out to experts for advice on preparing for and managing the associated organizational change.

Pillar One: Foster a Culture of Innovation and Learning

Those enterprises that succeed with GenAI will encourage continuous learning and training among staff, including plenty of training and resources that focus on AI technologies and their use cases within the organization. This way, AI won’t be a mystery, and employees will be much more likely to embrace GenAI as it enters their daily workflow. As Orla Daly, chief information officer at Skillsoft, explains, organizations should ensure team members have proper GenAI training. “That includes awareness of GenAI’s capabilities and limitations and practical skills for applying GenAI to drive business outcomes. Promote a culture of continuous learning to keep pace with the fast-evolving AI and GenAI landscape,” Daly says.

Pillar Two: Be Strategic With Your GenAI Integration

To avoid GenAI implementations that flounder and help the changes the adoption brings become well received, it’s important to have a clear GenAI strategy developed. Experts advise focusing on the areas where GenAI is expected to add the most value — improving operations and customer experiences, streamlining research, or helping staffers innovate.

“Navigating the changes GenAI brings to an organization is like preparing for a major evolution in the workplace, Cisneros continued. “It’s about having a forward-looking mindset. Anticipate how GenAI could reshape various aspects of our business, from daily operations to customer engagement. This step is like setting the GPS for a long trip – you need to know the potential routes and destinations,” says Cisneros.

Pillar Three: Communication to Manage Resistance

Fostering open communication channels helps ensure what’s being implemented and why. Listening and addressing concerns is essential. “Organizations anticipate and manage GenAI-induced change through proactive communication, fostering a culture of adaptability, providing training and education, and involving stakeholders in the implementation process,” says Ritwik Babyal, CTO at managed services provider Mastek. That must include a clear change management strategy and encouraging collaboration between AI experts and domain specialists to ensure a smooth integration of GenAI.

“Creating a culture of curiosity, experimentation, and responsible risk-taking while emphasizing agile working methods is key. Formalize how to encourage these new ways of working while being deliberate about bringing teams together with the right combination of knowledge and skills to accelerate the path to value,” Daly says. Daly explains that for these efforts, Skillsoft holds regular innovation sprints and hackathons for IT and digital team members, in addition to company innovation challenges that prioritize time to both experiment with AI and enable staff to learn by doing.

Pillar Four: Embrace Change Management Practices to Reduce GenAI-Fueled Organizational Risks

Of course, implementing GenAI will substantially change organizational workflows and the tasks expected of specific job roles and their responsibilities. Good change management processes will be essential for success. For the foreseeable future, GenAI will be more about worker augmentation, not elimination. “For all the efficiency gains possible with GenAI, it is important not to alienate key experts,” says Manfred Kügel, data scientist and IoT industry advisor for AI and analytics provider SAS.

“Further, there are clear limitations in today’s GenAI technology, such as mathematical reasoning and synthesizing new information. Humans still drive these key fields of innovation. The key for any GenAI implementation is to support best these experts who drive innovation,” says Kügel.

“Overall, GenAI should be viewed as a technology that supports business goals, augments and assists an organization’s people, and helps them transform volumes of data into better, faster decisions,” he says.

Pillar Five: Leverage AI for Your Competitive Advantage

The wins will matter when alleviating the concerns around GenAI among business leaders and staff alike. Big wins and little wins will build confidence throughout the organization. Those wins will likely initially come by deploying GenAI in places that can improve the customer experience and drive better internal decision-making to gain a competitive advantage. “An often overlooked piece of the enterprise generative AI puzzle is how to capitalize on the competitive advantage opportunities they can create,” says Chandini Jain, founder and CEO at Auquan, a company focusing on GenAI for financial services.

“You need to be prepared to exploit your gains. If your knowledge workers are no longer bogged down with manual tasks, how can you best reallocate their time to contribute more toward your strategic goals? If you’re generating insights faster than before, are you prepared to analyze and act on those insights in a timely manner? Is your organization agile enough to seize upon the opportunities that generative AI solutions can create,” asks Jain.

To best manage the change that GenAI will bring to organizations, enterprises must avoid hodgepodge deployments and develop an organization-wide strategy focusing on the areas most likely to get success and build a broad change culture.