How Businesses Can Separate AI Hype from Practical Impact and Value





This article was written by Daniel Knauf, Chief Technology Officer. It originally appeared in Forbes.


It’s 2024, and there is hardly anyone in the business world who hasn’t heard about AI and the anticipated revolution it will bring. Speculation about shifts in labor, dramatic increases in productivity and even the “threat” of your digital twin stealing your job are all discussions around the virtual water cooler. But how much of this growing conversation amounts to hype, and where are the opportunities to leverage AI to unlock real-world business value and impact?
To fully realize the potential of AI, business leaders must not fall victim to “shiny object syndrome” but rather focus on use cases with practical utility to their organizations, embrace an iterative approach to AI-driven transformation and implement measurement systems to understand the true impact of these technologies.


Sifting Through Hype to Uncover Real-World Value

There is a critical distinction to be made between AI applications that offer real utility and those that are gimmicks. While AI has vast potential to revolutionize industries, not all applications hold the same value. For years now, utility-driven AI solutions like machine learning and predictive analytics have contributed to sectors including healthcare, finance and environmental science, offering tangible benefits and solving complex problems. Consider predictive maintenance programs at hospitals that alert property managers to potential malfunctions in mission-critical infrastructure or AI-powered fraud detection systems to safeguard customers’ finances.
In contrast, some AI innovations, though flashy and technologically impressive, may lack substantial impact or practical business application—more novelties than tools of genuine change. With the general public’s fascination with LLMs and applications like ChatGPT and DALL-E, the natural impulse is to jump to conclusions that critical business functions are one well-engineered prompt away from disruption. In virtually all cases, the reality is far more complex.
We can glimpse the depth to which AI has already become embedded in the business world through a recent survey conducted by IDC and sponsored by Microsoft.
  • Seventy-one percent of respondents’ companies are currently using AI, and 22% anticipated AI implementation in the next 12 months.
  • AI deployments are reported to take 12 months or less in 92% of cases. In 40% of organizations surveyed, the time taken for AI implementation was less than six months.
  • Within 14 months, organizations are seeing an average return of $3.50 for every dollar invested in AI.
With returns like these, it’s no surprise that companies have been tempted to throw everything they have into AI solutions. But for an AI integration to succeed, it must be approached with a few fundamental tenets in mind.


To Maximize Value, Emphasize Practical Business Utility

Like any business investment, to achieve levels of value like those reported in the IDC/Microsoft survey, AI has to offer measurable benefits and a clear path to a positive ROI. For business leaders, this means deeply considering their organizations’ needs and identifying areas where AI can make a practical impact. While needs vary from sector to sector, the following use cases for utility-based AI are some of the most common that my team and I deliver for our customers across industries.
  • Data Anomaly Detection And Quality Checks: AI’s ability to detect data anomalies finds real-world value in sectors like finance, research and development and consumer research. For example, it can identify fraud in financial transactions and root out bots in human-based data collection, directly preventing losses and maintaining data integrity.
  • Targeted Customer Segmentation: AI can transform marketing processes and enhance customer segmentation. By analyzing consumer data, AI enables businesses to create highly targeted campaigns, leading to increased engagement and better marketing ROI.
  • Empowering Decision-Makers: AI tools make complex data understandable to non-technical users, facilitating informed decision-making across various business areas. This democratization of data analysis can enhance operational efficiency and strategy formulation.
  • Enhanced Predictive Analytics: In predictive analytics, AI forecasts market trends and customer behaviors, allowing businesses to stay ahead of the curve. This level of foresight can help enable proactive strategy development to maintain a competitive edge.


Introduce AI Programs with a Focus on Measurement and Iterative Improvement

For companies rushing into AI modernization, another important factor to be considered is the role of metrics and iterative improvement. The integration of AI into business processes is not just a matter of implementation but also of continuous measurement and performance evaluation. The success of AI systems in any industry largely depends on how they are monitored, evaluated and refined.
From an organizational standpoint, I find it useful to start with the topmost executive goals and work backward to align data and systems to ensure they have traceability to priority outcomes. In much the same way, setting performance metric benchmarks is a cornerstone of successful AI integrations. These can serve as a roadmap for assessing whether an AI system meets the intended goals or if its practical impact is falling short.
AI systems are not your average Ronco “set-it-and-forget-it” solutions; they require constant evaluation and refinement. This is a result of the dynamic nature of AI and machine-learning models, which learn and evolve based on new data. Continuous monitoring ensures systems will adapt to changes and maintain their effectiveness over time and can also help to identify any biases or errors that might creep into the system.
The development of AI systems should be iterative, involving continuous testing, feedback and improvements. An iterative approach allows for gradual enhancements, ensuring that the system grows in efficiency while enabling the latest technological upgrades over time—all within the context of a business’s evolving needs and goals.



The AI revolution is here, but it is up to business leaders to sift through the hype and pinpoint the use cases that will unlock efficiency for their organizations. When approached correctly, AI can offer a tremendous level of ROI and productivity acceleration. So instead of chasing the latest shiny, headline-grabbing innovation, ask yourself: Where can AI serve my business’s practical needs, and how can we design a roadmap to ensure it delivers sustainable, long-term value?
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