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How IgniteTech is using AI to change its business

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I write about businesses using AI and today I’m excited to show you how IgniteTech is radically changing their company.

IgniteTech acquires and modernises enterprise software, offering it to customers through a cost-effective all-you-can-eat subscription model.

Thank you to the CEO, Eric Vaughan, for spending time with me and sharing his thoughts.

Here are some takeaways from the post:

  • Get leadership on board. It's important to have leaders not just say ‘let’s use AI’ but also get involved themselves.

  • Start tinkering with processes and products. Find spots where AI can make a difference in what you do and how your products work. Small wins show what's possible and excite people.

  • Give your team what they need. Provide time, tools, and training to experiment with AI. Encourage learning and experimentation.

  • Change the culture. Getting AI to work is about the people as much as the tech. Get everyone on board and support those ready to jump in.

  • Expect some bumps. Implementing AI is complex, especially for large companies stuck in certain ways. Push through early struggles and remind everyone it's about the long-term potential.

  • Promote grassroots enthusiasm at scale. Make AI skill-building available and rewarding. Carefully shift talent unable or unwilling to adapt.

  • Keep communicating the why. Make sure AI ties back to the big-picture goals so it feels like part of a bigger plan, not just tech for tech's sake.

Driving cultural change with AI

Eric, a technologist at heart, founded 3 software companies over the last few decades. But when he saw what generative AI could do, it changed his perspective on the world, like the internet and iPhone did.

I’ve never seen anything like this. The potential of generative AI is keeping me up at night...I feel overwhelmed that I'm not doing enough and we're not doing enough.

I believe this has the potential to change everything. Everywhere. For everyone and that's just phenomenal. And so I feel it because I'm that guy. I'm that technology guy. I feel a responsibility to my friends, my family, and certainly my company and my teams to say, you've got to wake up if you aren't using this. You don't understand why this could be so important. Don't resist. Embrace it, learn. We're at the beginning of the frontier. Everybody's experimenting at the same time.

As CEO, Eric made AI the top priority at the company.

I made this our top priority at the entire company...We're an enterprise software company with thousands of customers all around the world. A lot of responsibility to those customers, but the same thing I've got a responsibility of those customers to lead. Now with AI first features in all of our software products and that's where we focus.

In Q2 of 2023, they kicked off with a company-wide challenge to foster engagement and exploration.

I presented at an all hands meeting in the second quarter of last year and my second slide was a picture of a gift. I said, here's something you don't hear from CEOs at companies often. I'm giving everyone here on this call a gift, an unequivocal gift. There's no other way to describe it. It's a gift of time, education, money, support, enthusiasm. To learn something so fundamentally groundbreaking that it's going to make you far better than you were before.

A month-long project ensued where all employees were asked to share information in a Slack group; articles they’ve read, newsletters, products they tried, ChatGPT prompts, etc.

Employees were given $200 (and ChatGPT+ accounts) to spend on AI learning tools.

The engagement level was scored.

There was a funnel with three colours: green, yellow, and red.

  • Green for top scorers - who got a $2,500 reward

  • Yellow for people who were engaged but weren’t in the basement

  • Red (basement) for least engaged people

Anyone in red will be leaving the company.

...anybody in the basement [least engaged in AI integration] will be exiting the company, because to be in the basement, you will have not tried.

This thinking changes the culture, which Eric was conscious of.

It's a cultural change, by the way...And part of that cultural change is finding the people that won't come along with you. You’ve got to sort that out because that's not going to be productive.

But the potential competitive advantage is too large to ignore. AI will create "haves and have-nots", and Ignite Tech is positioning its people as ‘haves’.

Eric said learning AI is imperative for employees to stay in the company. Those who know it and leave are much better placed in the market than those who haven't learned it.

if this doesn't excite you, then you're probably in the wrong business.

Not all employees need to become AI experts, but they need to be willing adopters, as AI will increasingly affect all parts of the business.

Getting the Team Trained on AI

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