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AI Business School Podcast Episode 1: Strategy

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Strategy: Building a successful AI roadmap

To unlock the full potential of AI, leaders must paint a holistic vision that inspires the entire company, put steps in place to achieve that goal and then execute. Host David Carmona shares his own experience and speaks with global thought leaders who share best practices for companies to succeed in the long term.

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Transcript excerpt (read the full transcript)

Voice over from President John F. Kennedy: We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

David Carmona: This, in case you didn’t recognize the voice, was President John F. Kennedy in what is commonly known as his Moonshot Speech. On May 25th, 1961, President Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress to encourage them to support him on a crazy journey that would put boot prints on the lunar surface. But most important to think and dream big to literally shoot for the moon.

I want to welcome you to the AI Business School Podcast. My name is David Carmona and I work as a General Manager for Artificial Intelligence and Innovation at Microsoft. That speech from JFK was a great example of leadership. As we know, the President didn’t live to see that moment, but his leadership outlined a vision. It gave NASA a culture that set everyone’s eyes on achieving a goal—a goal, that let me remind you, it was not just about building a rocket. This was a vision for an entire country to support the first manned flight to the moon and then beyond.

Now imagine that you take the same approach and tomorrow you go to your boss and you say, today I am announcing that in this decade we will launch an amazing AI project that will change the company forever. And then you say, and I’ll see you in 9 1/2 years, bye! I don’t know your boss, but in my case that isn’t going to work, right? And actually that’s not how the moon landing worked either.


Many of us remember the final mission to the moon, Apollo 11. But before that one, we had 17 other missions, 17, each of them as important, if not more, than the last one. Each of them delivered huge breakthroughs with immediate applicability in areas like rocket science, electronics, or weather forecasting, just to name a few.

That’s what your AI strategy should look like. Thought leaders like the ones we will meet today shoot for the moon, but they get there step by step. Each step by itself provides value to their companies. When you define your AI strategy, think of the long-term impact on your business model, on your products, with your customers, but then get their project by project delivering value and results to the business today.


Athina Kanioura: Any company needs to have a plan on how data and AI will be at the heart of every decision process.

David: I’d like you to meet Dr. Athina Kanioura, the Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer of PepsiCo.

Athina, one of the things that I’ve seen during this period of sudden change is the compression of projects and the applicability of them. What is your experience?

Athina: Aggressively accelerating the cycle time for their AI strategy from five or ten years down to two, maximum three years. There is a big appetite for that, and all the investments are redirected to be able to drive this specific outcome.

David: Some of the issues that both Athina and I have seen as organizations make this investment is a struggle to move AI projects from siloed teams to the rest of the organization. Some questions that we usually ask them are, for example, what value does AI bring to the business? What disruption are you looking for or are you reacting to? Athina, the COVID-19 crisis has certainly accelerated that thinking process, right?

Athina: We have seen a huge appetite post COVID-19 and subsequently for the components that realized additional business models need to change on the adoption curve and the adoption lifecycle of AI. Companies now want to embark in a digital transformation journey fully powered by AI. So, although the adoption cycle was spotty, while everyone understood the value, now everyone is super keen to move to the scale phase of AI extremely fast. [MUSIC]

David: So, it sounds like AI is moving from a nice to have when we feel like we can, to a top priority imperative for us to do now, which means that an AI strategy is truly a business strategy, and therefore organizations need to rethink how the technology spends align with their business goals.

If we take this one step further, the investment isn’t just about the technology. Stephen Eyears, the Head of Strategy and Innovation for 7-Eleven in Australia, has learned from his experience that a comprehensive strategy requires much more.

Read the full transcript

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Heard on this episode

David Carmona, Microsoft General Manager for AI and Innovation
Podcast host David Carmona is the General Manager for AI and Innovation at Microsoft
Athina Kanioura, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at PepsiCo
Athina Kanioura is the Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at PepsiCo
Stephen Eyears is the Head of Strategy, Innovation and Business Development for 7-Eleven Australia
Stephen Eyears is the Head of Strategy, Innovation and Business Development at 7-Eleven Australia
Deb Cupp is Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Enterprise & Commercial Industries at Microsoft
Deb Cupp is Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Enterprise & Commercial Industries at Microsoft
Nick McQuire is Senior Vice President and Head of Enterprise Research at CCS Insight
Nick McQuire is Senior Vice President and Head of Enterprise Research at CCS Insight

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