Five Steps to Achieve AI Readiness
Five Steps to Achieve AI Readiness

Five Steps to Achieve AI Readiness

12/12/2023 by Andrew Fretwell
Artificial Intelligence inspires the imagination, and Arkus can help you inspire the confidence to embark on this journey.

Are you tired of hearing about the transformative nature of AI to businesses and nonprofits? Well, get ready for the long haul because it’s not going away anytime soon. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, has described the potential of AI as a bigger game-changer than the internet itself - modulating everything about how we work. But many executives are tuning out these bold predictions because it is difficult to gauge if your organization is ready to tackle AI today, or if you need a few more months… or (gulp) maybe a few years.

At Arkus, we are developing a framework for assessing an organization’s readiness to incorporate Generative Pre-Trained (GPT) AI into their existing data stacks. This assessment is based on a five-step data readiness ascension from the fundamentals to the latest innovations in data operations. Here is a quick preview of the assessment we walk nonprofits and organizations through.

Step 1: Organize

The golden rule of data is “garbage in means garbage out,” and it transcends all data innovations. It is the most foundational condition that has to be addressed before embarking on the AI journey. Without sensible data organization, you’ll be stuck in place. Honestly assess if your database is free of duplicates and incomplete record information. Does the architecture fit the needs and nuances of your organization?  If it’s not well organized, Arkus can help you get started with a health check of your Salesforce org along with basic rearchitecting and data cleansing. Our consultants are well acquainted with how to turn a messy data culture and diverse business requirements into a cohesive data architecture within Salesforce.

Step 2: Connect

A key trend over the past ten years in organizational efficiency has been the breaking down of data silos. Data silos are independently operated databases that manage a particular area of an organization/business but do not interact with any other databases, or only interact through painful manual processes. A key value driver of a flexible platform like Salesforce is that it offers you a way out of these silos. Salesforce does not make you concede to using unconnected databases, or commit to a single solution to meet all your needs. It offers a unifying, open platform that connects your various tools, both Salesforce-native and third-party. Once your data is connected, you can create the type of collaboration and interactiveness within your data that you expect from your team members.

Does your data platform bring together your fundraising, program, marketing, and financial data into a single pane of glass? If not, we can collaborate with you to develop a roadmap that connects across your data systems, freeing you from “one-size-fits-all” databases that cannot be easily customized, and disparate data silos. We will help you understand the ecosystem of plug-ins and Salesforce native tools while crafting an instance that uniquely fits your organization.

Step 3: Automate

Even if your data is well-organized and connected, there’s still much to do, just ask your fundraisers and case managers! How can Salesforce scale your day-to-day work so you can increase your productivity? Allow me to introduce to you Salesforce Flows, preceded by Process Builder, which was begat by Salesforce Workflow rules. 

Automations that update records, send outbound messages, assign tasks and reminders, transfer data, (and so much more) can save your team a world of time. Salesforce allows you to automate pretty much anything. A mature org will have achieved the balance of automating repetitive, manually time-consuming tasks, without forfeiting too much control over the nuances in their processes that still require human analysis.

If you haven’t tapped into the power of Salesforce Flows, or are still operating on the soon-to-be-retired Workflow Rules and/or Process Builder, your work is cut out for you. Furnishing your org with a well-tailored set of Flows will create immediate value boosters and time-savers. If your admin has the time and the confidence, they should begin experimenting with simple Flows, gathering best practices from around the ecosystem to continuously create new automations.

Step 4: Analyze

The first three steps in this assessment focus on gauging the ease or difficulty of putting data into Salesforce and using Salesforce to manage internal processes. The last steps shift to examining if your Salesforce instance provides meaningful productivity drivers in return.

This starts with effective analytics: reports and dashboards that speed up and improve decision-making. Good analytics give decision-makers easily digestible information from which they can quickly draw insights and make needed adjustments. Do your decision-makers have a set of reliable analytics that equip them to make well-informed, quick pivots? 

Furthermore, do you have the kind of compelling, and “easy to play with” tools to encourage and equip their curiosity into trends and patterns that are hiding just under the surface? If not, we can work with you to evaluate data visualization tools like Tableau to revisit your custom dashboards and reports and provide training to your team members on how to create their own custom reports, dashboards, and data visualizations. 

Step 5: Predict

While AI dominates headlines and panel discussions, it’s not as new as it may seem. Generative Pre-Trained AI (GPT) has taken huge strides in the last year, but predictive AI has been maturing and growing for much longer. There are already numerous predictive AI features baked into Salesforce’s core platform and even more in its Einstein licensing. Within Sales Cloud, “Einstein” captures information on the given opportunity from emails and meetings attached to the opportunity record, looks for buying signals in the frequency of touch-points and text in emails, and produces a health score for the opportunity.

Salesforce also offers tooling in which you can create your own custom predictions, assuming there is relevant data in your Salesforce instance on which Einstein can base its predictions. If you have not yet tapped into the predictive AI features of Salesforce, this area of AI offers immediate “decision assistance” to further augment your analytics.

Think about reaching out to your Salesforce Account Executive and inquiring into how Einstein tooling can complement your org. Arkus can work with you to ensure that you are channeling Salesforce’s predictive capabilities to be effective “decision assistants” to your team members.

So now what?

If you have made it this far, congratulations, you have a mature and well-utilized Salesforce instance! Now is the moment to seriously consider the newest and cutting-edge tools that can bring your productivity, efficiency, and creativity into an even higher orbit.

Now comes the tricky part: the human part. The philosophical and psychological warfare over AI being waged over Op-Eds and social media can stop your plans dead in their tracks, so change management has to be carefully considered. We at Arkus would work with you to minimize the ideological tug-of-war by choosing a single use-case for GPT - one where a current pain point and improvement would be contained to a single team. 

For nonprofits, that could be the personalization of end-of-year tax acknowledgment letters, or the creation of an online assessment as part of onboarding volunteers. By focusing AI on a single use case and department, you can begin showcasing how AI makes your co-workers’ lives better and create a team of internal AI cheerleaders. Then you move on to the next use case and the next team. Rinse and repeat, and now you are on your way blazing the path ahead into this brave, and exciting new world.

Are you interested in further discussing AI at your organization? Send me a note on LinkedIn or our Contact Us page, and let’s talk about how Arkus can help you assess your nonprofit’s AI readiness!