COOs and AI: Leveraging AI in Operations to Scale AI (


In brief

  • The role of the COO has grown increasingly complex and includes delivering hyper-personalized services, cost effectively and sustainably.

  • Although COOs leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tweak their supply chain and operations performance, most haven’t gone far enough.

  • Seventy-nine percent of COOs acknowledge they struggle to scale AI across the business. The winners will break from a siloed approach, unifying the workforce.

  • Examples in communications, high tech and consumer goods show how scaling AI is helping companies drive improvements across their value chain.

Walled out

AI has the power to fundamentally shift business models and can serve as an engine for collaborationand growth. Chief Operating Officers (COOs) who lay the operational foundation act as a catalyst for AI. In fact, they lead other functions when it comes to establishing AI operating models, flexible processes, and data foundations.

This puts COOs in an excellent position to take a leading role when it comes to scaling AI across the organization. But it will require they look beyond the four walls of their function—and beyond siloed AI use cases—to conduct end-to-end value mapping and strengthen cross-collaboration.

Seventy-nine percent of COOs acknowledge they know how to pilot but struggle to scale AI across the business.

Don’t forget the nuts and bolts

While AI is a top priority, many companies are still struggling to sufficiently invest. Eighty-six percent of COOs report that it is challenging to secure funding for their AI programs.

To compound matters, they’re also under-investing in another critical resource: time. Just under a fourth (23%) report spending more than a year for AI initiatives to move from pilot to fully scaled. That’s a problem because AI isn’t “one and done.” It takes nurturing to build the bench strength necessary for lifting an organization’s most ambitious goals.

Talent: The hammer driving the nail

Scaling AI is a team sport. And that team is enthusiastic about AI as a new technology. According to a WEF study about the future of the workforce, 63 percent of employees surveyed said they think Al will have a positive impact on their work. That’s the good news.

The bad news: Less than half of COOs (45%) say the cultural aspects for scaling AI are in place. So, the COO needs to guide their workforce and build trust along the AI journey.

On the nail

So, how can COOs leverage AI to create hyper-sensitive supply chains that are a source of competitive differentiation and drive sustainable growth? Here are three measures to nail the scale:

Segments of one

Through their Puppo line, Mars creates bespoke dog food, responsive to the specific dietary need of each animal consumer. Personalization to this degree requires a tight alignment between the outward-facing enterprise and the supply chain, linked by AI at scale with the consumer at the core.

By striking the right balance between cost, service and sustainability, COOs can drive unassailable competitive differentiation.