How is AI changing organisations?

Written by Zoe Amar, Director, Zoe Amar Digital

Over the last few months I’ve been struck by how artificial intelligence is changing how we all work. From writing up meeting notes to drafting content to planning how it might become part of service delivery, AI is gradually becoming business as usual. This seismic shift is more than the tasks that AI is changing. It’s about how this change is becoming normalised. 

In the organisations we are advising about AI adopting these tools is leading staff to ask a host of other questions. Do we have the right governance? Is our data ready, and secure enough, to be used by AI tools? Will our culture help or hinder how we adopt AI? 

AI and how it is changing organisations is on my mind at the moment. We are gathering data about how charities are adopting AI as part of the survey to build this year’s Charity Digital Skills Report. We want to hear from more charities how they’re using AI, how they are learning about it and whether there are any barriers they face in adopting it further, so we can make the case to funders and sector decision makers about the resources and support they need. 

What I’m observing in my day job, and am excited about gathering data on as part of our survey, is the ripple effect that AI is creating in organisations, beyond the tools. The organisations who I see making progress with AI are the ones who are looking at how they can make changes in areas from skills to leadership to strategy, in order to make the most of AI. 


How are organisations using AI? 

Organisations such as banks and energy suppliers have been using AI as part of their services for some time. What’s been exciting over the last year is seeing how charities are beginning to incorporate AI into their service delivery, meaning that it can help them increase their impact. 

Citizens Advice Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale and Trafford are using AI to manage the demands they are facing due to the cost of living crisis. AI tools means that they can help their advisers get the information they need quickly and easily, and support more individuals. 

Stuart Pearson, their Head of Innovation, says, “We created an AI advice-service “co-pilot” tool powered by LLM and RAG technology. This tool assists advisors by rapidly locating and sharing pertinent data from dependable sources like GOV.UK and Citizens Advice resources.

This tool has accelerated response times, resulting in quicker assistance for callers. It has also facilitated faster training for new advisors, empowering them to provide accurate answers promptly.”

These developments have led Stuart and his team to collaborate with Citizens Advice and the Incubator for Al to refine their prototype and develop their tool Caddy, which will be tested as part of a wider pilot phase in many local Citizens Advice offices this month. 

Over at the charity Dementia UK, Victoria Lyons, their Head of Digital and Dementia at Work, has been exploring new ways to use AI. Her organisation is now on the second phase of this work. Lyons explains, “We have plans to develop our use of AI in the coming year and I am looking at a number of tools that will allow us to provide our unique support to families that need our help in an efficient digitally agile way.

Some of this is providing staff with useful tools to speed up some of the parts of their jobs.Some of this work may also be about creating externally facing resources powered by or using AI.” 


How are organisations changing in response to AI? 

It is impossible for organisations to make the most of AI without growing skills.  Victoria Lyons and her team at Dementia UK  have invested in this area. “All staff have been given the opportunity to attend drop-in sessions with myself and another colleague, “she says. “At these sessions we highlighted some of the uses of AI and the issues and risks with AI as well as showed people how to use Ai to support them with their work. We taught  people how to write a prompt and got people interacting with Co-pilot in real time as part of these sessions.”

Whilst offering staff skills development and guidance is vital. AI is also forcing organisations to consider their ways of working. Pearson’s team at Citizens Advice Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale and Trafford committed to working transparently through the design, development, and implementation process for Caddy, and has also prompted a collaboration with Citizens Advice Manchester to establish an Innovation Hub. The hub will help their organisations pilot more ways to use Caddy together. 

Yet one of the most important lessons to emerge from this process is how important it is to adopt AI responsibly. Pearson says,”we have approached this work with the unwavering belief that doing so in an ethical and responsible manner is non-negotiable. Therefore, transparency, accountability, and security have been the core principles guiding our development. To ensure this, we have begun developing an ethical framework for AI for the organisation, it will focus not just on development but also procurement rules.” In addition, Pearson’s team will be beefing up their existing governance with an AI oversight group. 


What should organisations do next? 

The pace of change that we are already seeing in AI indicates that we could see a lot of things happen quickly. That’s why it’s so important to develop a robust approach to issues such as data security now rather than later. Richard Seiersen, Chief Risk Technology Officer at Qualys, a company focused on cloud security and compliance solutions, warns that, “we are at the start of building AI projects. We can try to make those projects secure by default through collaboration, or we can try to implement security later, at additional cost and in longer timeframes to deliver. I know which approach I would rather be part of, both for the security team and for the AI side as well.”  He encourages organisations to make following best practices around security when working with developers part of how success is measured. 

This points to how critical humans are to successful adoption of AI- for now. Pearson points out that AI is not a substitute for people, and this needs to be signaled loud and clear through your ways of working. “Organisations should prioritise this collaborative approach to maximise the benefits of AI. Involve all your teams in the discussions, everyone is going to need to understand and navigate this new AI powered future,” he advises. 

AI will create wholesale changes in how we live and work. We are only at the start of this journey. Getting to grips with these tools can feel daunting, as can thinking how your organisations might have to change course to accommodate their successful adoption. Yet this is an opportunity. It’s a chance to consider why and how your organisation does what it does- and whether this needs to change so you can keep adding value in an age of rapid technological advancement. 

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