By David Mackay , Tim Morris   /

How to take the first step on your AI deployment journey

Taking the first step toward AI can be hard

Imagine a world where every business decision is not just data-driven but intelligently curated by advanced AI systems, seamlessly blending into our daily operations.

This vision is becoming a reality, yet many organisations find themselves overwhelmed by the rapid advancement of AI technologies. The excitement surrounding tools like OpenAI’s Chat GPT has led to a surge in experimentation, but without a clear framework, these efforts often lack direction and fail to deliver meaningful results. Many AI initiatives have stumbled due to a lack of structure and purpose, sometimes producing embarrassing or even dangerous outcomes.

Organisations must adopt a ‘Question First’ approach to harness AI’s true potential. By starting with the right questions—identifying where AI can be applied and what specific problems it should address—businesses can then ideate on how to implement AI effectively. This strategic alignment ensures that AI deployments add genuine value, providing a clear “why” for each AI initiative and paving the way for transformative outcomes.

A ‘Question First’ approach helps organisations to harness the potential of AI and to maximise its return on investment and benefits captured, by prioritising the right opportunities to leverage AI technology.

It can be hard for an organisation to know where to start  in a world where AI is evolving rapidly as its capabilities and applications continue to improve

  • Improvements driven by AI have enabled businesses to better streamline processes, reduce time and effort, decrease bias and automate tasks.
  • When appropriately designed and implemented, AI technology has facilitated business growth and enabled valuable competitive advantages.
  • Given the clear advantages that AI can deliver businesses, there is strong appetite from organisations to identify and implement opportunities to harness AI.

However, most organisations struggle to understand where to start with AI.

To best leverage the capabilities of AI, organisations must identify the highest-impact use cases across the business

  • To identify the most impactful use cases, organisations must understand:
    • Key business pain points and operational challenges.
    • The impact of these pain points on realising broader strategic ambitions.
    • The feasibility and benefit of AI solutions in delivering operational improvements.
    • Key implementation and change considerations.
  • Starting with a ‘Question First’ approach will allow organisations to swiftly identify the most critical improvement opportunities and ensure analysis of AI options target the highest-impact areas.
  • It will also be critical to consider a broad range of criteria/ factors when prioritising use cases to maximise the benefit to the business.

‘Question First’ is the first step toward high value AI

Using a framework to classify “where” and “what”, your team can then ideate the “how” AI can potentially be used throughout the business. This together ensures that the AI use adds value (or the “why” for AI)

SPP’s ‘Question First’ frame to Uncover High Value AI Use Cases

Where” is there a business need or question?

  • Working with the business leads across each business area – define the top 5-10 business needs today and into the future
  • Prioritise the needs based on their criticality and impact to business if addressed
  • Frame these needs as a question, that AI would seek to answer (see example)
Business areaCritical business need(s)
ProcessingHow can we improve efficiency from raw materials?
ManufacturingHow can we improve health and safety outcomes?
DistributionWhat is needed to optimize routes?
Sales & MarketingWhat provides a superior customer experience?
OperationsHow can we enhance our team’s decision making?
People & CultureWhat optimised workforce model provides the best results?
FinanceHow can we reduce costs through improve budget forecasting?
PropertyHow can we reduce our repairs and maintenance costs?
Commercial & LegalWhere are our most significant commercial risks?


What” AI capabilities exist?

  • Use a frame to classify the current types of AI capabilities that exist (for example Cognilytica’s Seven Patterns of AI)
  • Use real world case studies to help business leads understand the art of the possible


“How” AI can meet critical business needs

  • Define a set of prioritised use cases for AI within the business
  • Provide clarity on the infrastructure and data needs to enable the use case
  • Develop a target set of business metrics / values to meet from the AI deployment
  • Agree next steps to progress on the AI Deployment Journey

Many industries have taken steps to high value AI

Through work in the construction sector, SPP found that even in industries such as concrete and cement, we can find multiple examples of where AI has added significant business value across operations. A ‘Question First’ frame is invaluable here as the first step on exploring and deploying AI in your business.

Once started, AI deployment is achievable for many

Using the ‘Question First’ frame, your organisation can rapidly identify use cases and commence its journey to deploy its own AI.

AI Deployment Journey:

This article focuses on Step 1

SPP can help your organisation to identify AI use cases that meet critical business needs, and support you through your AI deployment journey

Key Contacts

Phil Noble  /  Founder and Managing Partner

Phil Noble is the Founder and Managing Partner of SPP. He is an experienced General Manager, Consultant and Entrepreneur and has worked in a wide range of industries including financial services, telecommunications, infrastructure and Not for Profit.  Phil has...

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David Mackay  /  Partner

David Mackay is a Partner at SPP and he leads SPP's Sports, Media & Entertainment and FMCG/Retail practices. David assists organisations to develop and execute business and technology strategy, and improve business performance through people, process and technology.  David...

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Tim Morris  /  Principal

Tim Morris is a Principal at SPP. He is a results-oriented executive who specialises in guiding organisations to set ambitious and achievable strategic objectives, navigate and deliver impactful transformations, and identify operational improvements that deliver measurable value. I contribute...

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By David Mackay , Tim Morris   /