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Drive long-term growth with AI: 3 takeaways for ops leaders

Whitney Vige headshotWhitney Vige
January 18th, 2024
2 min read
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In today’s complex work landscape, operations leaders are continually looking for ways to drive growth, embrace innovation, and maintain a competitive edge. To better understand the challenges and opportunities facing today’s operations professionals, The Work Innovation Lab, a think tank by Asana, conducted an in-depth study of more than 200 operations professionals across the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The Lab asked about their biggest challenges, what’s causing them stress, and where their focus is in the coming fiscal year. 

What is The Work Innovation Lab?

The Work Innovation Lab is a think tank by Asana that develops human-centered, cutting-edge research to help businesses evolve today to meet the growing changes and challenges of work.

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The research yielded a clear trend: operations leaders aren’t confident that their current operating models are efficient—and they regret relying on outdated workflows. Moving into the coming year, they’re focused on achieving operational efficiency. 

Enter artificial intelligence. More than a buzzword, AI is reshaping the fabric of business operations. The potential for AI is undeniable—and as its capabilities grow, so does its role in transforming the operations function. Here are three actionable insights for operations leaders who want to drive efficient growth with AI.

1. Embrace an experimentation mindset

Operations leaders know that AI has the power to solve operational inefficiencies and boost productivity. But the real value of AI extends beyond its immediate benefits. By embracing and adopting AI, operations leaders can pave the way for sustained future growth. 

But doing so isn’t necessarily easy. Only 37% of operations executives said they’re confident their current operating models are efficient, according to The Lab’s research. What’s more, 61% of operations professionals regret not investing in new technologies in the last six months, and 63% regret not being innovative enough. The takeaway is clear: there’s a pressing need for operations leaders to adapt, innovate, and invest in new technologies—and professionals feel like they’re behind.

By embracing an experimentation mindset, leaders can give teams space to move quickly and navigate uncertainties. Adopting a “test and learn” approach safeguards against the potential risks of fast-evolving technology and positions companies to expand successful AI experiments on a large scale, ensuring a lasting competitive advantage. 

2. Use AI to streamline processes 

In the face of increasingly complex workflows, operations leaders are seeking methods to optimize and simplify their workstreams and processes. Creating efficiencies in these areas is no longer just an operational boon—it’s a critical differentiator. 

The need to create this competitive advantage is impacting operations leaders deeply. According to The Work Innovation Lab, 73% of operations executives said becoming more operationally efficient is one of their top three challenges currently, and 80% regret not addressing operational inefficiencies in the past 6 months. 

AI provides a solution. The technology not only offers the capability to automate repetitive tasks, but also the ability to tap into predictive modeling and AI-driven analytics. By adopting AI to standardize processes and workstreams, operations leaders can transform bottlenecks into smooth workflows, enabling employees to focus on high-value work. 

3. Make human-centric AI a priority 

Embracing AI doesn’t signal a diminishing role for humans—in fact, it underscores their significance in today's evolving landscape. As operations leaders pivot to incorporate AI strategies, it’s important that they strike a balance between automating and amplifying human capabilities. In other words, leveraging AI isn't just about automation—it's about enhancing human capabilities while embracing advanced technologies. 

By championing an AI strategy that balances these elements, leaders position their organizations to reap the benefits AI technology offers while enabling their workforce to dive deeper into human-centric, high-impact work—the work that requires judgment, intuition, and emotional intelligence. 

Dig deeper into the research

Download the Driving Sustainable Growth with AI report to learn where AI stands with today's leaders. Discover research-backed strategies for:

  • Leveraging AI technology and embracing AI adoption with an eye toward sustainable, long-term growth.

  • Navigating challenges around security, cross-team collaboration, and wide-scale adoption in order to craft an impactful AI strategy. 

Driving sustainable growth with AI: Takeaways for ops and IT leaders

Explore takeaways from an in-depth study of IT and operations leaders. Discover actionable strategies to navigate AI challenges and harness the technology to work smarter in the new era of work.

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