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Microsoft launches online business school to teach executives the basics of AI

An AI business school that teaches executives how to use artificial intelligence technology to improve their company has been launched by Microsoft.

The free, online AI Business School will be the first in the world to help bosses learn about the technology behind AI, how to use it throughout their organisation, prepare their staff for its adoption and ensure it is used responsibly.

Lectures and videos lasting up to 10 minutes, which can be accessed on-demand, will feature insights from senior Microsoft staff including Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela and Executive Vice-President Jean-Phillipe Courtois.

Ian Fordham, Chief Learning and Skills Officer at Microsoft UK, said: “According to our own research, half of all UK organisations think their business model will be disrupted by AI within the next five years, yet only 20% of organisations are developing the skills of their staff to harness the potential of this technology to transform their working practices. This needs to change. Britain has an incredible opportunity to become a leader in AI but to achieve this we must ensure people acquire the necessary skills that will enable current and future businesses to thrive and prosper in this new AI-empowered world.

“That’s why Microsoft, in partnership with global business school INSEAD, is launching the AI Business School to help organisations from start-ups to SMEs to large corporations think about the role AI can play within their business strategies; how to build a digital and AI culture; developing and navigating responsible and ethical AI; and upskilling on the technology that sits behind artificial intelligence.”

The course will be comprised of 10 case studies, five academic lectures, five practical guides, 15 executive perspective videos and seven technology talks, and new content will be added as AI technology evolves. No registration is required, and content can be accessed via mobile devices or desktop PCs.

The AI Business School will focus on four areas:

  • Strategy – Participants will learn to think strategically about the role of AI in their organisation, with lectures from Professor Peter Zemsky at INSEAD; Gary Cantrell, Chief Information Officer at manufacturing firm Jabil; and Chema Alonso, Chief Digital Officer at Telefonica. Those taking part will also look at case studies in manufacturing, healthcare, retail and financial services
  • Culture – Business leaders will learn from Microsoft executives about how to create an AI-ready culture, led by Mitra Azizirad, a Corporate Vice-President at Microsoft. Additional speakers will reflect on the successful implementations of AI in relevant scenarios across their lines of business. The module will finish with a discussion on how to implement solutions
  • Responsible AI – In this module, business leaders will be provided with guidelines to help them develop principles and a governance model in their organisations, as well as resources, best practices and tools to create responsible AI
  • Technology – Participants will be given an overview of AI and the technologies behind it. The course will then look at how Microsoft is turning the latest advancements in AI into tools, products and services that can be used by organisations.
Row of servers in an office, with sun rising through windows in the background

The course will look at how Microsoft is turning the latest advancements in AI into tools, products and services

The AI Business School complements other AI learning initiatives by Microsoft, including the developer-focused AI School and the Microsoft Professional Program for Artificial Intelligence, which provides job-ready skills and real-world experience to engineers and others looking to improve their skills in AI and data science. Unlike these other initiatives, AI Business School is non-technical and designed to get executives ready to transform their organisation with AI.

RBS said Microsoft had helped it develop its own AI strategy. “The depth of Microsoft’s expertise and experience in developing an enterprise approach to artificial intelligence really comes across in this material,” a spokesperson said. “It should prove invaluable for any organisation looking to leverage the value of AI in its business and has helped RBS in furthering our own AI agenda.”

Louise O’Shea, Chief Executive of Confused.com, added: “It’s great to see Microsoft launching such a comprehensive learning proposition for business leaders. AI has the potential to truly transform how organisations operate, delivering enhanced customer value and reducing costs – but organisations will only truly realise this value if AI is built into the core of their business strategies. In order for this to happen, it’s critical that business leaders understand how to implement AI effectively and responsibly. The AI Business School will go a long way to facilitating this learning.

“We are delighted to partner with Microsoft to support our AI strategy and looking forward to maximising the new resources to help us land more AI innovation internally.”

Edmund Monk, Chief Executive of the Learning and Performance Institute – the leading membership body for learning professionals – said: “Microsoft’s AI Business School is an innovative and ground-breaking programme for learning and development professionals. Artificial Intelligence is transforming the workplace and forward-thinking organisations already know that the combination of uniquely human attributes such as creativity, complex problem solving and critical thinking, aided by the sheer computational power of machines, is the new gateway to performance.

“Having Microsoft’s AI Business School available to everyone to build their skills is a huge step forward. Learning professionals who undertake this programme will be inspired, confident and armed with specific, practical knowledge to be able to define and implement transformational AI strategies in their organisations.”