The Seven-Step Framework: Accelerating Towards an AI-Centric Organization

Pradeep Menon
15 min readOct 2, 2023

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln.

The wisdom in Lincoln’s words resonates deeply when we consider the transformative power of frameworks. Just as a well-sharpened axe can make the task of chopping down a tree more efficient, a well-structured framework can significantly streamline the complex process of integrating AI into an organization.

In a previous blog, Pivoting Towards an AI-Centric Organization, I discussed the three avenues organizations can focus on to infuse AI into their businesses. In this blog, we will explore a topic that’s on the minds of business leaders, data scientists, and strategists alike:

How can organizations pivot to become AI-centric?

The answer isn’t as simple: “Implement AI and hope for the best.” It’s a complex journey that requires meticulous planning, a deep understanding of your organization’s unique needs, and a strategic approach to integrating AI into your business operations.

To guide you through this transformative journey, I have developed a 7-step framework that outlines the process for becoming an AI-centric organization. This framework is designed to be adaptable, allowing you to tailor it to the specific challenges and opportunities your organization faces.

So, let’s dive in and explore each step in detail.

The Seven-Step Framework

The following diagram provides an overview of the seven-step framework:

Integrating AI into various facets of a business requires a meticulous approach. We will dissect these seven steps using a structured process called the Input-Transformation-Output (ITO) model.

The Input-Transformation-Output (ITO) model is a systems thinking model that provides a structured approach to analyzing and optimizing processes, whether they are in manufacturing, software development, or organizational change management. By breaking down activities into three core components — Input, Transformation, and Output — the framework allows for a more organized and effective way to understand how a system functions and where improvements can be made. Let’s delve into each of these components:

  1. Input: Inputs are the raw materials, resources, or data fed into a system or process. They serve as the starting point for any activity and are essential for the transformation phase.
  2. Transformation: Transformation refers to activities or operations that convert inputs into outputs. This phase is where the “action” happens, and it often involves various sub-processes like sorting, filtering, analyzing, manufacturing, etc.
  3. Output: Outputs are the transformation process’s final products, results, or services. They are what the system aims to produce and should ideally meet the predefined objectives or quality standards.

Let us zoom into each step using the Input-Transformation-Output (ITO) Framework.

Step 1:: Auditing the As-Is: The Bedrock of Your AI-Centric Transformation

The first step in our 7-Step Blueprint for AI Transformation is “Auditing the As-Is.” This step is the cornerstone of your AI journey, setting the stage for everything that follows.

Think of the “As-Is” audit as your organization’s GPS coordinates before you set off on your AI adventure. Knowing your starting point, you can only effectively chart a course to your destination. Documenting the current state of your organization’s systems, processes, and capabilities allows you to identify gaps, inefficiencies, and, most importantly, opportunities where AI can add significant value.

By understanding what you already have in place, you can better assess the feasibility of various AI initiatives and prioritize them based on their potential impact. This audit will also help you align your AI strategy with your organization’s broader goals, ensuring that your AI initiatives are both technologically sound and business-savvy. The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Process Maps: Flowcharts or diagrams outlining existing business processes.
  • Current Systems Inventory: A list of all currently used software, hardware, and technologies.
  • Data Repositories: Information on where data is stored, its format, and accessibility.
  • Performance Metrics: Existing KPIs that measure the efficiency and effectiveness of current systems and processes.


  • Data Collection: Gathering all the necessary inputs listed above.
  • Gap Analysis: Identifying inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or areas where improvements can be made.


  • Comprehensive Audit Report: A detailed document that captures the organization’s current state, highlighting areas where AI can add value.

Auditing the “As-Is” is the cornerstone of your AI-centric transformation journey. It provides the critical insights to ensure your AI initiatives are impactful and strategically aligned with your organizational goals.

Now, let’s discuss the second step in detail.

Step 2:: Understanding the Stakeholders/Personas: The Human Element in Your AI-Centric Transformation

While the first step, “Auditing the As-Is,” lays the technological and operational foundation, this step focuses on the human elements that will interact with, influence, and be influenced by your AI initiatives. AI is not just a technological endeavor; it’s a human one. No matter how advanced, any AI initiative will only achieve its full potential if it aligns with the needs, expectations, and limitations of the people it’s designed to serve or assist. Understanding your stakeholders allows you to tailor your AI solutions to meet specific needs, increasing the likelihood of successful adoption and maximizing the value generated. The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Stakeholder List: A comprehensive list of all internal and external stakeholders who will interact with or be impacted by the AI initiatives.
  • Previous Surveys and Feedback: Any existing data on stakeholder needs, pain points, and preferences.
  • Interview Guidelines: A set of questions or topics to be covered during stakeholder interviews.


  • Stakeholder Interviews: Conducting one-on-one or group interviews to gather qualitative data.
  • Surveys and Questionnaires: Distributing surveys to collect quantitative data on stakeholder needs and expectations.
  • Alignment Check: Ensuring the identified needs and expectations align with the organization’s broader goals and the AI initiatives being considered.


  • Stakeholder Personas: Detailed profiles encapsulating different stakeholder groups’ needs, expectations, and limitations.
  • Alignment Matrix: A document maps stakeholder needs to potential AI initiatives, ensuring alignment with organizational goals.
  • Stakeholder Engagement Plan: A strategy for engaging with stakeholders throughout the AI transformation journey, including communication plans, training programs, and feedback loops.

Understanding your stakeholders is not a step to be skipped or rushed through. It’s a critical component of your AI-centric transformation, providing the human context in which your technological initiatives will operate.

Now, let’s discuss the third step in detail.

Step 3:: Identifying the Use-Cases: The Heart of Your AI-Centric Transformation

As we forge ahead in our 7-Step Blueprint for AI Transformation, we arrive at a pivotal juncture: “Identifying the Use-Cases.” After laying the operational foundation with “Auditing the As-Is” and understanding the human elements in “Understanding the Stakeholders/Personas,” it’s time to pinpoint where AI can make a real difference. Identifying the right use cases is the lynchpin of your AI transformation journey. This step is where you translate the insights from previous steps into actionable projects. The use cases you choose will determine your AI initiatives’ scope, impact, and success. Selecting the wrong use cases can lead to wasted resources, stakeholder disillusionment, and a failure to realize the transformative potential of AI. Therefore, this step is crucial for aligning your AI projects with technological feasibility and human needs. The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Audit Reports: The findings from your “As-Is” audit highlight your current technological landscape.
  • Stakeholder Personas: Detailed profiles encapsulating different stakeholder groups’ needs, expectations, and limitations.
  • Organizational Goals: The broader objectives your organization aims to achieve, against which potential use cases should be aligned.
  • Market Trends: Data and insights on industry trends and competitor activities related to AI.


  • Brainstorming Sessions: Gathering cross-functional teams to brainstorm potential use cases based on the inputs.
  • Feasibility Assessment: Evaluating each proposed use case’s technical and operational feasibility.
  • Impact Analysis: Assessing the potential impact of each use case on organizational goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Stakeholder Alignment: Cross-referencing the proposed use cases with stakeholder needs and expectations to ensure alignment.
  • Performance Metrics: Establishing KPIs to evaluate the prototype’s effectiveness and alignment with business objectives.
  • ROI Calculations: Conducting a preliminary financial analysis to estimate the potential return on investment. This step involves calculating the costs of developing and maintaining the AI solution and comparing them against the estimated benefits, such as increased efficiency, revenue growth, or cost savings.
  • Prioritization: Ranking the use cases based on feasibility, impact, and alignment with organizational goals.


  • Feasibility-Impact Matrix: A matrix visually representing each selected use case’s feasibility and potential impact, serving as a quick reference guide for stakeholders and decision-makers.Here is an example of what a Feasibility-Impact Matrix looks like:

Based on the feasibility-impact matrix example in the previous diagram, the following can be concluded:

The organization should prioritize the use cases in quadrant 1, the “Focus Zone.” These use cases offer both high impact and high feasibility.

The second wave of use cases could be in quadrant 4, “Keep in View,” as they have a high impact but relatively lower frequency.

The third wave of use cases to fruition will be the use cases in quadrant 2, “Good to Have,” as they have a relatively lower impact but high feasibility.

The use cases in quadrant three can be dismissed, as the efforts required are relatively higher without significant impact or feasibility.

  • Prioritized List of Use-Cases: A prioritized list of AI use cases that are technically feasible, aligned with stakeholder needs, with better ROIs, and have the potential for high impact. This curated list of use cases serves as the AI product backlog, continuously evaluated for promotion to the next stage regularly.
  • Use-Case Documentation: Detailed documents outlining each use case’s scope, required resources, expected outcomes, estimated investment, and ROI.
  • Implementation Roadmap: A timeline that lays out the sequence and milestones for rolling out the selected AI use cases.

Identifying the right use cases is more than a step; it’s the heart of your AI-centric transformation. It’s where your preparatory work pays off, channeling the insights from your audits and stakeholder analyses into actionable AI initiatives, and adding the Feasibility-Impact Matrix as output provides a powerful tool for visualizing and communicating the strategic alignment of your selected use cases.

Step 4:: Architecture Development: Building the Blueprint for Your AI-Centric Transformation

As we continue to navigate the 7-Step Blueprint for AI Transformation, we’ve reached the fourth critical step: “Architecture Development.” Having audited your current state, understood your stakeholders, and identified your key use cases, it’s time to lay the architectural groundwork to bring your AI vision to life.

The Architecture Development step is where your AI transformation takes tangible shape. It’s akin to an architect drafting the blueprints for a building; with a well-thought-out plan, even the best materials and artisans can construct a stable, functional structure. Similarly, the architecture you develop will be the blueprint for implementing your prioritized AI use cases, encompassing business, application, data, and infrastructure dimensions. This step ensures that your AI initiatives are technically feasible and aligned with your business objectives, stakeholder needs, and existing systems. The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Prioritized Use-Cases: The list of AI use cases identified as high-impact and feasible.
  • Stakeholder Personas: Detailed profiles of stakeholder needs and expectations.
  • Audit Reports: Findings from the “As-Is” audit outlining your current technological and operational landscape.
  • Organizational Goals: The broader objectives and strategic imperatives of your organization.
  • Industry Standards: Guidelines and best practices for AI and data architecture in your industry.


  • Business Architecture Design: Mapping out how the AI initiatives integrate with and support your business processes and objectives.
  • Application Architecture Design: Defining the software components, interfaces, and data flows required to implement the AI use cases.
  • Data Architecture Design: Structuring your data repositories, pipelines, and governance protocols to support AI initiatives.
  • Infrastructure Architecture Design: Specifying the hardware, network, security, and cloud resources needed to support your AI applications.
  • Alignment and Validation: Ensuring the developed architecture aligns with stakeholder needs, organizational goals, and industry standards.


  • Comprehensive Architecture Blueprint: A detailed architectural plan that covers business, application, data, and infrastructure dimensions.
  • Alignment Matrix: A document that validates the alignment of the architecture with stakeholder needs and organizational goals.
  • Resource Allocation Plan: A breakdown of the human and technological resources required to implement the architecture.

Step 5:: Prototyping Prioritized Use-Cases: The Incremental Path to AI Success

As we journey through the 7-Step Blueprint for AI Transformation, we arrive at a crucial milestone: the fifth step, “Prototyping High-Impact Use-Cases.” After laying the groundwork through auditing, stakeholder understanding, use-case identification, and architecture development, it’s time to bring your AI vision closer to reality.

The journey to AI transformation is not a sprint but a marathon, requiring a measured and incremental approach. Jumping straight from idea to full-scale implementation is a recipe for failure. Prototyping allows you to test your high-impact use cases in a controlled environment, providing invaluable insights into their feasibility, effectiveness, and alignment with stakeholder needs. This step serves as a ‘reality check,’ helping you fine-tune your AI initiatives before scaling them up, minimizing risks, and optimizing resource allocation. The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Architectural Blueprint: The comprehensive architectural plan developed in the previous step.
  • Prioritized Use-Cases: The list of high-impact and feasible AI use-cases identified earlier.
  • Resource Allocation Plan: A breakdown of the human and technological resources earmarked for the project.
  • Stakeholder Feedback: Insights and expectations from stakeholders that will guide the prototyping process.


  • Prototype Development: Creating initial versions of the AI solutions for the prioritized use cases.
  • User Testing: Engaging a small group of stakeholders to interact with the prototype and provide feedback.
  • Performance Metrics: Establishing KPIs to evaluate the prototype’s effectiveness and alignment with business objectives.
  • Iterative Refinement: Making adjustments to the prototype based on user feedback and performance metrics.
  • Pilot Planning: Preparing for a small-scale pilot test that will be a precursor to full-scale rollout.


  • Functional Prototypes: Working models of the AI solutions for the prioritized use cases.
  • User Feedback Report: A compilation of stakeholder feedback, observations, and recommendations.
  • Performance Dashboard: A set of KPIs that quantitatively measure the prototype’s effectiveness.
  • Pilot Test Plan: A detailed plan for a small-scale pilot, including scope, timeline, and resource allocation.
  • Risk Mitigation Strategies: Plans and protocols to address potential risks identified during the prototyping phase.

Prototyping High-Impact cases is a critical step that bridges the gap between planning and execution in your AI-centric transformation journey. By adopting an incremental approach — Prototype, Pilot, Rollout — you can mitigate risks, optimize resources, and ensure that your AI initiatives are technically sound and strategically aligned.

Step 6:: Developing Iterative Implementation Plan: A Structured Approach to Developing Iterative Implementation Plans

As we advance through the 7-Step Blueprint for AI Transformation, we reach a pivotal stage: the sixth step, “Developing Iterative Implementation Plans.” After the rigorous auditing processes, stakeholder understanding, use-case identification, architecture development, and prototyping, it’s time to chart the course for bringing your AI vision to fruition.

The transition from a prototype to a full-scale AI solution is a complex journey that requires meticulous planning and adaptability. An iterative implementation plan serves as your roadmap, outlining the steps, timelines, and resources necessary for each rollout phase. But unlike a rigid plan set in stone, an iterative plan allows for adjustments and refinements as you gather more data and insights. This flexibility is crucial for navigating the uncertainties and challenges that inevitably arise while implementing sophisticated AI initiatives. This step ensures that your AI transformation is well-planned, agile, adaptive, and aligned with evolving needs and circumstances.

The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Functional Prototypes: The working models of the AI solutions developed in the prototyping phase.
  • Pilot Test Plans and Results: The outcomes and insights from small-scale pilot tests.
  • Resource Allocation Plan: A breakdown of the human and technological resources available for the project.
  • ROI Calculations: Preliminary financial analyses estimating the potential return on investment.
  • Stakeholder Feedback: Ongoing insights and expectations from stakeholders that will guide the implementation process.


  • Phase Segmentation: Dividing the full-scale rollout into manageable phases, each with specific objectives, timelines, and resource allocations.
  • Task Assignment: Allocating responsibilities to teams or individuals for each phase and task.
  • Timeline Development: Establishing a detailed timeline that includes milestones, checkpoints, and review periods.
  • Budgeting and Financial Plan: Incorporating ROI calculations into the budgeting process to ensure financial viability.
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plans: Identifying potential risks and developing mitigation strategies.
  • Iterative Review Mechanisms: Establishing regular review points where the plan can be adjusted based on performance metrics, stakeholder feedback, and other evolving factors.


  • Iterative Implementation Plan: A detailed yet flexible roadmap that outlines the steps, timelines, and resources required for the incremental rollout of your AI initiatives.
  • Assigned Task Lists: Clear allocations of responsibilities to teams or individuals, ensuring accountability.
  • Financial Projections: Updated ROI calculations and budget estimates reflecting planned activities.
  • Risk Mitigation Strategies: Well-defined plans and protocols to address potential risks identified during the planning phase.

Developing an Iterative Implementation Plan is critical to turn your AI vision into a structured yet adaptable action plan. By adopting an incremental approach — Prototype, Pilot, Rollout — you can ensure that your AI transformation is well-orchestrated and resilient to the complexities and uncertainties of implementing cutting-edge technologies.

Step 7:: Monitoring and Continuous Improvement: The Never-Ending Journey of AI Transformation

As we reach the final step in our 7-Step Blueprint for AI Transformation, we must understand that the journey doesn’t end here. The last but equally vital step is “Monitoring and Continuous Improvement.” After meticulous planning, prototyping, and iterative implementation, the focus shifts to sustaining and enhancing your AI initiatives.

The landscape of technology and business is ever-changing. What worked yesterday may not necessarily work tomorrow. Therefore, the journey to becoming an AI-centric organization is a process that takes time and effort.

Continuous monitoring and improvement are essential for several reasons:

  • Performance Optimization: Ensure that your AI initiatives consistently deliver the desired outcomes.
  • Adaptability: To adapt to changing conditions, whether they are shifts in market dynamics, customer behavior, or technological advancements.
  • Emerging Opportunities: To capitalize on potential opportunities, enabling you to refine or even pivot your AI strategies.
  • Risk Mitigation: To promptly identify and address issues, minimizing negative impacts and risks.

The following diagram shows the ITO for this step.

Let us elaborate on this diagram.


  • Iterative Implementation Plan: The detailed roadmap developed in the previous step serves as a baseline for monitoring.
  • Performance Metrics: The KPIs and other metrics that were established to evaluate the effectiveness of your AI initiatives.
  • Stakeholder Feedback: Ongoing insights and expectations from internal and external stakeholders.
  • Market Trends and Data: Real-time data on industry trends, customer behavior, and competitor activities.


  • Performance Tracking: Continuously monitoring the performance metrics to assess the effectiveness of the AI initiatives.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Regularly updating stakeholders and collecting feedback for iterative improvements.
  • Data Analysis: Employing advanced analytics to interpret performance data, stakeholder feedback, and market trends.
  • Adjustment and Refinement: Making necessary adjustments to the AI models, implementation plans, and strategies based on the analysis.
  • Opportunity Scouting: Actively looking for emerging opportunities where AI can add further value.


  • Performance Reports: Detailed reports that evaluate the effectiveness of the AI initiatives against the established KPIs.
  • Updated Plans and Strategies: Iteratively refined implementation plans and AI strategies that adapt to changing conditions and new insights.
  • Stakeholder Updates: Regular communications that keep stakeholders informed and engaged.
  • New Opportunity Pipelines: A list of emerging opportunities for leveraging AI for additional value.

Monitoring and Continuous Improvement are not just the final steps but the ongoing responsibilities in your journey to becoming an AI-centric organization. The dynamic nature of technology and business necessitates a reactive and proactive approach, continually seeking to optimize and innovate.

Conclusion: Navigating the Path to AI-Centric Transformation

As we wrap up this comprehensive exploration, let’s take a moment to reflect on the 7-Step Framework for accelerating toward an AI-centric organization. This framework serves as a roadmap, guiding organizations through the intricate journey of AI integration. Each step is designed to provide a structured approach to AI adoption, from auditing the current state to continuous improvement. The framework demystifies the complexities of AI, making it accessible and actionable for organizations at various stages of their AI journey.

The need for such a framework is more pressing than ever, and the impact of adopting this framework is profound. It offers a strategic lens through which organizations can view AI — not as a mere set of tools but as a transformative force that can redefine business models, operational processes, and customer experiences. By following this framework, organizations can ensure that their journey to becoming AI-centric is purposeful but also practical and sustainable.



Pradeep Menon

Creating impact through Technology | #CTO at #Microsoft| Data & AI Strategy | Cloud Computing | Design Thinking | Blogger | Public Speaker | Published Author