Is your AI team missing this crucial skill?

3 Nov 2021

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the current must-have technologies. Companies are scrambling to find talented people to staff their ambitious AI projects. And many are betting big on the benefits AI will bring. But, with all the focus on AI skills is your AI team missing this crucial skill? Without strong communication skills, are AI projects doomed to expensive failure?

Project fail because of poor communication

An often cited 2013 PMI report states, ‘Ineffective communications is the primary contributor to project failure one third of the time, and had a negative impact on project success more than half the time’.

Things may have changed in the eight years since this report was written, but I doubt it. Countless news articles say bad communication is still a major factor in project failure.

So, what has this got to do with AI projects? Well, AI projects aren’t cheap. They are also complex. Perhaps one of the most complex projects a company can attempt.

It makes sense for the technology teams to be staffed with the best AI skills. But, they must also have top notch communication skills. Teams that focus only on tech skills dramatically increase the risks of project failure.

New technology means a new language to learn

All new technology comes with a new set of jargon. Business teams find it hard enough understanding the jargon related to existing technology. Throwing a new set of terms and language into the mix is not going to simplify the communication.

Rushing to implement a new technology doesn’t allow time for the new terminology to be familiar. This makes the new technology even more of a mystery. It creates a gap in the business understanding of what the AI systems will do and how.

Technical teams that can communicate what a system does have more effective discussions with the business owners. Effective communication will then lead to better project outcomes.

New technology requires teamwork and collaboration

As Arun Chandrasekaran (VP Analyst, Gartner) said at the 2020 IT Expo: ‘AI is a team sport…that team should never operate in isolation and should collaborate with business domain experts, IT experts, and other relevant staff and stakeholders to deliver successful AI initiatives’.

Teamwork, both inside and outside a team, required good communication.

Not only is teamwork important to working effectively, it is important for having a clear purpose. Aligning the purpose of new tech with business needs required collaboration and understanding. This won’t happen if the business doesn’t understand the tech and the technical teams can’t explain it in terms the business understands. Once again this comes back to the need for clear communication.

Without close collaboration the business teams can’t understand the capabilities or limitations of the new systems. This lack of clear understanding leads to assumptions and misunderstandings. It often ends in a disagreement about what has been built vs what was requested.


AI is a very technical topic and any team working on AI needs to have the best technical skills. But, if the focus of the team is only on technical skills the risk of project failure is extremely high. Communication skills are essential if AI focused teams are going to be efficient. They are also critical to help the business teams understand what this new technology is and what is can, and cannot do for them.

Ignoring communication skills could be a bigger mistake than not investing in AI at all. So, what do you think? Is your AI team missing this crucial skill?