Ewa Zborowska
Ewa Zborowska (Research Director, AI Europe)

Overcoming GenAI Pilotitis and Acute POC Syndrome

Welcome to the wild world of AI adoption, where companies are caught in a whirlwind of buzzwords, shiny new toys, and the constant fear of missing out. Today, we’re looking at a peculiar plague sweeping across Western Europe’s businesses: pilotitis and its close cousin, acute proof of concept (POC) syndrome.

Picture this: eager companies, bright-eyed and full of hope, diving headfirst into the AI pool. As a recent IDC survey showed, companies are running an average of 40 GenAI POCs annually. Forty! That’s a lot — and given their limited experience and expertise, it’s impressive. But is it really getting them anywhere?

Out of FOMO, these companies sometimes act like kids in a toy store, grabbing every shiny AI gadget they see. “Ooh, look at this LLM! Check out that ML algorithm!” But as any parent can tell you: Too many toys may make you miss out on the real fun.

AI Adoption Problems

The diagnosis? Experimentation is great. It’s how we learn and grow. But when you’re running more POCs than there are weeks in a year — and some companies really do, with 7% reaching up to 99 POCs annually — you might have a case of pilotitis. Symptoms include:

  • An insatiable appetite for new AI projects
  • An inability to follow through on successful pilots
  • A severe allergy to scaling anything beyond the POC phase
  • Chronic “shiny object” syndrome
  • KPI amnesia, or forgetting to define or measure success metrics for AI initiatives

The Consequences of Unstoppable Pilots

The prognosis? Well, not great. Just one-third of companies report highly successful GenAI POCs. The rest achieve mediocre results, with nearly half achieving success rates of 50–70%. It’s like getting a C+ in school — not failing, but not exactly something that makes mom proud.

And there’s more: Some companies aren’t even evaluating their POCs’ success. It’s like they’re running around in circles, not knowing if they’re making progress or just getting dizzy.

So what’s the cure for the pilotitis epidemic? First, we need to identify the underlying causes:

  1. The “AI is Hot and New” Factor: Companies are so smitten with the idea of AI that they forget to ask, “But does it actually solve our problems?”
  2. Cost Confusion: AI projects can be expensive. Without clear ROI metrics, it’s easy to keep throwing money at pilots without seeing returns.
  3. Skills Shortages: Finding the right talent to implement AI solutions is tough. Competences are in high demand, experts are scarce, and it may take forever to find someone you can afford.
  4. Coordination Chaos: IT and business teams often struggle to work together effectively, leading to a disconnect between tech capabilities and business needs.
  5. Fear of Commitment: Some companies are so afraid of making the wrong choice that they’d rather keep piloting forever than commit to a full-scale implementation.

How Tech Providers Can Help Their Customers

The treatment? AI technology providers and their partners have a unique opportunity to play doctor and help clients overcome pilotitis. After all, healthy clients support long-term business relationships. How can “tech doctors” cure their ailing patients?

  1. Offer Scalable Proof-of-Value Approaches: Help clients quickly demonstrate value from GenAI in specific use cases, then provide a clear path to scale. It’s like a doctor helping to expand a toddler’s diet — we start with grated carrots and end up eating a full-course meal in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
  2. Differentiate Between Experimentation and POC: Establish clear guidelines for each stage. It’s like the difference between medical research and clinical trials — in research, we’re exploring possibilities, but in trials, we’re testing specific hypotheses with measurable outcomes.
  3. Outcome-Based Pricing: Link fees to project success. It’s like being a personal trainer and only getting paid if your clients actually lose weight — suddenly, everyone’s motivated to see results!
  4. Introduce Integrated Cost Management Tools: Help clients track and control expenditures throughout the AI project life cycle. It’s like giving them a financial fitness tracker for their AI projects.
  5. Provide Post-POC Support and Road Mapping: Offer comprehensive guidance for scaling successful POCs. It’s like offering post-op doctor’s recommendations.
  6. Offer End-to-End Change Management Support: Go beyond tech implementation and help with the human side of AI adoption. It’s like being both a personal trainer and a therapist for your client’s AI journey.


These approaches will help you remember that pilotitis and POC syndrome are just growing pains. With the right approach and a little help from their “tech doctors,” companies can overcome these challenges and move from endless experimentation to meaningful AI implementation.

To all businesses out there drowning in pilots and POCs — it’s time to start turning those experiments into real-world solutions. And to tech providers: Your mission is to be the best AI doctors you can be. Help your clients understand and manage their symptoms — and watch them grow healthier and stronger.

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