Artificial Intelligence In the Workplace - Are Businesses Fully Adopting AI?

More than 80% of organisations see AI as a strategic opportunity and 72% of business managers and executives expect large effects from AI in the next 5 years. That is according to a 2017 report by MIT Sloan and the Boston Consulting Group.

However, only around a quarter of all organisations surveyed have adopted AI technologies in their processes, products or services.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around since the 1950s but recent changes in today’s world, such as advances in technology and the access to data at scale, are bringing about more opportunities than ever before with AI. But are all businesses taking advantage of this and adopting AI into their processes, products or services?

The report entitled “Reshaping Business With Artificial Intelligence: Closing the Gap Between Ambition and Action” would suggest not, but first let’s take a step back and revisit AI.

AI and What it Can Do

AI uses computational methods to encapsulate and mirror human intelligence; captured using hand-crafted rules or, more commonly, using machine learning  techniques that use training data to learn how to perform tasks, based on examples.

The new wave of interest in AI from the world of business is being driven by various factors, including:

  • Advances in machine learning, especially “deep learning” techniques.
  • The access to vast quantities of data that can be used as training examples.
  • The rise of robust open source AI tools (e.g. the TensorFlow deep learning library from Google), that potentially puts state-of-the-art technology in the reach of any business.

But what can AI do? The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines AI as “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

This definition highlights potential tasks that AI is being applied to, such as speech recognition and visual perception (e.g., recognising and labelling objects within images). Commonly reported examples of AI, such as autonomous vehicles, are likely well beyond the reach of the masses; however, examples such as spam filtering in email, voice-powered assistants (e.g., Siri and Alexa) and personalised ads on ecommerce sites and social media are encountered on a daily basis and embedded into our workplaces, homes and society at large.

What Is AI Being Used for in Business?

In business, AI is commonly being used for tasks, such as:

  • Risk identification
  • Text mining
  • Fraud detection
  • Customer retention.

So, there is clearly great potential for AI technologies.

Take-up by Businesses – the MIT Report

The authors of the report (MIT Sloan and the Boston Consulting Group) conducted a survey in 2017 with around 3,000 business executives, managers and analysts from 112 countries and 21 industries in conjunction with interviewing business executives.

The results show that more than 80% of organisations see AI as a strategic opportunity and around 72% of respondents expect large effects from AI in 5 years.

Key reasons for businesses adopting AI include:

  • Allowing organisations to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage (84%)
  • Allowing movement into new markets (75%)
  • Because new organisations using AI will enter their market (69%)
  • Because competitors will use AI (69%)
  • Pressures to reduce cost will require use of AI (63%)
  • Suppliers will offer AI-driven products and solutions (61%)
  • Customers will ask for an AI-driven offering (59%)

Despite this potential, is AI being used across business in general? What is striking is that around only a quarter of all organisations that responded to the survey had actually adopted AI. There is a clear disparity between the expectation and action of organisations: 4/5 executives agree that AI is a strategic opportunity; however, only 1/5 had incorporated AI in some kind of offering or process and 1/20 had extensively incorporated AI into their offerings or processes.

What Are the Barriers to AI Adoption?

So, why don’t businesses utilise AI? The MIT report suggests that various barriers exist including:

  • Being able to recruit people with the right AI skills
  • Competing priorities for investment
  • Security concerns with AI-related technologies
  • Cultural resistance to AI approaches from within the organisation
  • Limited IT capability
  • Lack of leadership to support AI initiatives
  • Unclear or no business case for AI applications

The report goes on to take responses from the survey and identifies four main categories of organisation based on their AI understanding and adoption:

  1. The Pioneers (around 19% respondents), who understand and have adopted and operationalised AI; they demonstrate leadership and innovation in AI usage. 

  2. The Investigators (around 32%) understand AI but are not deploying it beyond the pilot stage.

  3. The Experimenters (around 13%) are piloting or adopting AI technologies but without a deep understanding; they learn by doing.

  4. Finally, the largest category is the Passives (around 36%) who do not adopt AI or have very limited understanding of AI technologies.

Barriers to adoption vary across business sector and by type of organisation. For example, Pioneers who are leading the way in the use of AI struggle to recruit the right people with the right skills. On the other hand, Passives have an unclear or indeed no solid business case for the use of AI as well as lack support by management.

How Peak Indicators Can Help

It is clear that for some organisations, AI is currently transforming and shaping the business and providing substantial value-add. For others, there is potential, but currently the adoption of AI is low and beyond their reach.

Peak Indicators are helping organisations to manage and gain insights from data, to inform decision-making and help use data more effectively in their processes, products and services. For example, the new Tallinn Machine Learning platform helps businesses to utilise AI more effectively within their business workflows.

We are also keen to plug the skills gap and educate leadership of the benefits (and challenges) of using AI and data and identify value-add for the organisation. If you’re keen to develop skills with an existing team and would like to discuss training or discuss the opportunities AI technology can bring to your business call us on 01246389016 or email us on enquires@peakindicators.com


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