Businesses globally have embraced AI and are beginning to see tangible results from the still-nascent technology.

 

AI is increasing productivity, not stealing our jobs

 

In the last couple of years, the impact of AI in work has made multiple headlines. Most reporting tends to focus on the number of roles that will be ‘automated’ – and the inherent fear that computers will take over our jobs, before taking over the world.

But business leaders have taken a more pragmatic approach to adopting AI technologies within their organisations. AI Business recently completed a comprehensive research report with 3,000 executives globally – focussing on what AI means to their organisation.

“Increased productivity, process efficiencies and optimisation of activity are the three key areas of impact,” highlighted by Periklies Antoniou of Diageo.

 
  • 92 per cent of respondents see AI bringing improved efficiency across the board
     
  • 77 per cent expect to see a reduction in overall costs
     
  • 66 per cent also anticipate enhanced accuracy in their operations.
 

Interestingly, 28 per cent of people believe that AI will enable humans to make the most of their creative side by removing mundane tasks that will be done more efficiently without human intervention.

"AI will enable humans to make the most of their creative side."

In terms of individual business functions, over 85 per cent of respondents see data collection and management as the domain that AI will revolutionise. It is in this area that most  organisations have already started investing, with machine-learning and deep-learning projects making the most of organisations’ big data.

Further still, business leaders expect a significant impact of AI in customer service – a function that applies to all organisations and one that is particularly difficult to ‘get right’. From NLP to image-recognition, organisations are using a wide range of AI tools to improve and strengthen their relationship with the customer.

Research and development (R&D) and marketing are very close as the third and fourth areas singled out by approximately 60 per cent of respondents, followed by sales and management, which was identified by about 50 per cent of respondents.

 

AI is initiating structural change

 

Over 80 per cent of respondents expect a major change to business structures, roles and hierarchies with the development and increased implementation of AI technologies.

As has been widely reported, a number of jobs will eventually be automated. George Zarkadakis of Willis Towers Watson is, nonetheless, confident that a significant number of new roles will be created as a result of AI being implemented.

 

A bumpy road to adoption

 

The road to enhancing human productivity is neither straightforward nor clearly defined – yet. The amorphous regulatory framework is one of the many concerns raised by executives; who regulates? What kind of rules should we expect?

The ethical challenges and risks of using AI are also on the CxO’s agenda. Liability when machines make mistakes and the potential to lose control over AI’s capabilities are further issues that prevent AI from reaching its full potential at work.

Surprisingly, the single biggest obstacle to AI adoption – highlighted by 67 per cent of respondents – is the lack of understanding about AI’s capabilities or limitations, coupled with the lack of talent. Despite the hype, knowledge of the opportunity around AI is still rather limited – and very few out there have the know-how to lead and implement AI projects.

 

$15.7 trillion potential boost

 

Is ROI from AI visible on the horizon? While less than 38 per cent are already seeing some ROI on their investments – particularly in areas where AI has been used in customer-facing products and services – over half expect to see stronger results within the next three years. PwC analysis estimates a stunning $15.7tr as the potential contribution to the global economy by 2030 from AI, with up to 26 per cent boost in GDP for local economies.

AI Business’ own research confirms that we are only at the beginning of a metamorphic journey in human productivity. Business CxOs do recognise the opportunity in place. AI is still a work in progress, but the fourth Industrial Revolution is happening now and transforming the future of work.