Whilst executives are enthusiastic about the importance and potential benefits of AI to their business, many lack the strategic focus and consideration for the non-technical aspects that are critical to the success of AI, such as trust, transparency and ethics.
Optimism and enthusiasm
The research shows that business leaders are positive about the importance and potential benefits of AI. Roughly two- thirds (63 %) say that AI is extremely or very important to their companies today, and 84 % expect this will be the case three years from now. Lower costs, increased revenues and the ability to introduce new products or services, or to diversify were cited as the key advantages for the future.
Companies that are growing much faster than the average business in their industry, in particular, expect major benefits in coming years, with 86% of executives of these fast-growing companies stating AI is extremely or very important to their company’s success, compared with 57% of those at their competitors with slower growth. These industry leaders say they plan to use AI to drive further growth, solidifying their leading positions and pull even further away from the pack. This is reflected in their greater investment in key AI technologies, including computer vision (64% vs 47%), smart robotics/autonomous vehicles (63% vs 43%) and analysis of natural language (67% vs 42%).
Almost half of those companies (44%) undertaking at least one AI project expect to increase their employee headcount over the next three years as a result of the impact of AI projects. Retail and financial services industry executives were most likely to expect a boost to employment (56% and 49% respectively).
Disconnect between optimism and actual implementation
However, business leaders’ optimism is disconnected from the actual implementation in many companies. While two-thirds of executives said they knew about an AI project at their company, only 24% of that group – just 15% of all respondents – were aware of projects that were fully implemented.
Some 40% of respondents said that securing senior management commitment, buy-in by the business and even adequate budget were extremely or very challenging, indicating that many companies are not yet fully committed to AI’s central role in advancing business objectives.
Neglect of ethical considerations
Only half of companies have policies and procedures in place to identify and address ethical considerations – either in the initial design of AI applications or in their behaviour after the system is launched.
Sanjiv Gossain, European Head, Cognizant Digital Business, commented: ‘The challenge today is less about understanding technical questions and technology capabilities, and more about crafting a strategy, determining the governance structures and practices needed for responsible AI’.
According to Gossain, ‘companies need to pay more attention to the non-technical considerations of AI deployments, many of which are more critical and complex than those related to developing and running the technology itself. AI operates in the real world and this will not only help companies determine which technologies can be used to advance business objectives, but also which have the potential to irritate customers, alienate employees, drive up R&D and deployment costs, and undermine brand reputation’.
The report provides three key recommendations to help companies take action and achieve the significant business benefits of AI: