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91% of UK IT businesses say a shortage of talent is the biggest hurdle to AI adoption

Only half of UK IT firms plan to increase investment in AI over the next 5 years, compared to over 70% of financial services firms.

  • 03 Oct 2019 Posted in

The adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation technologies in the UK is still being stunted by a lack of digital skills in businesses according to new research by Rainbird, the AI-powered automated decision-making platform.
The research, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Rainbird, surveyed senior decision-makers in enterprise organisations. It found that the main reason behind businesses not implementing AI is a shortage of talent in their workforce for handling automation processes. While this was the overall biggest barrier to adopting AI in the UK, when broken down into sectors the data highlighted a number of different concerns across business functions. With IT firms, a key barrier to AI adoption was cited as a shortage of talent in AI skills (91.7%). However, in financial services it is technology’s lack of transparency that inhibits adoption (88.8%) whereas within the professional services industry a lack of transparency and accountability was has become a major hurdle (87.5%).
James Duez, CEO at Rainbird, commented: “AI should be brought into organisations to help employees, not hinder them. UK organisations – and beyond – need to fundamentally change the way they are adopting AI, and think beyond big data and machine learning. ‘Black box’ solutions are only understood by data scientists, and there are huge benefits to be had by moving towards more transparent symbolic technologies which can achieve automation outcomes beyond those available with data-only approaches. Such accessible tools also have the added benefit of addressing the skills gap, by making AI far more accessible to employees without a degree in data science.”
Despite these barriers, 81% of those surveyed revealed that their organisation planned to increase investment in AI over the next 5 years. Of those who plan to increase spend on automation technologies, 22% suggested this investment would be significant. Interestingly, the financial sector is set to be the biggest adopter, with 94% of those surveyed planning to increase investment in AI over the coming years.
In the next 5-10 years, respondents see the greatest demand for AI coming from the IT department (74%). Those who could see the greatest potential for AI included operations (59%), marketing and communications (46%) and finance (43%) who are already showcasing some of the wider capabilities of the technology.
Duez continued: “In order to truly understand what processes will benefit from AI, businesses must review their strategies. Rather than pushing AI investment into IT departments, organisations should recognise where the most important decisions are being made - within the business. Symbolic tools are business-friendly, rapid to work with and completely auditable and it is these that will unlock the streamlining and automation of operational decisions.

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