Companies are investing millions in AI -- and facing big barriers

A new study shows a lack of IT infrastructure and access to talent and budget are among the key challenges to adoption
Written by Bob Violino, Contributor

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest technologies today -- and with good reason. AI promises to deliver a number of benefits to businesses and individuals, by transforming huge amounts of data into valuable insights that can solve a host of problems.

A newly released study shows that many organizations are enthusiastically jumping on the AI bandwagon, and that they're spending huge amounts of money on the technology. But it also shows that they're expecting to face daunting barriers to adoption.

Technology market research firm Vanson Bourne and data analytics provider Teradata surveyed executives at 260 large enterprises worldwide, and 80 percent said their organization is investing today in AI, while one in three think their company will need to invest more over the next 36 months to keep pace with competitors.

On average, the organizations surveyed are currently investing $6.47 million in AI technology, and for those in the Asia Pacific region, the average investment is $8.25 million. Clearly, companies are anticipating that AI will be a strategic, long-term technology, many with plans to double their investments in five years and triple them within 10 years.

The industries where respondents expect to see the most impact from AI are IT, technology, and telecommunications (59 percent), business and professional services (43 percent), and customer services and financial services (each at 32 percent).

The top three areas where organizations expect AI to drive revenue are product innovation/research and development (50 percent), customer service (46 percent), and supply chain and operations (42 percent). This mirrors some of the top areas of AI investment, the report said, which include customer experience (62 percent), product innovation (59 percent), and operational excellence (55 percent).

But the significant commitment to the technology and hopes for big benefits come at a time when the vast majority of organizations (91percent) expect to face major challenges in deploying AI and achieving a return on investment (ROI).

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Among the key barriers to AI realization are a lack of IT infrastructure (40 percent), lack of access to talent (34 percent), lack of budget for implementation (30 percent), complications around policies, regulations, and rights (28 percent), and impact on customer expectations (23 percent).

Fewer of the respondents view a weak business case for AI technologies and the potential impact of AI and automation on employee morale as concerns.

To help address those and other challenges, many organizations are creating a new C-suite position, the chief AI officer (CAIO) to streamline and coordinate AI adoption. About two-thirds said they are planning to hire a dedicated CAIO to lead their AI efforts.

In most cases today, companies are relying on existing technology leaders such as CIOs and CTOs to lead their AI adoption and strategy. But executives think the future of AI will be so relevant for creating a strategy across business practices that they will need to appoint a CAIO to coordinate and mandate implementation throughout the enterprise.

To maximize the returns on AI, companies will need to "re-imagine" how AI will disrupt all aspects of their businesses and create a suitably agile strategy, the report said.

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