Despite the hype, AI adoption still in early stages per SAS survey

Challenges remain for 100 European organisations surveyed, from skills gap to ethical issues

The hype surrounding artificial intelligence, or AI, is intense. But for most European businesses surveyed in a recent study by SAS, the leader in analytics, adoption of AI is still in the early or even planning stages. The good news is, findings suggest that the vast majority of organisations have begun to talk about AI, and a few have even begun to implement suitable projects. There is much optimism about the potential of AI, although fewer felt optimistic that their organisation was ready to exploit that potential.

Interestingly enough, it wasn't as much a lack of available technology slowing AI adoption: most attest that there are many options available. Challenges mainly came from a shortage of data-science skills to maximise value from emerging AI technology, and deeper organisational and societal challenges to AI adoption.

These were some of the findings of the Enterprise AI Promise Study, a phone survey of executives from 100 organisations across Europe in banking, insurance, manufacturing, retail and other industries. The SAS study was conducted in August to measure how business leaders felt about AI's potential, how they use it today and plan to use it in future, and what challenges they face.

Societal challenges

A full 56 per cent of respondents to the SAS study felt that the biggest challenge related to AI was the changing scope of human jobs in light of AI's automation and autonomy. This potential effect of AI on jobs, per respondents, included job losses but also the development of new jobs requiring new AI-related skills.

Ethical issues were cited as the second biggest challenge, with 39% of respondents raising questions about whether robots and AI systems should have to work "for the good of humanity" rather than simply for a single company, and how to look after those who lost jobs to AI systems.

"Over the coming years, ongoing advances in AI will have profound impacts on jobs, skills and HR strategies in virtually every industry – underlining the fact that companies don't have the luxury of time as they map out their plans for an AI-enabled world," said Mike Quindazzi, Managing Director at PwC.

Data science team and organisational readiness

Are organisations' data scientists ready for the challenge of emerging AI? The survey revealed that only 12 per cent felt their data-science teams were ready, while 18 per cent had no data-sciences teams at all.

Recruiting data scientists to build organisational skills was the plan for 20 per cent of respondents, while 26 per cent said they would build AI skills in their existing analyst teams through training, conferences and workshops.

Additionally, trust emerged as a major challenge in many organisations. Almost half (45 per cent) of respondents mentioned cultural challenges due to a lack of trust in AI output and more broadly, a lack of trust in the results of advanced analytics, particularly from so-called "black box" solutions.

Platform readiness

The study also sought to assess AI readiness in terms of infrastructure required. On one hand, 13% of respondents felt they were doing a good job handling data management and algorithm processing for AI and 8% already had a cloud solution in place. On the other hand, 28 per cent had no specific platform in place to address AI.

"While it is increasingly used as an industry buzzword, artificial intelligence has truly astounding potential. When implemented correctly algorithms will be able to perform human tasks automatically like never before," said Peter Pugh-Jones, Head of Technology, SAS UK & Ireland. "While many organisations are still in the early or even planning stages of adopting AI, it will be those that harness the power of this technology that will not just survive but thrive in the future."

Analytics Experience Amsterdam

Today's announcement was made at the Analytics Experience conference in Amsterdam, a business technology conference presented by SAS that brings together thousands of attendees on-site and online to share ideas on critical business issues.

Download the full survey report here.

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The Enterprise AI  Promise: Path to Value

Download the full survey report here.

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