Enterprises Wade Into the AI Pool

Enterprises are piloting or planning for AI implementations, and use cases vary depending on industry. How does your company stack up?

Companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have been blazing a trail by offering cloud services and advanced software services that run on top of them. These companies attract the premier talent for emerging technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and other artificial intelligence-related technologies. That's because developing this new technology and selling its potential for adding value is at the core of their businesses.

But if you aren't one of these tech giants, chances are your enterprise organization is still in the beginning phases of an artificial intelligence strategy. You are focused on your core business, whether it's consumer products, finance, oil and gas, logistics, transportation, or something else. Creating an artificial intelligence program hasn't been your number one priority.

But AI will become part of your core business in the years to come. Your competitors may already be piloting programs. Maybe that's why a new survey shows more concrete plans by enterprise organizations that are looking to get started with AI.

For instance, 9 out of 10 executives said that AI will be essential to their business strategies going forward, according to a report that summarizes the survey examining executive attitudes about artificial intelligence in the enterprise. Just what shape your initial AI pilot or project will take will likely be defined by your industry. The insights come from the Economist Intelligence Unit which authored the report, sponsored by Microsoft and titled Intelligent Economies: AI's transformation of industries and society. The report draws on a survey of more than 400 senior executives in a number of industries including financial services, healthcare and life sciences, manufacturing, retail, and the public sector.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • A little over a quarter of the respondents (27%) said that their organizations have started to incorporate AI into key processes and services, and another 45% said that they have one or more AI pilot projects underway. That totals 67% that are working with the technology in one way or another.
  • Organizations believe that AI is essential to their business strategies. A full 57% said that AI is somewhat important to solving their organizations' strategic challenges and 37% said it is very important.
  • Executives are optimistic about the value AI will bring. Over the next five years respondents said they expect AI to have a positive impact across a number of categories including growth (90%), productivity (86%), and job creation (69%).
  • Yet challenges remain, according to the executives surveyed. Executives cited cost and financial risks at 42%, execution risk (not having the necessary resources to effectively implement the technology) at 36%, persuading employees to adopt new technology or learn new skills (35%), and security (32%).

What are some of the top projects organizations are tackling as their first AI challenges? Number one is image analysis (35%), and number two is virtual assistants (31%).

"Different AI technologies are finding favor in particular sectors, according to specific industry needs," the report said.

For instance, Bank of America is running a chatbot pilot, Erica, with customers in Rhode Island and plans to roll out the bot to other US states later this year. Chatbots may or may not be a good first AI project, according to your industry, but this report notes that many banks are now deploying AI-powered virtual assistants, including Capital One's Eno; Progressive's Flo; Orange Bank's Djingo and HSBC's Amy.

"As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, virtual assistants will probably learn to take on even more complex tasks and work alongside their human colleagues," the report said. "Chatbots may assist humans during customer calls by prompting them to ask the right questions and by providing them with relevant information such as customer data or product summaries," the report said.

Find out more about getting started with AI in these articles:

The Boring Truth About High-Value AI Projects

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Your First AI Project: Avoid Customer-facing Chatbots

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