A new global study finds that while the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is low today, it is expected to create increased revenue, productivity, profitability and shareholder value for businesses within two years. Overall, only 16 percent of business leaders surveyed perceive they are currently garnering significant value from advanced AI. However, AI programs are being fast-tracked and that number is expected to more than triple to 52 percent within the next two years. This is according to a new report, “

Competing in the Cognitive Age: How companies will transform their businesses and drive value through advanced AI

,” by global consulting firm Protiviti in collaboration with ESI ThoughtLab. To understand how companies will transform their businesses through applications of advanced AI technologies and the benefits they expect to gain, Protiviti and ESI ThoughtLab conducted a global survey of 300 senior executives across functions, industries and company sizes in the third quarter of 2018. The study found that nearly one third of all respondents perceive their organization’s use of advanced AI is ahead of their competitors, and 92 percent of those respondents expect to see high/very high value from AI in two years. This follows already heavy investments in the technology – Protiviti found that, on average, surveyed companies spent $36 million each on AI in their last fiscal year, and they expect this average to grow eight percent over the next two years.

“AI is not solely the domain of ‘born digital’ companies; it’s for all organizations,”

said Madhumita Bhattacharyya, a managing director in Protiviti’s Technology Consulting practice.

“Executives are realizing that adoption and significant investment are required to maintain competitiveness in the market. With access to increased data from multiple touch points and powerful computing technologies, identifying the right applications that are relevant and aligned to the business goals is the equation that companies are trying to solve.”

Industries and AI investment. Source: Protiviti
Industries and AI investment. Source: Protiviti

Asia-Pacific & the Technology Industry Report the Most Value from AI

Protiviti evaluated the survey data by company, region, industry segment and size to discover which vertical industry segments are gaining the greatest benefits from AI today. Asia-Pacific companies are leading the way in driving business improvements with AI technology, with 35 percent reporting that advanced AI is currently providing ‘significant value’ to their business, compared to 14 percent of companies in North America and 7 percent of companies in EMEA. According to the survey, technology companies are leading the way with 28 percent observing significant value today, followed by the healthcare industry (15 percent), financial services (12 percent) and consumer products (9 percent).

Obstacles Identified

Despite some notable progress in deploying advanced AI, the report outlines several crucial challenges that many companies continue to face. The top five challenges, according to the survey, are:

  1. Uncertain ROI
  2. Cybersecurity/data privacy
  3. Deciding on best applications
  4. Regulatory constraints
  5. Limited AI skills/talent

The Promise of AI

As detailed in the Protiviti report, the most successful AI programs address these challenges by providing decision-makers with compelling proofs of concept and well-planned pilots – that can potentially be scaled to other parts of the organization later – and by creating in-house AI development programs to train their existing workforce.

“We find that companies tend to focus on the technology rather than the business outcomes when it comes to adopting AI and machine learning,”

said Ron Lefferts, a Protiviti managing director and leader of the firm’s global Technology Consulting practice.

“An organization’s leaders need to start with a very clear picture of the business problem they want advanced AI to help solve.”

“There is more data collected today than any one person could possibly analyze, but by using AI we can analyze large volumes of data to find patterns or improve operations. This analysis provides us with greater insights to help guide decision-making and reduce risk. That’s transformative,”

said Shaheen Dil, a senior managing director with Protiviti.