How to best utilize artificial intelligence (AI) is a question that many business leaders are struggling to get right. In its 2022 AI Business Survey, PwC surveyed 1,000 business leaders, 50% from the C-suite, and gathered data on how they are using AI in data, cloud, and analytics to achieve the best business outcomes.
Best Practices for Implementing AI
PwC found respondents who reported the best experience (36%) implementing AI targeted three areas simultaneously rather than “trying out” AI in one application first. PwC referred to these respondents as “leaders” in the report. These AI leaders’ holistic approach to implementing AI included the trifecta of enhanced decision-making, business transformation, and systems modernization. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 20 % f respondents tested proof of concept with limited success.
By bringing together cross-functional teams and their data, the AI leaders align both the human teams and the AI toward common business goals and achieve greater outcomes. AI has the biggest impact on increasing productivity through automation (44%), improved decision-making (41%), improved customer experience (40%), and innovating products and services (40%).
The Power of AI Decision-Making
The research also found that businesses are combining AI’s ability to analyze vast quantities of information faster than any human with IoT sensors to give businesses data on virtually everything in their operations.
Which lines of business are using AI? As you would expect, technology leads with 74%, followed by operations and maintenance (62%), customer experience (61%), and strategy (60%). Other areas with less widespread use are product and service development, supply chain, marketing and sales, workforce, finance, and ESG.
By starting with the outcomes they want to realize, business leaders can leverage the power of AI to look for the data and analytics to back up that outcome. AI can then wade through the swamp of unorganized data most companies have and extract exactly what decision-makers need.
Almost all respondents (96%) use AI for simulations. Simulations can help reduce the risk of future operations by analyzing dozens of potential variables before any capital is committed. The most popular use of AI simulations is forecasting market conditions (57%). More than half (54%) use it to support these three categories: financials, sales, and marketing; enhancing supply chain operations; and developing new products.
What did not rank highly yet, but likely will in the future, is that only 39% of AI leaders were using AI to hire and train employees. Virtual reality simulations will allow better virtual recruiting, monitoring of employees, and better training for hands-on employees.
Is It Worth It?
Leaders in AI implementation are very confident in their companies’ ability to accurately predict their ROI from implementing AI, with 72% responding that they are confident in their predictions. Even 59% of those companies who are not AI leaders are confident in their ability to predict AI ROI.
Companies can use a variety of methods to assess hard returns, such as cost and increased sales, but also soft returns, such as improved employee experience, to increase the quality of their prediction on AI ROI. Just like any other investment, companies are finding that a portfolio approach including a variety of different AI initiatives could be more effective than targeting a single business silo.
Avoid a Skynet Armageddon – Make Responsible AI
PwC also found that 98% of respondents have some sort of plan to make their AI responsible in 2022, meaning that AI will do only what it has been told to do and nothing else. The other 2% have clearly never seen a science fiction movie.
A majority of businesses (57%) confirm their AI is compliant with applicable regulations. Protecting AI systems from cyber threats is a priority for 55% of respondents. PwC Research recommends conducting governance reviews, studying data science, and decreasing AI bias to prevent AI from doing what business leaders do not want it to do.
AI And Employees
AI can help overcome labor market challenges, according to 98% of respondents. Many AI leaders (42%) are implementing AI at a faster pace to reduce general hiring needs. Even so, AI brings its own labor challenges, as 79% of respondents said they are slowing down implementation due to a lack of skilled labor.
Companies willing to implement AI across their organizations can see tremendous benefits. By using AI for enhanced decision-making, business transformation, and systems modernization, companies can achieve far greater synergistic results than a limited, piecemeal approach would achieve.