Unlock the true benefits of AI

A recent survey offers insight into the characteristics that differentiate AI overperformers—those companies that are realising the most return on investment for their AI initiatives.

Elite athletes know that in order to perform on the field, they must lay the groundwork—through proper nutrition, good sleep, and strength training. As more companies adopt AI technologies, they are quickly learning the same lesson: To get a big return from AI, they should first put in the work.

How can CMOs and their C-suite counterparts prepare for effective AI adoption? A recent benchmarking study from the research firm ESI ThoughtLab, cosponsored by Deloitte LLP, offers some answers. The survey, which examined 1,200 companies across 12 industries and 15 countries, explores how organisations are approaching their AI implementations, what value they are seeking, and what results they are achieving.

Generally, companies are seeing a positive ROI from their AI implementations. The survey found that top areas for returns include customer service and experience (74%), IT operations and infrastructure (69%), and planning and decision-making (66%). While these numbers are encouraging, many companies still aren’t realising enough value from their AI initiatives, and there are big differences between overperformers and underperformers. The survey found that the companies achieving high ROI for their AI projects (more than 5%) had largely or fully implemented key practices across data management, tracking of results, security, privacy, and ethics.

A company’s maturity with AI implementations also plays a big role in realising value. Organisations with the most experience had, on average, a 4.3% ROI for their AI projects, compared with only 0.2% for companies just beginning to tap into AI. Payback periods also varied, with leaders reporting a typical payback period of 1.2 years and beginners 1.6 years.

Implications for Executives

Setting the right AI foundation is likely the surest way companies can achieve true strategic value and a strong ROI from AI implementations. Three takeaways can help guide C-suite leaders as they prepare their organisations to invest in AI initiatives:

  • Scaling is critical. Quickly bring successful experiments to the wider organisation to justify the large investments needed for AI. Leverage cloud platforms when possible to accelerate efforts.
  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Calculating the ROI for an AI implementation is still more art than science—but it’s important. Fully account for costs and quantify strategic and nonfinancial benefits.
  • Be in it to win it. AI leaders understand the value of long-term investment in the right data practices, technologies, tools, talent, and business processes to make their AI implementations effective.
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