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Perspectives

Overnight sensation?

Many early adopters are getting benefits from AI, but transformation can take time

Deloitte’s “State of AI in the enterprise, 2nd edition” survey¹ shows that early adopters² of artificial intelligence (AI) remain enthusiastic about its potential. Compared with last year’s survey, AI early adopters ramped up their investments, launched more initiatives, and continued to achieve positive financial returns in 2018.

November 28, 2018

In the past year, AI early adopters also gained important perspective. In our 2017 survey, 76 percent of respondents believed that cognitive technologies could transform their business within three years. In 2018, 56 percent feel the same way. (see Exhibit 1). The same was true of early adopters’ view on AI’s potential to transform their industry, with 37 percent of 2018 respondents thinking it will happen within three years (compared with 57 percent in 2017).

Exhibit 1: These things take time

Source: Deloitte state of AI in the enterprise, 2nd edition, 2018.

Early adopters still believe AI will drive substantial change quickly—and they feel their companies will move faster than the competition. But with experience, many early adopters better understand the complexity involved in using AI to drive transformational change.

When we asked respondents about the top benefits of AI, 42 percent cited optimizing internal operations, up from 36 percent in 2017. While improving existing products and services remained the top benefit of AI, at 44 percent, it fell by 7 percentage points from 2017. Creating new products dropped by 5 percentage points.

The increased emphasis on internal operations likely means executives understand that to transform what they make, they must also transform how they work. Even with the impressive advancements in cloud-based AI technologies, which are making it easier for companies to get started with AI and to develop their own custom solutions, transformation can take time.

Nonetheless, Deloitte’s 2018 State of AI in the enterprise survey finds that early adopters are forging ahead in deploying AI. This shows that while executives understand the challenges involved in realizing immediate transformational business benefits from AI, they are pursuing that goal relentlessly.

To achieve this objective, early adopters should consider focusing on five essentials when implementing AI:

  • Combine experimentation with execution discipline
  • Prioritize cybersecurity from the beginning
  • Deploy AI beyond just the IT function/department
  • Leverage off-the-shelf enterprise software solutions that embed AI capabilities
  • Craft a flexible/agile talent strategy

These steps can help early adopters realize the transformational potential of AI—perhaps sooner rather than later.

State of AI in the enterprise, 2nd edition

Early adopters combine bullish enthusiasm with strategic investments

In our second annual survey, early adopters remain bullish on cognitive technologies’ value and are ramping up AI investments. But questions linger about risk management—and about who at the company will push projects forward.

Read more about the current state of AI.

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Endnotes

To obtain a cross-industry view of how organizations are adopting and benefiting from cognitive computing/AI, Deloitte surveyed 1,100 IT and line-of-business executives from US-based companies in Q3 2018. Detailed analysis and insights are published in the recent article State of AI in the enterprise, 2nd edition (October 2018). All respondents were required to be knowledgeable about their company’s use of cognitive technologies/artificial intelligence, and 90 percent have direct involvement with their company’s AI strategy, spending, implementation, and/or decision-making. The respondents represent 10 industries, with 17 percent coming from the technology industry.

All survey respondents can be considered “early adopters” when compared with their counterparts in an average company. All of the respondents’ companies have implemented at least one cognitive prototype or full-scale implementation. In addition, 75 percent of respondents say they have an “excellent” understanding of AI or are experts.

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