If it seems as though companies have been dragging their feet with adopting artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, they have. Despite its perceived benefits, a new global study on the current and future use of AI technologies conducted by Protiviti, a global consulting firm, in collaboration with ESI Thoughtlab found that cybersecurity concerns and uncertainty about the ROI of AI are the biggest barriers to progress. But are those the real reasons why AI has yet to take flight?
The study, titled “Competing in the Cognitive Age: How companies will transform their businesses and drive value through advanced AI,” noted, “Although advanced AI can help protect against cyberattacks, it also carries its own cybersecurity risks due to the greater access to sensitive personal data.”
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Non-technical executives are not hopping on the AI party train just yet because they don’t really believe all the hype. According to the survey results, 43 percent of the 300 senior executive participants remain skeptical that advanced AI will actually yield results that would justify investing in the technology. Shockingly, only 16 percent of business leaders said they are currently reaping significant value from advanced AI.
When asked whether advanced AI is considerably important to the future of the business, only 8 percent of CEOs and/or presidents responded affirmatively. Even more surprising, though, is that only 57 percent of chief technology officers and 46 percent of chief data officers said yes.
Many people don’t know enough about AI because universities are not producing enough advanced AI specialists, according to the study. As a result, today’s businesses are faced with the challenge of hiring the right people to move forward with AI adoption, yet qualified candidates are few and far between.
Added to the skepticism and the lack of talent is the reality that no one in the organization is well-versed enough to make a clear business case for AI investments. “Organizations need to have a clear picture of the business problem they need AI to help solve,” said Lucas Lua, director at Protiviti. Short of a clear plan, it’s much harder to understand how to see returns on investments.
While the study found that AI is expected to be fast-tracked over the next two years, “Organizations will have to address a tangle of challenges, from uncertain ROI and limited AI talent to concerns about cybersecurity and regulatory compliance.”
One way to untangle that web of challenges is to hire people who know not only the technology and the data but also the business. That sounds easy enough, but Lua said getting applications from these candidates is the ultimate challenge for most organizations.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Those who understand the technology see the promise AI holds, not only for application security but also for defending against cyberattacks. With the rise of fileless malware, AI is making it possible for security organizations to better mitigate cyberthreats. That’s one reason why many tech businesses and healthcare companies are leading the way in AI adoption.
Across the different sectors represented by all the survey participants, 52 percent said they expect to be reaping the rewards from advanced AI within the next two years; however, within the technology sector, that number is expected to grow to 75 percent, a significant rise from the current 28 percent that are already seeing valuable return on investments.
Additionally, 15 percent of healthcare companies are currently seeing increased value, with 50 percent of those organizations expecting to see significant returns in two years’ time. “Businesses are seeing the greatest impact today in IT and cybersecurity, strategy and planning, and operations,” according to the report. As more organizations come to see the benefits of advanced AI across several business functions, it is believed that adoption will soar.
Increased Profitability or Destruction of Humanity?
For AI to become more widely accepted, the survey suggested that the technology’s perception needs to change. The victim of negative press, AI is often negatively portrayed in most media coverage through reporting that instills fears about the impact AI will have on the global workforce. All the fear, uncertainty and doubt does beg the question: Are businesses using cybersecurity as a scapegoat because they are afraid of advanced AI?
Despite the words of Stephen Hawking: “The rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or worst, thing ever to happen to humanity,” AI leaders do see enormous potential for growth across all facets of the business. To that end, “firms need to help their people understand that no matter how effective AI can be, it’s never going to replace a human being,” said Shaheen Dil, senior managing director at Protiviti.