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AI usage could account for 30% of business processes in just three years

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MIT Technology Review Insights has released the first in a series of reports exploring trends in AI, dubbed ‘The global AI agenda: Promise, reality, and the future of data sharing’.

The report found that while AI deployment is widespread, it will take time to scale. AI is being deployed widely across sectors, exercising an important, though not dominant influence in business operations. Most survey respondents (60%) expect AI to be used in anywhere from 11% to 30% of their business processes in three years’ time. Financial services providers, manufacturers, and technology companies have the highest expectations of AI penetration.

Researchers also found that change management and data challenges hamper efforts to scale AI. More than half of surveyed companies struggle most with the change management involved in modifying business processes to leverage AI. Nearly as difficult are data challenges—cited by 48%—such as integrating unstructured data and interfacing with open-data platforms.

The top AI use cases today are in quality control, customer care, and cybersecurity, according to the report. Some 60% of manufacturers and pharma companies are using AI to improve product quality. Nearly half of retail and consumer firms (47%) are using it in customer care. Over 50% of energy firms are leveraging AI for monitoring and diagnostics, 58% of financial services providers for fraud detection, and 52% of tech firms to strengthen cybersecurity.

Currently nascent, data sharing can magnify the impact of AI. Two-thirds (66%) of companies are willing to share data externally to help develop new AI-enabled efficiencies, products, or even value chains. Manufacturers, consumer goods firms, retailers, and health sector organizations envision benefits to supply chain speed and visibility and reduced time to market of new products. Technology and financial services firms see gains to customer service, cybersecurity, and fraud detection, among other uses.

Greater regulatory clarity was also called for to ensure more active data sharing. Although in principle willing to share data, businesses are still cautious, and more clarity is needed in privacy regulation and industry standards, say 64% and 58% of respondents, respectively, before data sharing takes hold.

The report was put together in association with Genesys, Philips, and NUS Business School’s Centre on AI Technology for Humankind, and includes a survey of more than 1,000 leaders as well as in-depth interviews with AI experts worldwide.

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