Most businesses to invest in artificial intelligence by 2020

Eighty-five per cent of senior executives plan to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, according to a new survey of UK digital leaders by Deloitte.

invest ai 2020

The findings come from the first edition of a new regular report from Deloitte, the Digital Disruption Index. The index will track investment in digital technologies and create a detailed picture of their impact on the largest and most influential business and public sector bodies. The first edition includes responses from 51 organisations with a combined market value of £229bn.

Over half of survey respondents expect that by 2020, they will invest more than £10 million in digital technologies and ways of working – such as AI, cloud, robotics, blockchain, analytics, the IoT, and virtual and augmented reality. Seventy-three per cent say they will invest in robotics, 63 per cent in augmented and virtual reality, 62 per cent in wearables, 54 per cent in biometrics (such as voice and finger recognition), and 43 per cent in blockchain.

This year alone, 30 per cent of UK organisations will invest more than £10 million in these technologies. But when compared with corporate IT budgets this represents a rather modest amount of investment. According to separate Deloitte research, the majority of IT functions have budgets of over £20 million, while a quarter of corporate IT functions spend more than £75 million annually.

As a likely consequence, at this stage only nine per cent of executives believe that UK companies are world leading at exploring and implementing digital technologies and ways of working.

Rise of artificial intelligence

Of all of the digital technologies surveyed, executives believe AI will have the biggest impact on their organisations in the future. Investment in AI at this stage remains modest though, with only 22 per cent having already invested in it. Of those that have invested, only a third expect to spend more than £1 million in 2017. This suggests that organisations are currently testing with pilots, rather than large scale deployments.

Seventy-seven per cent of leaders expect AI to disrupt their industries. Just under half expect their workforce to get smaller as they adopt AI, but only eight per cent believe AI will directly replace human activity. Over a third believe AI will be used to augment expertise, with a focus on improving human decision-making.

“Tomorrow is too late – organisations should integrate AI into their business plans today. It’s a very complex technology to understand, so it would be wise to begin with the business needs first. Working together with like-minded organisations, government bodies and educational institutes is the very first step in shaping a long-term plan. Upskilling existing staff will also be crucial in developing a long-term understanding of artificial intelligence across the organisation. Crucially, artificial intelligence will enable us to do more interesting work and create fascinating applications for the end-user. And collaborating with technology specialists will unlock the potential that AI has in solving present-day issues, while also helping to prepare businesses for the future technology-driven world,” Joseph Reger, CTO, EMEIA, Fujitsu, told Help Net Security.

The digital skills gap

Only 20 per cent of leaders believe there are enough school leavers and graduates entering the labour market with the appropriate digital skills and experience.

Three-quarters of executives face challenges recruiting the right digital skills. Leaders say data scientists and analysts are the most important roles for a successful digital strategy, but these are also the most difficult digital roles to retain and recruit.

Over half of leaders say their organisation’s learning and development curriculum does not support their digital strategy. Forty-five per cent say that their organisation does not provide them and other leaders with the resources needed, such as training and coaching through a variety of multimedia channels, to develop their own digital skills.

“The UK has the opportunity to be a market-leader in harnessing and exploiting the opportunities digital brings, including increased productivity and driving growth. But it’s clear that digital skills, at all levels, are in short supply and high demand. In our view, digital represents both a business and public policy issue which needs educators, policymakers and business to work more closely together, in order to meet the current and future demands of the UK’s economy,” said Paul Thompson, UK digital transformation leader at Deloitte.