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September 15, 2023

Business leaders ‘optimistic’ about future of AI

Despite generally high levels of optimism about the impact of automation, concerns about transparency and data access remain.

By Ryan Morrison

A majority of UK executives are optimistic about the potential impact of AI and machine learning, according to a new Workday survey. It found that 73% of those questioned believed it would have an impact on the global business landscape in the next three years and more than half said it would “significantly amplify human potential”. Many of those responding also said siloed and inaccessible data was making it difficult to fully embrace AI.

Workday researchers found that a third of HR executives were concerned staff would not have the necessary skills (Photo: DimaBerlin/Shutterstock)
Workday researchers found that a third of HR executives were concerned staff would not have the necessary skills. (Photo by DimaBerlin/Shutterstock)

The annual C-Suite Global AI Indicator Report includes a global survey of 2,355 senior business executives carried out in May this year. Commissioned by enterprise cloud software vendor Workday, it examined how AI will impact the future of work. 

The executives questioned in the survey said it was clear their organisations will be impacted by AI and ML in the future, with 99% of tech leaders saying there will be some immediate benefit from implementing the technology. However, 42% said their organisation was unprepared to adopt AI as they lacked the knowledge, tools and skills necessary. 

A quarter of those questioned about how their organisation will tackle the rollout and impact of AI say they will “wait and see” how others get on before deploying it themselves. Some of this is the result of uncertainty about data, privacy and trust. Almost half said they were concerned about the trustworthiness of AI and 74% ranked potential errors as a cause for that concern.

There are efforts at both the national government and industry level to solve some of the concerns around trust and transparency. Recently eight companies including IBM and Adobe signed up for a US government voluntary scheme on model transparency and safety. The UK government is hosting the first AI Safety Summit in November and the EU is pushing ahead with the AI Act which is set to be the most comprehensive AI legislation in the world.

Concern over transparency wasn’t the only worry for executives, with many of those responding to the survey saying their own company had siloed data that was unstructured and obscuring their ability to lean into AI fully. Only 4% of those questioned said their company data was completely accessible. 

“With such a small fraction of UK respondents saying their data is completely accessible, it’s clear that an urgent shift in mindset is needed to ensure that the right people have access to the right information, as only when data is accessible can AI and ML truly deliver on its promise for companies,” said Daniel Pell, VP and UK and Ireland country manager for Workday. 

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Organisations need to have accurate and meaningful insights into their businesses to utilise AI for making more intelligent decisions, Pell said. This will allow them to “protect their bottom line more than those who do not have this foresight.”

Despite the concerns and uncertainty around the deployment of AI, Jim Stratton, CTO of Workday said there is a lot of optimism among tech leaders, they need to work on improving data. “Trust is paramount to embracing these benefits, and building trust requires the right data foundation and commitment to governance,” he said.

Read more: EY invests $1.4bn in new AI platform and training

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