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Investments in data and AI are paying off despite resistance to change

Fortune 1000 executives see 'positive and measurable' results from their data and AI initiatives but resistance to change is the biggest hindrance.

By Afiq Fitri

Investment in data and artificial intelligence (AI) is paying off for the world’s largest companies, according to a new survey of 97 C-Suite executives from Fortune 1000 companies. But resistance to change continues to hamper adoption, the survey indicates, and – worryingly – fewer than 50% have well-established practices to handle data ethics issues.

The Data and AI Executive Survey is conducted by data transformation advisory NewVantage Partners. Over three-quarters of the respondent hold chief data/analytics officer (CDAO) positions.

In this year’s edition, 92% of respondents indicate positive and measurable business results from their prior investments in AI and data initiatives, up from 48% in  2017.

Nine out of ten organisations are currently investing in data and AI initiatives, the survey shows, with 92% expecting investments to increase in future.

The majority of AI initiatives (70%) are still in the pilot or 'limited production' phase, the survey found. However, the proportion in production more than doubled from 12% in last year's survey to 26% this year.

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Despite this growing adoption, organisational and governance challenges are still hampering data initiatives, the survey reveals. For example, 92% of respondents indicate that they consider cultural factors and human resistance to change to be the main obstacles to becoming a fully data-driven organisation, up from 81% in 2018.

Furthermore, only 22% believe the technology industry has done enough to address data responsibility and ethical issues. Fewer than half have established policies and practices within their organisations to address such issues – an alarming finding, given that survey respondents represent the world's largest multinational corporations.

Evidently, executives leading their organisations' data initiatives have considerable organisational challenges to overcome. To that end, more than 50% of executives believed that a CDAO's primary role is to be an 'external change agent' – an 'outsider' who can drive change within large organisations in an ethical and principled manner.

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