Artificial Intelligence may be grabbing the headlines but doubts remain as to its readiness for business consumption – despite the vast majority planning to invest in the tech by 2020.
Nearly nine in ten British businesses will invest in AI by 2020, a study has found, but will splashing the cash be enough to catapult UK enterprise into the 21st Century on a global stage? Most senior executives (85%) plan to spend on Artificial Intelligence and IoT technologies in the next three years, according to a survey of UK digital leaders by Deloitte. However, despite awareness of burgeoning smart tech, just one in ten bosses would claim Britain is a world leader in digital.
UK firms are not living up to their full “digital potential” but could see a drastic increase in productivity and growth with careful spend decisions, according to UK digital transformation leader Paul Thompson at Deloitte.
Executives believe Artificial Intelligence will have the biggest impact on their businesses’ future, with almost four in five (77%) expecting smart tech to disrupt their industry. But this will not necessarily be a net negative for British enterprise, as over a third believe AI will improve human decision-making. Just 8% reckon AI will replace human activity.
Mr Thompson said: “Our view is that human and machine intelligence complement each other, and humans working with AI will achieve better outcomes than AI alone. UK businesses need to get this careful balance right.”
Low investment levels and a shortage of skills are where the nation falls down on futureproofing, according to Mr Thompson. Research suggests a significant factor is a persistent skills gap; four in five leaders believe entrants to the labour market are deficient in appropriate digital skills and experience to make effective use of Artificial Intelligence technologies.
As well as a faltering supply of new blood, managers feel not enough is being done to educate those already in business. Just under half (45%) said their company does not provide enough training in various multimedia channels to enable development of digital capabilities. The number rises to more than half when it comes to dissatisfaction with their organisation’s learning and development curriculum supporting digital strategy.
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This year, a third of UK organisations (30%) invested over £10m in digital tech – a modest amount compared with the majority of corporate IT budgets which top £20m annually, according to separate Deloitte research.
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. Three-quarters (73%) say they plan to spend on robotics, 63% on VR and AR, 62% in wearables, and just over half (54%) on biometrics including voice and fingerprint recognition. Cryptocurrencies look set to become of significant interest to tech firms too, with 43% including blockchain in their spend priorities.
Deloitte’s report includes responses from 51 organisations with a combined market value of £229bn.