AI is key for business success, but lack of skilled staff remains a barrier

Other challenges to AI adoption are a lack of compelling return on investment and a lack of management understanding, according to a new report from EY.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly seen as a technology that can help businesses better control data and other assets, improve daily processes, manage customers, and defend against cyberthreats. And though business leaders see AI as a road to success, they also acknowledge several bumps along that road, according to a report released Thursday by EY.

Based on an EY survey of 500 US CEOs and business leaders, the study entitled "AI important to a company's success, but lack of skilled personnel remains a barrier" found that 84% of the respondents said they feel AI is important to the future success of their company, with 55% seeing it as a way to cut costs and drive new revenues. Breaking that down further, some 62% said that AI will have a major impact on creating efficiencies at their company, 62% said it will help them remain competitive, and 60% said it will help them gain a better understanding of customers.

However, business leaders also see several obstacles in the adoption of AI. Among the respondents, 31% pointed to the lack of skilled personnel as the largest barrier they face in implementing AI. Among other challenges, some 27% cited a lack of compelling return on investment, 24% mentioned a lack of management understanding, 21% cited an unclear business case, 20% pointed to limited funding, and 19% mentioned the issue of having a siloed organization and data.

Yet business leaders are trying to overcome the barriers to AI adoption in a few ways. Among the respondents, 31% cited having a compelling business case for AI as the most important factor, while 29% pointed to a commitment to AI from senior management. Both factors highlight the importance of buy-in by top executives, according to EY, both in terms of informing the organization of the uses, value, and ROI of AI, as well as explaining the benefits of long-term implementation. 

"CEOs and business leaders have a responsibility to not only motivate and inspire their organizations with a strategic vision for the future, but to establish a plan that implements AI and other emerging technologies across the workforce," Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer, said in a press release. "Employees need to be able to trust the technologies and understand the benefits and efficiencies that AI provides personally and for the business."

For more, check out Demand for AI talent exploding: Here are the 10 most in-demand jobs on TechRepublic.

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By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.