As artificial intelligence (AI) matures and makes good on its promises, the technology is rapidly finding its way into more and more enterprise organizations. As hardware becomes commoditized, AI is emerging as the competitive differentiator for consumer-facing and B2B businesses alike.

In a recent IBM report, conducted in partnership with Oxford Economics, business leaders explained just how they see AI infiltrating their organization. According to the report, some 93% of outperforming businesses are considering AI adoption, and many organizations are moving beyond the question of whether or not to adopt the technology, to how they’ll implement it.

However, AI won’t have an equal impact across all business functions. Here are the top five areas where business executives said AI would drive the most value in 2018 (and the percentage of leaders who listed it):

SEE: 2019 IT Budget Research Report: IT spending increases due to business conditions, security, and revenue opportunities (Tech Pro Research)

  1. Information technology: 87%
  2. Information security 81%
  3. Innovation: 67%
  4. Customer service: 63%
  5. Risk: 55%

In areas like IT, AI-enabled assistants could help perform help desk operations, while threat detection algorithms could improve the effectiveness of security, the report said. Customer service is a common pilot area for AI projects, as virtual chat bots streamline the process. Innovation will serve as a center of excellence for AI, and the technology will help with fraud detection and risk management.

However, challenges to AI adoption do exist. Primarily, this will show itself in the poor availability of skilled resources or employees with the proper technical skills, as noted by 63% of those surveyed.

“As the demand for data scientists and other AI experts increases, employee retention risks

also rise,” the report said. “Startups are aggressively poaching AI talent from academia and established corporations. And while constrained candidate pools do not necessarily equate to a zero-sum game, organizations also will need to make more with what they already have.”

Regulatory constraints were cited by 60% of respondents, while legal and privacy concerns over the use of customer data were top of mind for 55%. One of the biggest challenges, the report noted, was that businesses must be transparent and open with their processes while protecting their users’ privacy as strongly as they can.

In order to get started on your AI journey, IBM shared four steps from a previous implementation guide:

  1. Develop your AI-enabled business strategy
  2. Bring the focus back to data
  3. Quickly move from strategy to execution
  4. Build a path to scale with appropriate skills and change management practices

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Executives said AI can drive the most value in IT, security, innovation, customer service, and risk. — IBM, 2018
  • Poor availability of skilled resources is the biggest barrier to AI adoption, as noted by 63% of executives. — IBM, 2018