Just over one-third (35%) of companies reported using artificial intelligence in their businesses this year, a four-point increase from 2021, according to a newly-released IBM report. Adoption is being driven by advances that make it more accessible for businesses (43%) and the need to reduce costs and automate key processes (42%).
Meanwhile, over 40% of IT professionals who said their companies are exploring or deploying AI reported their companies plan to invest in research and development (44%) and embed AI into current applications and processes (44%).
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As part of their adoption, just under two-thirds (66%) of IT professionals reported their organizations use automation tools to reduce manual or repetitive tasks, while half of the respondents said their organizations use AI-powered education solutions to increase employee learning and training.
The greatest barrier to adoption remains limited AI skills, expertise or knowledge (34%).
Data strategy, storage needs
This year, global IT professionals said they are more likely to think it is important to their company that they can build and run their AI projects wherever the data resides than they were in 2021 (94% vs. 87%), according to the IBM report.
Additionally, 63% of IT professionals said that at least a quarter of their workforce needs access to company data to make decisions. The data sources they use are varied—in 2022, global IT professionals said they are drawing from 20 or more different data sources to inform their AI, business intelligence and analytics systems, compared with 2021 (69% vs. 67%).
Being able to build and run AI projects on a variety of data storage solutions is more crucial to driving AI adoption than ever. In 2022, 94% of IT professionals at organizations deploying or exploring AI said that it is important to their businesses that they can run their AI projects wherever their data resides, a jump of 7% from last year (87%). Further, 63% said at least a quarter of their workforce needs access to company data to make decisions.
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This year, IT professionals are more likely to draw from 20 or more different data sources to inform their AI, BI and analytics systems compared with 2021 (69% vs. 67%). Despite the diversity of sources companies are drawing from and the need for democratized access and deployment, only 30% of respondents are using a data fabric architecture to try to solve data silo challenges, the report said.
Decision-making is a key factor in using AI
Being able to explain how AI arrived at a decision remains critical for businesses, the report said. Most IT professionals in 2021 and 2022 said being able to explain how their AI arrived at a decision is important to their businesses.
A lack of skills/training to develop and manage trustworthy AI (63%) and AI governance and management tools that do not work across all data environments (60%) are the largest barriers companies face in developing AI that is explainable and trustworthy.
AI to cope with the labor shortage and increase efficiency
Businesses are turning to AI to address labor and skills shortages and drive greater efficiency, according to the report. Two-thirds of IT professionals reported their company is using automation tools to reduce manual or repetitive tasks.
Nearly half of IT professionals overall reported that their companies are using or considering using automation software/tools to drive greater efficiencies in IT operations (46%) and business operations/tasks (46%) and for cost savings (45%).
AI adoption accelerates ESG
Increased AI adoption is accelerating progress on ESG initiatives, the report said. Some 41% of IT professionals (41%) said their companies are applying AI to accelerate ESG initiatives, with another 25% saying their companies have plans to apply AI to their ESG initiatives.
Further, 44% said they are using AI to help identify opportunities for more sustainable operations, and over a third of IT professionals (36%) said their businesses are planning to invest in AI to address their sustainability goals.
Forty-five percent of IT professionals said their organizations are using AI to help manage the complexity of data sources needed for sustainability and emissions reporting. Another 39% reported using ESG to help support DEI initiatives at their business.
The role of AI ethics
While most IT professionals in 2021 and 2022 said being able to explain how their AI arrived at a business decision is important to their businesses, there was a slight decrease in 2022 (81% vs. 84%).
Around 60% of IT professionals reported that a lack of skills/training to develop and manage trustworthy AI, and AI governance and management tools that do not work across all data environments (60%) are barriers to developing AI that is explainable and trustworthy.
IT professionals more frequently said their organizations are ensuring trustworthy and responsible AI by safeguarding data privacy through the whole lifecycle (48%), monitoring AI across cloud and AI environments (45%) and guarding against threats and incursions (41%).
The 2022 report included responses from 7,502 senior business decision-makers globally in a mix of large and small firms, IBM said.