Three-quarters of C-level executives believe if they don’t move beyond experimentation to aggressively deploy artificial intelligence (AI) across their organizations they risk going out of business by 2025, according to a newly released study from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
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AI: Built to Scale
The report, titled “AI: Built to Scale” and produced by Accenture Strategy and Accenture Applied Intelligence, is based on a global survey of 1,500 C-level executives across 16 industries designed to understand how companies are implementing AI across their organizations.
The research found 84% of C-level executives believe they won’t achieve their business strategy without scaling AI, yet only 16% have made the shift from mere experimentation to creating an organization powered by robust AI capabilities. As a result, this small group of top performers is achieving nearly three times the return from AI investments as their lower-performing counterparts.
The report reveals the secret to success for these top performers centers around three key elements: a strong data foundation; multiple dedicated AI teams; and a C-suite-led commitment to strategic, organization-wide AI deployment. These companies demonstrate their deep commitment by scaling AI at a much higher rate — conducting nearly twice as many pilots than other companies. However, this commitment to AI does not necessarily translate to higher spend, with top performers reporting lower investment levels on their AI implementations — pilots and full-scale deployments — than lower performers.
“It’s clear that companies of all sizes, and across all industries, know they need to scale AI not just to grow, but to merely stay relevant today,” said Athena Reilly, a managing director in Accenture Strategy. “However, the vast majority are still struggling with how to do it successfully, in a way that will generate the most ROI and bolster competitive agility. What we’ve seen with our clients is that it has to start with the basics: the right data, the right strategy and the right people.”
According to the report, nearly all companies (95%) agree on the importance of data as the foundation to scaling AI, but the top performers are more intentional and focused on ensuring that the right, relevant data assets are in place to underpin their AI efforts. They are more adept at structuring and managing data, with 61% wielding a large, accurate data set and more than two-thirds (67%) effectively integrating both internal and external data sets.
Beyond the ability to glean the right insights from the right data assets using the right tools, most top performers (71%) have a clearly defined AI strategy and operating model in place, from the onset, for their scaling efforts. Further, more than two-thirds (67%) have flexible business processes in place and integrate AI applications into the broader ecosystem, which provides the necessary agility needed to achieve lasting growth.
“This connection between strategy and success might seem like common sense, but the pursuit of AI with intention is what truly sets these top performers apart, who are piloting and scaling with intention,” said Dr. Athina Kanioura, chief analytics officer and global lead for Accenture Applied Intelligence. “Being specific about the business problem they aim to solve helps inform the most effective way to achieve those goals. For example, we see fewer instances of testing a conversational agent to see if it will work in their specific environment, and a push toward strategic thinking upfront to determine whether that’s even the right AI tool to use in the first place.”
This strategic approach is further bolstered by another key characteristic of top performers — assembling the right talent to drive results. Instead of relying on a single AI champion, 92% have strategically embedded multi-disciplinary teams throughout their organizations. This cross-functional approach also helps ensure diversity of thinking which, in addition to having tangible benefits for considerations like Responsible AI, can also maximize the value an organization sees from their AI deployments.
“This landmark study proves the stakes have never been higher for scaling AI — and that the time has come to move beyond AI as a buzzword to a source of new business value and competitive advantage,” said Greg Douglass, a senior managing director with Accenture Strategy. “Companies that are jumping in and embracing AI across their organizations in new and exciting ways will be the ones that gain massive returns on their investments. By placing a premium on AI initiatives that have potential to transform multiple lines of business and processes — and ensuring key stakeholders across the organization are involved in the AI strategy at the onset — companies will unlock the maximum value of AI.”
To find out more about the report, visit www.accenture.com/AIBuiltToScale.
About the research
As part of the research, Accenture surveyed 1,500 C-Suite executives from companies with a minimum revenue of US$1 billion in 12 countries around the world across 16 industries, with the aim to uncover the success factors for scaling AI. The survey was conducted in July and August 2019.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network — Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 492,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.
Accenture Strategy combines deep industry expertise, advanced analytics capabilities and human-led design methodologies that enable clients to act with speed and confidence. By identifying clear, actionable paths to accelerate competitive agility, Accenture Strategy helps leaders in the C-suite envision and execute strategies that drive growth in the face of digital transformation. For more information, follow @AccentureStrat or visit www.accenture.com/strategy.
Applied Intelligence is Accenture’s approach to scaling AI for our clients. We embed AI-powered data, analytics and automation capabilities into business workflows to accelerate time to value. Our expertise in defining end-to-end strategy, combined with deep data infrastructure capabilities, cognitive services and industrialized accelerators help smooth clients’ path to AI adoption, extending human capabilities and supporting clients in scaling AI responsibly. Recognized as a leader by industry analysts, we collaborate with a powerful global alliance, innovation and delivery network to help clients deploy and scale AI within any market and industry. Follow @AccentureAI and visit www.accenture.com/appliedintelligence.
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