New Study Reveals Perception of AI among U.S. Business Leaders is Evolving as Emerging Tech Hits Hypergrowth Phase
RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers, announced the release of its second annual RELX Emerging Tech Executive Report, which highlights how executives in different industries across the United States use and view artificial intelligence (AI) technologies including machine learning and deep learning. The survey reveals AI use has continued to climb in the last year, jumping from 48% in 2018 to 72% in 2019. The catalyst for the rise of implementation could be attributed to a shift in perception from U.S. business leaders, 93% of whom believe these technologies have a very or somewhat positive impact within their industry compared to 69% completely or mostly positive last year. Across industries, AI tech is being used to increase efficiencies and productivity, streamline processes and reduce cost.
The survey polled over 1,000 U.S. senior executives across seven industries: government, healthcare, insurance, legal, science/medical, banking and agriculture. Over half (54%) responded that AI technology is helping their team optimize systems and reduce costs. However, half of executives who are aware of AI but not using it (28% of businesses surveyed) cited as the primary reason budget constraints. Additional reasons include lack of technical expertise (36%), unproven ROI (30%) and lack of C-suite or Board buy-in (16%).
“The survey reveals an interesting finding that optimizing systems and reducing cost are the most common challenges emerging technology are solving; however, the most commonly cited reason for not using AI is budget constraints. While integrating AI technologies requires an investment, the return is significant, not only when it comes to reducing costs, but operating a competitive, modern business,” said Vijay Raghavan, Executive Director of the Chief Technology Officer Forum at RELX.
Companies need AI to stay competitive
The survey shows that 64% of businesses expanded the areas of their business touched by AI in the last year. Over half (56%) of businesses increased their data scientist and technologist headcount to support their AI tech expansion while 54% created new roles focused on emerging technology. With the increase in hiring, 54% of organizations were able to implement additional AI strategies.
AI is a key differentiator in the business landscape as 93% of respondents say that emerging technologies, including deep learning, machine learning and artificial intelligence, help their businesses be more competitive. Among these respondents, 57% report that AI tech is helping to improve and develop products while 54% report these technologies are optimizing control and collaboration.
“AI technologies, including deep learning and machine learning, are developing rapidly and being applied to new use cases, affecting everything from business strategy to product design to operations,” said Raghavan. “The survey results highlight the need for American businesses to be agile and flexible in the way they use AI technologies. Emerging technologies have the capabilities to be incredibly powerful tools, enabling businesses to remain competitive and achieve business goals. Companies with AI integration can offer better products and services and those who don’t risk becoming obsolete.”
Workforce AI education is critical
The rise of AI technology continues to reshape industries across the U.S. Compared with last year, a greater share of organizations are using emerging technology and more are offering training, but the corresponding investment in training does not match the jump in AI usage, widening a gulf that was already notable.
The majority (62%) of executives say their company offers AI training currently, up from 46% in 2018. However, of those who say their company does not offer training, only about half say they plan to do so in the future (53%). More organizations are using AI technologies than are offering training in this area, leading to a lack of efficiency and missed opportunities for maximizing organizational potential.
Additional key findings from the Second Annual RELX Emerging Tech Executive Report include:
- Those in science/medical (87%), agriculture (84%) and banking (83%) are most likely to report their businesses currently utilize AI while legal (65%) and government (58%) are the least likely to use AI of all industries surveyed.
- Concerns about other countries being more advanced than the U.S. in artificial intelligence technology development and implementation have remained steady over time (72% in 2019, 70% in 2018). However, concern from respondents in government is up 9 percentage points from last year, the largest increase of any industry polled.
- Over nine in ten (93%) of business leaders believe that U.S. companies should invest in the future artificial intelligence workforce through educational initiatives such as university partnerships.
- When asked what actions the U.S. government should take to develop the development and implementation of AI technologies, 53% responded that the government should increase funding for research and development, up 4% from last year.
“There is a technical arms race between U.S. businesses to leverage AI to drive their business forward. This competition extends globally with the desire for the United States to be the world leader when it comes to emerging technology and there’s a belief that both the public and private sector have roles to play in getting the U.S. to that point,” concluded Raghavan.