PwC has today released its latest PwC/Analytics Institute AI Six Priories study. The study sets out to benchmark Ireland's AI readiness, opportunities and challenges against US peers.
The survey was carried out jointly by PwC and the Analytics Institute amongst over 100 Irish business leaders including CEOs, CFOs and AI executives and practitioners in April/May 2019. The data was benchmarked against similar US data.
Over three-quarters (76%) of Irish survey respondents recognise that businesses that fail to apply AI could quickly lose competitive advantage. A similar proportion (77%) are of the view that AI will significantly change the way they will do business in the next five years.
The survey suggests that Irish business leaders, while seeing the opportunities of AI, need to invest more in AI. Nearly half (46%) admit that they do not understand the impact that AI will have on their businesses in the next five years. Four out of ten (39%) confirmed that they have no plans to roll out AI initiatives in the year ahead while the vast majority of their US counterparts are much more advanced having either fully rolled out AI or are in the process of doing so.
The greatest expected benefits from AI investments, according to the survey, include automating routine tasks (37%), creating better customer experiences (25%), improved decision-making (23%), achieving cost savings (22%) and gathering forward-looking intelligence (16%).
Over half (53%) of Irish respondents said that they do not expect to make changes to overall employee headcount in the immediate future as a result of AI, although some expect to change the composition of roles and skills (US:39%). At the same time, nearly one fifth (16%) expect AI initiatives to create more employee roles than they eliminate, increasing headcount (US: 38%). Nearly a third (31%) expect roles will be eliminated, reducing headcount or are unsure (US: 23%).
When looking to implement AI, the inability to meet demand for AI skills (52%) is by far the top AI concern, but just 31% of US counterparts share the concern – suggesting AI skills in the US are more developed. Nearly half (47%) of Irish respondents reported not yet having developed a plan to adapt to workforce and skills changes brought about by AI, while only one in ten (11%) US peers have no such plans.
The survey highlights that Irish businesses may be less equipped to get a return on investment from AI. Aside from skills challenges, making the business case (27%) and getting budget approval (14%) are the greatest challenges holding back AI implementation – much greater hurdles compared to US counterparts.
PwC believe that creating an AI centre of excellence, overseeing AI ownership, strategy and implementation, is the best way to build a credible AI foundation to harness return on investment.
But few (11%) Irish respondents plan to develop such an AI centre of excellence compared to nearly a quarter (24%) for US peers. Furthermore, 26% stated that they don’t know who in the organisation is responsible for AI including co-ordination, roll-out and governance (US:4%).
Speaking at the survey launch, Partner and AI and Data Analytics Leader at PwC Ireland, Darren O’Neill said, "It is clear that AI is less well developed in Ireland when compared to the US. Irish businesses have more work to do to fully invest in and embed AI opportunities into their operations. While recognising the potential of AI, Irish business leaders need to have the infrastructure, key talent and, most importantly, the appropriate data to successfully implement AI."
He added, "The gap between the AI vision and execution remains the largest stumbling block. Organisational leaders know AI is important, but they are reluctant or unable to take actions necessary to make the transformation happen."