AI critical to business success in post-pandemic world, study finds

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Cloudera enterprise data provider Cloudera today released a new study, “Limitless: The Positive Power of AI,” examining how organizations are using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data analytics to improve business outcomes. in a post-pandemic world. The study also examines the emergence of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and how organizations are choosing to use these technologies for the greater good.

Cloudera, in collaboration with Sapio Research, surveyed 2,213 business decision makers working at global organizations with more than 1,000 employees. More than 10,000 knowledge workers — people who have access to technology as part of their jobs — also participated in the August 2021 survey.

AI/ML is now accepted in the workplace

Prior to COVID-19, AI and ML were met with skepticism in the enterprise as many workers questioned whether smart machines would take over their jobs. However, both employees and organizations have become more comfortable with these emerging technologies, thanks to the constant innovation of the past two years. The study found a significant shift in attitudes toward AI, ML, and data analytics: more than three-quarters (77%) of knowledge workers said all three could help their business in the next 36 months.

This is consistent with ZK Research’s research, which shows that many employees who work with data are overwhelmed with far too much information to analyze manually. Companies are competing to find key data-driven insights in an era where the amount of information needed to make decisions has exploded, making AI/ML not only a pleasure to have, but a must-have for the enterprise.

Data analytics increases productivity, enables greater social responsibility

Digital transformation remains a top priority for a third of business decision-makers, while increasing productivity is a priority for 28%. Interestingly, 26% of organizations are investing in ESG, which has been prioritized over developing new products and services (24%) or accelerating financial growth (21%). The data shows social responsibility and using technology for good is now a fundamental part of business strategy.

By comparison, 31% of knowledge workers believe increasing productivity is their company’s top goals, while ESG is lower on the list. Yet both decision makers and knowledge workers see technology as a means to achieve these goals. More than half of decision makers (58%) and 44% of knowledge workers believe AI will help them achieve their business goals in the next 36 months.

According to 52% of decision makers, their organizations are already taking action and using data to support the communities they serve. However, about one in five knowledge workers think their company is not doing enough ESG or CSR work. Therefore, 41% say this could be the reason they leave the organization if it doesn’t change.

AI is driving more sustainable business practices

Most (73%) business decision makers agree that organizations can do more with data to improve the lives of their employees and communities. A vast majority of decision makers (95%) and knowledge workers (87%) believe that AI can be used to create more sustainable business practices. In reality, business decision makers say AI (61%), ML (49%) and data analytics (57%) are already being used to make sustainable business decisions in their organization.

While it’s clear that knowledge workers and decision-makers want their organizations to do more with AI/ML/data analytics, implementing such programs can be both complex and challenging. The main challenges in implementing AI cited by decision makers are budget constraints (45%), negative attitudes towards the changes of existing employees (40%) and the ability to scale solutions (40%). Knowledge workers also believe that budget constraints (42%) and employee negativity (41%) are the biggest challenges, but 42% also cite management’s lack of understanding of the tasks they have to perform.

Despite the challenges, most decision makers find it valuable to implement digital transformation programs that include new technologies. As many as 91% of respondents say they are already successful with existing AI programs, as well as those with data analytics (89%) and ML (87%). The top three benefits of AI cited by decision makers are cost savings (45%), accuracy (44%) and the ability to scale the deployment of other emerging technologies (40%).

AI doesn’t take jobs – it creates new ones

The study’s findings reject a long-standing belief that AI will take away jobs from people. Instead, the fear of losing jobs to AI has been replaced by a new focus on upskilling people. Workers are beginning to see the value of AI/ML/data analytics, while employers are investing in training, upskilling and reskilling to keep up with technological change. In the next 36 months, a third of organizations plan to support training for their employees in data analytics, while a fifth plan to support ML and AI training. The research confirms a growing need for AI, ML and data analytics in the enterprise. Organizations can harness the potential of these technologies not only to save money and improve employee productivity, but also to do good for the communities they serve through sustainable business practices.

Chris Preimesberger is a former editor of eWEEK and a regular VentureBeat contributor who has been reporting and analyzing IT trends and products for over two decades. Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst at ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group, previously holding a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which has evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual statistics on press coverage.

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