Skills gap, confusion holding back AI projects

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Artificial intelligence is being hailed for its ability to improve internal processes and enhance customer experiences, but opportunities to use the technologies have been slow to take hold due to confusion about how to best implement them.

That is the finding of a new study by CompTIA, the leading trade association for the global technology industry. CompTIA’s “Emerging Business Opportunities in AI” report is the based on an online survey of 500 U.S. business and technology professionals conducted in March and April.

While artificial intelligence is dominating headlines in 2019, the same is not true among a majority of organizations. Just 29% of companies surveyed for CompTIA’s “Emerging Business Opportunities in AI” report are making regular use of artificial intelligence. That’s marginally higher than the 24% of firms who responded affirmatively in 2017, the study noted.

“Artificial intelligence represents a new way of thinking about software,” says Seth Robinson, senior director of technology analysis at CompTIA. “We’re no longer asking computers to produce a defined result every time, but to produce an undefined result based on general rules. Understanding this difference can be challenging, especially when most businesses are not actively developing their own AI algorithms.”

A growing skills gap also is a factor in holding many organizations back from benefiting from perceived benefits of AI. Only 19% of companies say that they have expert knowledge around AI, while another 29% classify their knowledge as moderately high.

Beyond the availability of technical expertise and familiarity with software development, the extent to which an organization has built a modern digital architecture is another key ingredient for AI maturity. Of particular concern are strong practices around the management of data. Just 18% of companies say they are exactly where they want to be with their data practices.

The encouraging news is that companies appear to understand this, the report reveals. In the CompTIA survey, 94% of companies acknowledged a moderate to strong connection between AI and cloud computing; 92% between AI and mobile devices; and 91% between AI and the Internet of things.

AI uses, benefits and challenges

Asked to identify potential uses for AI, companies focused on improving workflows (cited by 52% of respondents), analyzing large datasets (cited by 51%), enhancing the customer experience (cited by 48%) and in security monitoring and detection (cited by 47%).

Leading the list of expected benefits of AI was the traditional IT viewpoint of cutting costs.

Some of this thinking may be short-sighted, perhaps due to the lack of understanding about AI, according to Robinson.

“AI can help with cost savings, but the greater potential lies in opening new doors,” Robinson says. “Companies that are approaching AI as an IT activity should consider its far-reaching implications and move towards a more collaborative model. AI is a topic that should involve the entire organization.”

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