Despite the countless articles we read in the press about the impending demise of millions of workers across all industries, the application of Artificial Intelligence (A) today is in its very early stages. Even the most optimistic supporters of this technology will agree that achieving singularity, the moment when a computer will be as smart as a human, is still many decades away. Furthermore, studies have shown that firms tend to expect that AI’s future effects on total head count will be minor or positive. For all the tremendous achievements we see today, though, these rely on very narrowly focused applications of AI, which cannot be considered general intelligence.
Critical to the enablement of AI in organizations is their progress in Digital Transformation. The organizations that have made the most progress in digitizing core business processes (which implies the organization has successfully faced complex IT challenges such as legacy-systems and non-structured data integration) are also on the leading edge of AI adoption. According to a survey by McKinsey, at the most digitized firms, 67 percent of respondents say their organizations have embedded AI into standard business processes, compared with 43 percent at all other companies. They are also most likely to have adopted Machine Learning, for example: 39 percent say it is embedded in their processes, compared with 16 percent at all other companies.
AI is most commonly used in service operations and in product development. Achieving results at scale will require not only the diffusion of these learning experiences (and associated frameworks and tools) across the enterprise but also a real understanding and commitment on the part of leaders. That is where CEOs and boards of directors will play an important role to steer their organizations to global leadership.