August 4, 2022

Only 12% of AI Users Are Maximizing It, Accenture Says

A new study from Accenture says just 12% of firms have figured out how to deploy AI to “achieve superior growth and business transformation.” In other words, there’s quite a bit of work yet to be done when it comes to AI success.

The correlation between AI use and business achievement is still positive. As far back as 2019, Accenture noted that top AI achievers see 50% better revenue growth than their peers who are not AI experts. No one is calling for an AI rethink, yet progress seems to be coming painfully slowly in the real-world branch of the AI discussion.

As previously noted, in its recently released Art of AI Maturity Report, Accenture found that just 12% of companies surveyed are enjoying big success due to AI, while another 25% are “somewhat advanced” in their AI maturity. The remaining 63% of the 1,200 enterprises surveyed are still “testing the AI waters,” the consulting group found.

However, that relative low level of AI achievement won’t last long. Accenture predicts that the share of AI achievers will increase rapidly, going from 12% today to 27% by 2024. (That prediction comes from Accenture’s machine learning models, the firm states.)

The secret to success with AI, Accenture says, doesn’t come from any one AI capability, but instead comes from the ability of an organization “to combine strengths across strategy, processes, and people.”

Only 12% of AI users are high achievers, Accenture found (Image courtesy Accenture)

Specifically, Accenture found five things that high AI achievers do differently, including:

  1. Top leaders champion AI as a strategic priority for the whole organization;
  2. Invest heavily in talent;
  3. Industrialize AI tools and teams “to create a strong AI core”;
  4. Design AI responsibly from the start;
  5. Prioritize long- and short-term AI investments.

Accenture sees parallels between the AI adoption curve and what companies have experienced with digital transformation (while the two business imperatives are related, they are not one and the same). The good news is that, based on an analysis of the use of words like “AI,” “digital,” and “business transformation” in earnings calls with top executives, Accenture sees progress coming faster with companies’ AI initiatives than what it saw with digital transformation projects.

“The incentive to move quickly is strong,” Accenture wrote in its report. “We found, for example, that the share of companies’ revenue that is ‘AI-influenced’ more than doubled between 2018 and 2021 and is expected to roughly triple between 2018 and 2024.”

A key element in finding success with AI is operationalizing the technology, which is something that has dogged many machine learning projects. Getting from a data science project to full-scale production isn’t easy, and requires expertise not only hard skills in data and AI, but also soft skills like organizational strategy, talent, and culture, the consulting group found.

The AI adoption curve will crest more quickly than than the digital transformation adoption curve (Image courtesy Accenture)

The stakes are high–but the opportunities are even higher. Who wins the race to become high AI achievers will determine who wins in business, according to Sanjeev Vohra, global lead for applied intelligence at Accenture.

“We believe every part of every business must be transformed by technology, data, and AI, in some cases resulting in total enterprise reinvention,” Vohra stated in a press release. “AI Achievers are showing their peers what’s possible when you release the full potential of talent and technology, working in tandem, supported by a clear vision and commitment to change. But even this most mature group has plenty of room for growth. And while most industries have AI Achievers, they vary greatly in how AI-mature they are overall and the leaps they will make.”

You can access Accenture’s full Art of AI Maturity Report here.

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