Are companies in APAC truly AI-ready?

Artificial intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation and employee productivity improvements in Asia Pacific (APAC) to nearly double (1.9 times) by 2021, according to a recent study from Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific. Companies that have already adopted AI said that they expecting to increase their competitiveness 100% in three years.

However, not enough companies are "AI-ready", said the report. The report, which surveyed over 1,600 business leaders and over 1,580 workers across 15 markets in APAC, shows that only 41% of organisations have embarked on their AI journeys. This is despite the fact that four in every five business leaders agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisation’s competitiveness. For the organisations that have implemented AI initiatives, the top five business drivers to adopt the technology were: Better customer engagement (26% of respondents named it as the number one driver), higher competitiveness (19%), higher margins (18%), accelerated innovation (15%), more productive employees (9%).

IDC Asia/Pacific's consulting operations vice-president Victor Lim said, “Last year, organisations that have adopted AI saw tangible improvements in those areas in the range of 18% to 26%. They forecast further improvements of at least 1.8 times in the three-year horizon, with the biggest jump expected in accelerated innovation and competitiveness.”

What is hindering AI adoption?

According to the report, what appear to be hindering companies' AI journeys are a lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI; a lack of tools and infrastructure to develop actionable insights; and a lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programmes.

Business leaders must now embrace a new culture, where innovation and continuous learning are core components of the organisational culture. It sets the stage for agility, adaptability and growth,” said Ralph Haupter, president of Microsoft Asia.

More than half of the business leaders and workers surveyed believe that cultural traits that support AI journeys, such as risk-taking, proactive innovation, as well as cross-function partnerships among teams, are not pervasive today. The study also found that workers are more willing to re-skill than business leaders believe they are. 20% of business leaders say it may be too difficult for workers to develop new skills, whereas only 14% of workers felt that it was a challenge.

Meanwhile, both business leaders and workers in the region hold positive viewpoints about the AI’s impact on the future of jobs, with over 60% of them believing that AI will either help to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.

“When it comes to creating or replacing jobs, 18% of business leaders believe that AI will produce new jobs, whereas 15% feel that the technology will replace jobs. Interestingly, workers are more optimistic, with only 5% expecting AI to replace jobs, while 13% anticipate AI to create new ones,” said Lim.