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Hong Kong companies lack culture traits to adopt AI – new Microsoft study

While Hong Kong businesses are undergoing digital transformation, local companies need to improve their company culture traits in order to accelerate the AI journey, according to the latest study by Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific.

The Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific study – “Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia’s Growth Potential Through AI” surveyed 1,605 business leaders and 1,585 workers across 15 Asia Pacific markets, including 100 business leaders and 101 workers in Hong Kong.

The study evaluated six dimensions critical to ensuring the success of a nation’s AI journey, including data, strategy, investments, culture, infrastructure, and capabilities. It revealed that Hong Kong is ahead of Asia-Pacific in terms of investments and data, but is behind in terms of culture.

A significant proportion of Hong Kong business leaders and a majority of 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.

“Overall, workers in Hong Kong are more skeptical than the management about the cultural readiness of their organisations,” said Victor Lim, vice president, customer research and consulting operations, IDC Asia/Pacific.

The study also revealed that although companies are willing to invest in human capital for AI skills, a majority of the surveyed companies lacked concrete plans – 49% had some plans but not yet implemented them, 24% had no plans at this point. Only 3% developed and fully implemented a comprehensive plan.

“Hong Kong is not ready yet for AI,” Lim added. “To succeed in AI race, Hong Kong needs to substantially improve its readiness. Organisations’ management should make AI a core part of their strategy and develop a learning agility culture. They have to continuously invest in this transformative technology for the long-term success, sometimes without immediate returns,”

The study also showed that 74% of the management level respondents polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisation’s competitiveness, 40% of organisations in Hong Kong have already embarked on their AI journeys. Those companies that have adopted AI expect it to increase their competitiveness by 2.6 times in 2021.

For the organisations that have implemented AI initiatives, the top five business drivers to adopt the technology were: higher margins (30% of respondents named it as the number one driver); higher competitiveness (28%); accelerated innovation (13%); more productive employees (13%) as well as business intelligence (8%).

“Last year, organisations that have adopted AI saw tangible improvements in those areas in the range of 13% to 14%. They forecast further improvements of at least 2.2 times in the three-year horizon, with the biggest jump expected in higher competitiveness and business intelligence,” Lim said.

By 2021, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation and employee productivity improvements in Hong Kong to more than double (2.3 times respectively), according to the  study.

“Today, every company is a software company, and increasingly, every interaction is digital. To be successful in this new world, organisations need to be a fast adopter of best-in-class technology; and secondly, they need to build their own unique digital capabilities,” said Cally Chan, general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau.

She continued, “AI is the defining technology of our time that significantly accelerates business transformation, enables innovation, boosts employee productivity, and ensures further growth. Economies and businesses that have yet to embark on their AI journey run a real risk of missing out on the competitive benefits that are enjoyed by leaders.”

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