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UK business not ready for AI future, says Microsoft report

Written by Hannah McGrath
31/10/2018

A new report from Microsoft on the future of artificial intelligence (AI) has revealed that two out of five industry leaders believe their current business models will disappear in the next five years due to the pace of digital disruption.

A study of more than 1,000 business leaders and 4,000 employees conducted by YouGov and Goldsmiths University of London collected data on AI-adoption from across a range of British industries.

It found that companies that have already deployed some form of automated or machine learning technology are performing 5 per cent better on factors like productivity, performance and business outcomes compared to those who have held back on AI technology.

A total of 54 per cent of businesses leaders said that the ability to follow new processes led by AI technology would be important for their workforce in the next five years.

Despite this, more than a half (51 per cent) of firms included in the report said their organisation has yet to draw up an AI strategy, with just 18 per cent of employees learning new skills to keep up with changing demand in the workplace.

The research also underlined the commercial value of committing to ethical use of Artificial Intelligence. Organisations that have already adopted a values- based approach were found to outperform those who had yet to outline their ethical approach.

Clare Barclay, chief operating officer at Microsoft UK, said: “AI represents a huge opportunity, but only if UK organisations embrace its application in the right way.

“AI is not about making UK businesses leaner, it’s about how we use the technology to make them stronger. In doing so, we can make our work more meaningful and boost UK competitiveness,” she added.

The survey found that 59 per cent of UK employees surveyed were open to experimenting with AI in new processes at work, but less than half (44 per cent) said they trusted their organisations to use AI responsibly.

There were also generational concerns when it comes to AI deployment, with 41 per cent of workers saying that AI will see older employees left behind in the course of the next five years.

Underlying these concerns, is the fact that a number of organisations are not helping employees prepare for the digital disrupted workplace.

Less than half (46 per cent) of UK leaders said it was worth re-training their current workforce and almost a third (32 per cent) said they were unsure about how to put the process in motion.

Cindy Rose, chief executive of Microsoft UK, said: “How society, business and people adapt to AI will become one of the most pressing considerations of this generation and the next. Only by applying AI in the right way can we unlock its extraordinary potential for good.

“It is our firm belief at Microsoft that adopting a human-centric approach can help organisations of all shapes, sizes, and sectors use AI to positively impact their businesses, employees, and customers alike. But success tomorrow requires action today – organisations must act now to maximise the AI opportunity.”