C-suite execs feel pressure to remain relevant as AI accelerates: survey

88 per cent of executives expect their roles to change as their organisations adopt AI Courtney Sato and Ray Wang, Constellation Research

Much has been written about the impact of artificial intelligence to the workforce.

But a recent survey also shines the spotlight on how AI will impact the executive team.

Executives are feeling the pressure on changes to the organisation by AI, reports Constellation Research in its 2018 Artificial Intelligence Study

The analyst firm interviewed 50 C-level executives on the the state of AI investment and deployment in their organisations, and how AI might impact executives and the workforce.

Eighty-eight per cent of executives say they expect their roles to change as their organisations adopt AI, according to the report, written by Courtney Sato, director of research development, and Ray Wang, founder and CEO, of Constellation Research.

Fifty-four per cent of executives say they will need to understand how to restructure the business to accommodate new business models, while 50 per cent report a need to acquire data expertise and 48 per cent report needing to learn how to motivate an AI-augmented team.

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Only around 6 per cent of executives do not expect their role to change as the organisation adopts AI.

The authors note that nearly all of the survey respondents are executives at firms considered to be digitally fluent early adopters, first movers or fast followers.

Yet, the high percentage of them saying they expect their roles to change has implications for executives across sectors.

“Executives need to stay relevant in the AI era,” it states.

“AI is poised to transform the business models of every industry in the modern economy.

“Every company that implements an AI solution will transform into a data-driven company, if not a data-driven tech company.

“As AI proliferates throughout the business world, executives will, at a minimum, need to understand the potential of AI in order to wield its power to the firm’s advantage.”

Executives can stay relevant by possessing the data competency to understand, test and implement data-driven, AI-powered business models, the report states.

“Executives that can instruct teams to use false positives that check the assumptions of the algorithms will be particularly valuable to their organisations.

“Executives must be able to make decisions and lead teams that work faster and more efficiently - teams with abilities that are enhanced with AI.”

The report also looks at the challenges of AI deployment on the workforce.

When asked if the organisation has the human capital necessary to implement AI projects, just 14 per cent of executives said yes.

By contrast, 80 per cent of respondents say their organisations need to hire additional employees to implement AI solutions, and 40 per cent report needing to make significant talent acquisitions to support their AI projects.

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Moreover, when asked about their strategies to build AI capabilities, over 40 per cent of respondents say they work with consultants, indicating they do not have the required talent internally.

Majority of respondents (72 per cent) say they recruit externally for talent in AI projects. Internal training at 60 per cent of respondents and internal peer networking at 50 per cent round out the top three avenues by which firms obtain talent for AI project, says Constellation Research.

It points out the rising demand for talent with AI proficiency coupled with a preference to recruit new talent could culminate in a talent war as more AI projects come online.

The talent pipeline

It adds that while the survey does not assess the supply of AI talent, Constellation Research clients expressed concern about their increasing reliance on consulting companies to staff AI projects.

The clients state they turn to consulting firms due to lack of internal talent, difficulty in recruiting and the slow and uneven pace of internal training.

“Because Constellation clients typically are first movers and early adopters, the challenges Constellation clients face in staffing AI projects foreshadow staffing challenges for industries at large,” the report states.

Prepare to compete for talent with tech and consulting giants

If the labour pool stays relatively the same, it adds, organisations will find themselves calling upon the same limited pool of labour as AI projects proliferate.

At the same time, the consulting firms compete for AI proficient talent.

Large consulting firms plan to double or triple the size of their digital practices this year, creating further pressure on the talent supply, the report states.

Early adopters are gearing for the AI talent war by developing talent in-house.

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Constellation Research advises organisations to conduct a workforce audit and assess their AI-talent needs.

“Create a staffing plan that takes into account your internal talent supply, ability to reskill, recruiting needs, partnerships (with industry leaders or universities) and poaching by competitors,” it advises.

“Remember that reskilling in-house takes time and results can be uneven. Do not rely on recruiting alone to staff projects. Prepare to compete for talent with tech and consulting giants.”

Constellation Research says companies should establish training and reskilling programs early on in their AI programmes.

Once established, consider training and centres of excellence to be permanent institutions. Best practices generated by these communities should be captured and shared regularly with the AI reskilling programme.

“AI is dynamic and can progress rapidly, and reskilling will ensure the human workforce keeps pace with its rapidly evolving AI counterpart,” it states.

“Do not delay your AI journey,” is another advice from Constellation Research.

“Algorithms need to be trained, and data set collection needs time for refinement. Thus, firms that begin their AI development journeys early gain a time-based competitive advantage.”

Courtney Sato and Ray Wang, Constellation Research: "AI is dynamic and can progress rapidly, and reskilling will ensure the human workforce keeps pace with its rapidly evolving AI counterpart."

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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