Peter Sayer
Senior Editor

Chief AI officers in demand as IT leaders expect gen AI productivity boost, survey finds

Oct 11, 20236 mins
Artificial IntelligenceGenerative AIIT Strategy

IT decision-makers are optimistic about the potential benefits of infusing enterprise applications with generative AI — a feature many now expect to be included in the price, research by Foundry reveals.

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Enterprises are looking to AI to boost productivity and innovation, and one-third of organizations with an interest in the technology have hired or are looking for a chief AI officer, according to new research from Foundry, publisher of

For its AI Priorities Study 2023, Foundry surveyed IT decision-makers who have either implemented AI and generative AI technologies in their organizations, have plans to, or are actively researching them.

Top of those AI priorities for now is generative AI, with 56% of respondents eager to learn more about it.

Great expectations for generative AI

IT leaders are looking to leverage generative AI across a range of projects, with the majority interested in applying the technology via chatbots and virtual assistants (cited by 56%). Content generation is another key use case for gen AI, cited by 55% of respondents, with industry-specific applications (48%), data augmentation (46%), and personalized recommendations (39%) rounding out the top five.

Just over a quarter of IT organizations (26%) are already using generative AI to create content such as phishing simulations or for writing policies, with another 42% planning to do so within a year. As for software development, where gen AI is expected to have an impact via prompt engineering, among other uses, 21% are using it in conjunction with code development and 41% expect to within a year. The helpdesk is another area ripe for gen AI use, with 17% currently tapping generative AI for IT support and another 45% planning to in a year or less.

Generative AI will play a large role in employee productivity, according to 58% of respondents — to the extent that they are starting proofs of concept to test it for themselves.

Opinions are divided, however, on whether those individual productivity boosts will be replicated at the level of the enterprise, or whether organizations will take the opportunity to do the same work with fewer people. For 55% of respondents, generative AI will enable employees to refocus on high value-adding tasks, while 54% say AI capabilities will enable workforce reduction.

Organizations are preparing for the arrival of generative AI in a number of ways, with 57% of respondents saying they are already identifying use cases, 45% starting pilot programs, 41% training or upskilling employees on it, 40% establishing policies and guidelines.

Around 30% of IT decision-makers are already putting generative AI tools in users’ hands, and 23% say they are testing apps from vendor partners.

Software vendors have been busy infusing generative AI into their products. They will be relieved to learn that 55% of respondents agree such products create better business outcomes but dismayed that only 44% say they will pay more for them.

Foundry AI Priorities Survey 2023, vendors adding gen AI to productivity and collaboration tools (Slide 31)

Foundry / AI Priorities Survey 2023

IT decision-makers are already seeing generative AI functionality appear in some of the enterprise apps they use. Where it’s showing up most often — and also where buyers say they think it will deliver the most benefit — is in productivity and collaboration tools such as the M365 Copilot Microsoft will release in November, and marketing/sales software such as Salesforce’s Einstein Copilot. Where they’re not seeing it, and don’t believe it will be of as much benefit, is in their ERP, a finding sure to disappoint SAP, which announced its Joule generative AI assistant in September.

Security and privacy concerns

Survey respondents have some ethical concerns about the use of generative AI, with security and privacy chief among them (both cited by 36%), followed by authenticity and trust (34%), intellectual property (31%), regulatory compliance (29%), bias (27%), and transparency (27%).

Data, too, is a concern, with only 34% of respondents confident their organization has the right data and technology in place to enable effective AI.

The most challenging requirements they face here are the quality and quantity, privacy and ethical considerations, and data variability.

Foundry AI Priorities 2023 Survey: Quality and quantity are most challenging data requirements to Gen AI implementation (Slide 49)

Foundry / AI Priorities Survey 2023

On the technology side, the most commonly cited factors affecting the integration of generative AI with existing systems are data integration (45%), security and privacy (45%), user experience (34%), training (31%), compatibility (26%) and change management (25%) — so much the same concerns as with integrating any other new and legacy systems.

Helping the rich get richer

Organizations are making AI investments to improve employee productivity (cited by 48% of respondents), enable innovation (43%), and gain a competitive edge (41%).

By almost every measure, larger organizations (those with 1,000 or more employees) are leading the way in terms of AI investment and adoption: Smaller organizations just aren’t keeping up. So, to the extent that AI is a disruptor, it’s one that’s likely to tip things even further in the direction of those in power.

Among larger organizations, 38% have hired and 29% are seeking data scientists specifically to support generative AI; in smaller organizations those figures are 17% and 30%. The imbalance continues in hiring for other generative AI support roles too: AI chatbot developers are now working in 20% of larger organizations, versus 8% of smaller ones; while for prompt engineers the split is 15% versus 7%. Chief AI officers are at work in 15% of larger organizations and just 6% of smaller ones.

A developing trend

Software developers in 37% of organizations are already getting help from generative AI with code generation or completion — but again it’s the larger ones that are leading the way, with 41% of them using generative AI for software development, versus 33% in smaller organizations.

Among those not yet using such assisted development tools, 81% expect to in future, although only 34% plan to within the next year; the rest have not set a timeline.

Foundry surveyed 965 IT decision-makers, half of them in North America, one-third in Asia-Pacific, and one-sixth in Europe, the Middle East or Africa. The technology industry was most strongly represented (20%), followed by manufacturing (13%), services (11%), financial services (8%), education (8%), healthcare (6%), and retail, wholesale and distribution (6%).