The main benefit of enterprise AI is its ability to improve planning and decision making, according to 57% of executives in a report released Monday by Cognizant. The survey consulted 1,000 executives representing 11 industry sectors.
More than half of respondents said AI was "an invaluable tool" for interpreting unstructured data (68%), predicting outcomes (62%) and gathering real-time intelligence (57%).
But strategies vary according to AI maturity levels, the report found. Just 20% of businesses are AI leaders, a category determined by the importance of AI for business processes and the number of areas where AI is deployed, the report found.
Executives are expected to connect business and technology threads for their organizations. With AI, the top advantage is its ability to interpret unstructured data and foresee business outcomes. But not all companies are equally reaping its benefits.
Leaders in AI are more likely to apply the technology for a broader number of reasons within the enterprise than the rest of the field, according to the report. They're especially likely to use it for predicting outcomes, and more likely to deploy more technology applications — including, but not limited, to chatbots, robotics, data mining or computer vision.
This year, budgets for AI-based technology rose, a consequence of the experiences of 2020. The number of companies with AI budgets in the $500,000 to $5 million range increased by more than half in 2021, according to Appen's State of AI and Machine Learning report.
The increase comes as data and analytics is primed to become a core business function, according to Gartner. With AI, H&M built models that can scale across the organization, providing data insights across areas such as forecasting, supply chain and logistics.
"Companies that take a limited approach to applying data and AI to make decisions don’t give themselves the opportunity to develop the understanding of these technologies’ full potential," the Cognizant report said. "Therefore, they remain locked in the vicious cycle that prevents them from making the most of the insights and speed AI injects into modern decision-making processes."
AI tends to be deployed all throughout the enterprise, according to Eduardo Plastino, director of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, Europe. This deployment is a task tech leaders are well equipped to lead.
"What we have noticed is that tech-focused leaders are more likely to see its overall benefits, while the leaders of other functions tend to have a narrower view, understanding the benefits for their area, but not for other parts of the company," Plastino told CIO Dive in an email.