Long seen as a tool to increase efficiency and reduce costs, AI has proven to be a driver of innovation that enables business growth. According to our latest Accenture AI study among 1,200 global companies, “AI Achievers” – the most mature companies in AI – experience 50% higher revenue growth, clearly outpacing their competitors.
Why, then, are most organizations (63%) stuck in the AI experimentation phase? Because AI initiatives are often run with timidity and are hampered by “pilot-itis,” a fixation on pilot projects at the expense of scale. Speaking with a select group of CEOs as part of the research revealed an opportunity – and need – for the most senior leaders in companies to increase their expertise in AI. Many have wondered about scaling AI, its impact on the operating model, and how to integrate the technology into their organizations.
Our research suggests four actions CEOs can take to follow the AI Achievers playbook and become AI-driven companies:
1. Internalize and evangelize AI data and know-how: Better and more frequent AI literacy training can reduce the knowledge gap. For example, a media company in India has created a data and analysis center to better predict the audience of its programs. Its Chief Digital Officer realized that these AI transformation efforts were more likely to succeed if its management had a better grasp of AI tools. He organized formal and informal opportunities, such as workshops and “gamified” trainings, to learn about image recognition, predictive analysis and metadata tagging. Today, enterprise C-suite executives are using AI to make decisions up to 90% faster.
2. Align data and AI strategy with business goals: CEOs need to ensure their organization has effective strategies in place to capture, store, and process the data that powers AI. These are essential to exploit the potential of AI, better understand customer needs and improve decision-making.
The best AI strategies are often the boldest. “Over the past five years, we have started to use AI as one of the main business drivers,” said the auto parts CEO of a German OEM. The following example shows that having a clear view of data and the value of AI to the business can yield impressive results: A refinery in France created an AI-powered “digital factory” that encouraged collaboration between its data scientists, software developers and other digital experts. This hub is expected to improve the company’s revenue by $1.5 billion per year by 2025.
3. Invest aggressively in capabilities that support business AI strategy: All leaders must increase their investments in AI or risk being left behind. By 2024, we expect nearly half of enterprises (49%) to spend at least 30% of their technology budgets on AI, up from 19% in 2021. Efforts to invest in data and AI platforms AI, as an AI engine, can accelerate enterprise-wide transformation. Built for the future and managed by a diverse team of machine learning engineers and data scientists, AI engines balance experimentation and execution with AI.
CEOs also need to recognize that the biggest risk to AI-driven transformation is not having clear governance in place. They should ensure this and signal management buy-in by appointing a C-suite level AI champion to lead AI strategy, execution and integration of AI into operations of the company. For example, 83% of Performers have a C-suite sponsorship in AI, compared to 56% of Experimenters.
4. Keep humans responsible for who decides: AI should help companies achieve their goals without ceding control to machines. Like other technologies, AI has its limitations, such as the quality of recommendations depends on the quality of the data and the assumptions on which they are based. Considering this, CEOs should encourage their teams to design AI responsibly from the start. This is essential for building trust with customers, employees, businesses and society as a whole. Take a cue from a central bank that partnered with the financial industry to create the first practical methodology and toolkit offering step-by-step guidance on using AI to leverage fair, ethical, accountable and transparent principles .
By adopting these practices, CEOs can put their business on the path to AI success and the growth opportunity that comes with it, rather than being locked into a permanent pilot mode. This bold transformation will require long-term adoption and investment in technology in every part of every business, sometimes resulting in total business reinvention. A clear sign of what’s to come? Forty-six percent of CEOs already mentioned AI in their earnings calls last year, and that’s just the start.