AI is all over, but where’s the talent?

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Artificial intelligence will create more jobs than steal them, but the top challenge, however, will be a shortage of requisite talent to drive AI adoption. 

Artificial Intelligence or AI, which is the talk of the town these days, is the promising future that is expected to engulf and enhance almost all aspects of life and work. In the process, it is also being believed that AI and opportunities associated with it will create numerous job avenues in the coming times. However, it will bring its own challenges along, the biggest one being availability and supply of skilled talent in AI.

Business leaders are optimistic about the impact of AI on job creation, according to a recent poll by EY conducted at the EmTech Digital Conference, produced by MIT Technology Review Insights. The poll of 122 global business leaders found that, while AI is expected to reshape the traditional workplace, more than half (52 per cent) of the respondents believe it will have a positive impact on job creation. In fact, about a third (32 per cent) of respondents say that, with the implementation of AI, more jobs will be created than lost, and an additional 20 per cent anticipate that AI will create a surge in new jobs, boosting the economy.

Talent gap is the top concern for organisations looking to apply AI
While organisations are increasingly implementing AI technologies, adoption plans are being hampered by a shortage of people with relevant skills. This may explain the proportion of organisations applying AI for purely functional capabilities. Indeed, a shortage of requisite talent to drive AI adoption is the top challenge for an enterprise-wide AI programme, according to 80 per cent of respondents. This is followed by a lack of integration of AI insights into current business processes (53 per cent), an absence of managerial understanding and sponsorship (48 per cent), and poor quality or trustworthiness of the data used for AI (48 per cent).

AI will transform a traditional process/industry by discovering new techniques and knowledge to find the answers that are not obvious. But all this can only be realised with the support of AI-savvy professionals, who can identify AI opportunities and AI-implementation specialists who are deeply knowledgeable regarding the AI components, including ML, Data and other underlying technologies.

Elaborating on the situation, Milan Sheth, partner, advisory services and technology-sector leader, EY India, shares that while most organisations have embarked on their AI journey, the pace of adoption is bound to accelerate in 2018. The aspirational goal of AI is to take intelligence and put it into machines. “To be successful, leaders will need to identify a business challenge and then determine where the technology can solve this problem. To be innovative, leaders will transform a traditional process/industry by discovering new techniques and knowledge to find the answers that are not obvious. But all this can only be realised with the support of AI-savvy professionals, who can identify AI opportunities and AI-implementation specialists who are deeply knowledgeable regarding the AI components, including ML, Data and other underlying technologies,” he says.

Anurag Malik, partner-people & organisation, advisory services, EY India, adds that the Indian government and businesses recognise the need to close the technology–skill gap and the urgent requirement to prepare the labour market for the imminent dominance of arti?cial intelligence. “To prepare the labour market for the future, it is necessary for the Government to periodically undertake an economy-wide skill gap analysis, which will, in turn, support policy makers in preparing for the future by analysing the current capabilities of the labour market and the skills it will need to achieve, to survive the impact of technology,” he suggests.

Indian government and businesses recognise the need to close the technology–skill gap and the urgent requirement to prepare the labour market for the imminent dominance of arti?cial intelligence.

Businesses wish to use AI to improve, but aren’t tracking progress
The poll found that the top three outcomes business leaders seek from AI are: to improve and/or develop new products/services (54 per cent), achieve cost efficiencies and/or streamline business operations (50 per cent) and accelerate decision-making (49 per cent). The findings also showed that although organisations are seeing how AI can help them succeed, more than half (52 per cent) are not clearly defining business outcomes or key performance indicators (KPIs) related to AI. Instead, they are primarily focussing on piloting and learning.

Organisations lack scalable, enterprise-level AI strategy

While 30 per cent of business leaders say their organisations have functional AI capabilities and are piloting the technology within corporate functions, they still need an enterprise-wide AI strategy that aligns with these programmes. Only 21 per cent of respondents’ organisations are making progress in securing C-suite support and rolling out a strategy for applying AI, while another 28 per cent say their organisations have limited to no capabilities, and that technology is not regarded as a strategic, overall priority.

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