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AI drives business benefits, but stirs up fear

Artificial intelligence is creating new jobs, increasing operational efficiencies and boosting sales of new products and services, according to a global survey by Capgemini. So why are workers so afraid of the future?


3d rendering of human  on geometric element technology background  represent artificial intelligence and cyber space concept

Artificial intelligence has gotten a bad rap as some sort of labor market Terminator, killing jobs as it makes its way, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie cyborg, through every workplace in the world.

These types of fears have been raised by studies like a 2013 Oxford University paper, which estimated 47 per cent of all U.S. jobs are at risk from AI and automation.

Relax — a new global study suggests AI provides many business benefits, including job creation.

During a recent event at its new Toronto innovation center, Capgemini unveiled a nine-country survey it conducted in June. Of 993 companies that have already implemented AI, 83 per cent said the technology is creating new jobs at their organization. Moreover, 63 per cent said AI hasn’t had any negative effects on jobs at their company.

The Capgemini data also paints a fairly positive picture of AI in terms of ROI and leadership.

ROI … so far

  • 79 per cent said AI has given them new insights and better analysis
  • 78 per cent said AI boosted their operational efficiency by more than 10 per cent
  • about three in four said AI has helped them increase sales of new products and services by more than 10 per cent
  • 75 per cent reported AI has enhanced customer satisfaction by more than 10 per cent

AI leadership

According to this study, putting someone in charge of AI at your company can really pay off. Compared to firms with no dedicated AI manager, companies that appointed an AI lead reported 12 per cent more growth in inbound customer leads, eight per cent higher sales of traditional products and services, seven per cent more operational efficiency and seven per cent lower operational costs.

Biggest AI challenges

Alas, the road to AI ROI is not without potholes. Companies said the biggest challenges to AI implementation are:

  • lack of appropriate skills and talent within their organization (cited by 64 per cent)
  • cybersecurity and data privacy concerns (63 per cent)
  • concern about AI-caused job losses among “the majority” of their employees (61 per cent)
  • resistance to change (57 per cent)
  • firm belief at their organization that “human judgments are superior to machine judgment” (57 per cent)

Let’s single out the third one on that list, which I’ve highlighted in bold print: 61 per cent say most of their workers fear losing their jobs to AI. Yet earlier in the survey, 83 per cent of these companies said AI is already creating new jobs at their firms.

Why is there a disconnect? The answer may lie in a closer examination of which types of workers specifically benefit most from AI job creation.

Who gets the new AI jobs?

The surveyed companies said 85 per cent of the new positions created by AI are at the following levels: C-suite, manager, director or coordinator. Only 15 said AI is creating new jobs at their firm’s regular staff level.

For now, at least, early AI adoption is creating employment in mid- or senior-level positions; the same cannot be said for staff jobs.

This isn’t surprising. Historically, new technologies (from answering machines to photocopiers) have replaced entire job categories by automating or digitizing the most common, repetitive tasks.

That’s not to say AI isn’t demonstrating overall value for businesses. The ROI figures I alluded to earlier are pretty impressive. What organization doesn’t want to embrace a technology that delivers more than a 10 per cent improvement in operational efficiency, new product sales and customer satisfaction? When you add in a net gain of jobs, AI looks like a no brainer.

Capgemini’s findings, however, suggest the benefits of AI may be more concentrated within certain segments of the enterprise workforce than others. Managers, in both IT and line of business, should bear in mind that along with its impact on sales and productivity numbers, AI will have a huge effect on their companies’ most important internal resource: humans who work for them.

Image: iStock

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