If you’re not enabling innovation, you’re enabling failure

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Investment in artificial technologies (AI) continues to grow, with tech giants such as Google, Apple, IBM and Intel snapping up promising AI startups and with billions of dollars in venture capital supporting commercial AI projects globally.

As Forbes contributor Gil Press notes, use of AI in the enterprise is increasing. A Narrative Science survey predicts the percentage of enterprises deploying AI will grow to 62% by 2018 from 38% last year.

In his column, Press uses a new Forrester Research report on AI to list the “10 hottest AI technologies.” But this post isn’t a distillation of Press’ list (though it’s a fine list). What I found more interesting is his breakdown of data from another Forrester survey last year, in which enterprises with no plans to invest in AI cited what they saw as obstacles to AI adoption. How they responded, in my opinion, tells you a lot about their organizations’ future success.

The top two responses were:

  •  “There is no defined business case” for AI (42%)
  • “Not clear what AI can be used for” (39%)

One is misguided and the other is misinformed. Many enterprises are using AI now to serve customers, automate processes and extract value from unstructured data, among other uses.

But those weren’t the only responses indicating a troubling lack of insight or even interest in a technology that’s attracting huge amounts of funding and already demonstrating successful use cases. Others included:

  •  “AI systems are not proven” (14%)
  • “AI is a lot of hype with little substance” (11%)
  • “Not sure what AI means” (3%)

If the attitudes of your enterprise decision makers and IT leaders are reflected in the responses above, I would argue that their vision is dangerously myopic.

On the other hand, many additional AI barriers mentioned, including lack of required skills (33%), budget limitations (23%) and “lack the right processes or governance” (13%) are legitimate concerns. Yes, some of these could be a cop out for inaction, but that’s not the same as living in outright denial.

Imagine that same Forrester survey being conducted five years ago, but substitute “mobile” for “AI.” Where would the mobile naysayers and foot-draggers be today? Or what about the enterprises that were dismissive of social media 10 years ago, or those that didn’t see a need to have a company website in the late ’90s?

Granted, enterprises simply can’t adopt every new technology without a compelling business case. But the digital economy is all about speed and execution. Enterprises must be able to recognize the technologies that will allow them to innovate, and IT professionals must enable them.

Because if they’re not enabling innovation, they’re enabling failure.


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