A mere 14 percent of organizations globally are fully prepared to deploy and leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered technologies, according to Cisco’ inaugural AI Readiness Index released on Tuesday.
Cisco said in a statement that its new research found that while AI adoption has been slowly progressing for decades, the advancements in generative AI, coupled with public availability in the past year, are driving greater attention to the challenges, changes and new possibilities posed by the technology.
While 84 percent of respondents believe AI will have a significant impact on their business operations, the report also raised new issues around data privacy and security.
The Index findings showed that companies experience the most challenges when it comes to leveraging AI alongside their data.
In fact, 81 percent of respondents admit that this is due to data existing in silos across their organizations.
However, there is also positive news as findings from the index revealed that companies are taking many proactive measures to prepare for an AI-centric future.
This could be driven by the fact that most (97 percent) respondents said the urgency to deploy AI technologies in their organization has increased in the past six months, with IT infrastructure and cybersecurity reported as the top priority areas for AI deployments.
While only 14 percent of companies are pacesetters (fully prepared), the research found that more than half (52 percent) of companies globally are considered laggards (unprepared) at 4 percent, or followers (limited preparedness) at 48 percent.
Meanwhile, 61 percent of respondents believe they have a maximum of one year to implement an AI strategy before their organization begins to incur significant negative business impact.
73 percent of organizations benchmarked as either pacesetters or chasers, and only 4 percent were found to be laggards.
Additionally, 95 percent of organizations already have a highly defined AI strategy in place or are in the process of developing one, which is a positive sign, but shows there is more to do.
The report also showed 95 percent of businesses are aware that AI will increase infrastructure workloads, but only 17 percent of organizations have networks that are fully flexible to handle this complexity.
Meanwhile, 23 percent of companies have limited or no scalability at all when it comes to meeting new AI challenges within their current IT infrastructures.
In addition, 30 percent say the latency and throughput of their network is not optimal or sub-optimal, and 48 percent agree that they need further improvements on this front to cater to future needs.
While data serves as the backbone needed for AI operations, it is also the area where readiness is the weakest, with the greatest number of laggards (17 percent) compared to other pillars.
It is noted 81 percent of all respondents claim some degree of siloed or fragmented data in their organization.
This poses a critical challenge as the complexity of integrating data that resides in various sources and making it available for AI implications can impact the ability to leverage the full potential of these applications.
Meanwhile, boards and leadership teams are the most likely to embrace the changes brought about by AI, with 82 percent of both groups showing high or moderate receptiveness.
However, there is more work to be done to engage middle management where 22 percent have either limited or no receptiveness to AI and among employees where close to a third (31 percent) of organizations report employees are limited in their willingness to adopt AI or outright resistant.
The need for AI skills also reveals a new-age digital divide. While 90 percent of respondents said they have invested in upleveling existing employee skillsets, 29 percent expressed doubt about the availability of sufficiently skilled talent.
These factors include data privacy and data sovereignty, and the understanding of and compliance with global regulations.
Additionally, close attention must be paid to the concepts of bias, fairness, and transparency in both data and algorithms.
The report also showed culture pillar had the lowest number of pacesetters (9 percent) compared to other categories driven largely by the fact that only 21 percent have comprehensive change management plans for widespread AI adoption.
It noted that C-Suite executives are the most receptive to embracing internal AI changes and must take the lead in developing comprehensive plans and communicating them clearly to middle management and employees who have relatively lower rates of acceptance.
The good news is that motivation is high as nearly eight out of 10 (79 percent) say their organization is embracing AI with a moderate to high level of urgency. Meanwhile, only 2 percent said they were resistant to change.
“The race to AI Readiness is on, with organizations under intense pressure to shift from strategic planning to execution mode in order to capitalize on the transformative potential that AI represents,” said Liz Centoni, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Applications and Chief Strategy Officer, Cisco.
“To realize the benefit of AI-powered products and services, companies need solutions that secure and observe their AI models and toolchains to ensure performance, secure sensitive data and systems, and deliver trustworthy and responsible AI outcomes,” she added.
The Index, which surveyed over 8,000 global companies, was developed in response to the accelerating adoption of AI, a generational shift that is impacting almost every area of business and daily life.
The report highlights companies’ preparedness to utilize and deploy AI, showcasing critical gaps across key business pillars and infrastructures that pose serious risks for the near future.