Is AI Adoption Moving Too Fast?

According to a new report by KPMG, “Thriving in an AI World,” industry leaders may be experiencing an effect that the company is calling “COVID-19 whiplash” after a year of highly accelerated technology adoption.

Specifically, 55 percent of business leaders in industrial manufacturing and 49 percent in retail and tech told KPMG that “AI is moving faster than it should in their industry.” Moreover, these concerns are exceedingly pronounced within the section of leaders from small companies at 63 percent, leaders with high levels of AI knowledge at 51 percent and by Gen Z and Millennial business leaders at 51 percent.

Notably, many business leaders with interest in AI implementation said COVID-19 has influenced their company’s plans to adopt the technology and contributed to a quicker pace of adoption, including 53 percent from retail, 57 percent from tech, 72 percent from industrial manufacturing, and 37 percent from healthcare and life sciences.

“Just one year ago, [our report] signaled on all accounts that AI was starting to have real impact across industries, yet industry leaders told us that they felt it was not being implemented fast enough,” said Traci Gusher, Principal of Artificial Intelligence at KPMG. “Fast forward to today, industry leaders are telling us they are experiencing what we at KPMG are calling COVID-19 whiplash, with AI adoption literally skyrocketing as a result of the pandemic. Now, Industry leaders are saying it’s moving too fast.”

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However, despite concerns around the speed of adoption, the company’s survey has found overall optimistic sentiments from leaders who have found AI’s ability to solve major industry problems, including those brought on by COVID-19, to be positive. In fact, according to the survey 93 percent of leaders in industrial manufacturing, 84 percent in financial services, 83 percent in tech, 81 percent in retail, 77 percent in life sciences, 67 percent in healthcare and 61 percent in government, said AI is at least “moderately functional” in their organizations.

Moreover, in retail specifically, there was a 29 percent increase of leaders saying AI was moderately to fully functional compared to the company’s previous survey. Though 78 percent of retail business leaders said it is difficult to stay on top of the constantly evolving AI landscape – expressing the sentiment more than leaders in other categories. Further, data in the survey, found almost half of retail business leaders said cybersecurity breaches and potential biases in tech are the “greatest potential risks in AI adoption” in their organizations.

Looking ahead, 53 percent of retail business leaders said they expect AI to have the greatest impact on customer intelligence, while 50 percent stated inventory management and 49 percent cited chatbots for customer service.

Notably, KPMG’s data found a desire for more AI regulation as the technology continues to expand. Looking at retail business leaders in particular, 87 percent of survey respondents from this group voiced a desire for government involvement in regulating AI technology.

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