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Artificial Intelligence Held Back in Europe by Lack of Strategic Focus

May 2018 by Fujistu

The enormous potential business benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are currently held back in Europe by a lack of strategic focus, with the consequence that companies risk missing out on the opportunity to use AI to transform their businesses, according to a new survey co-published today by Fujitsu.These findings are based on a full report, which highlights the benefits of using AI to innovate processes driven by business applications, providing a useful guide for executives.

Fujitsu uncovered a surprising lack of strategic focus for AI, working together with analyst firm Pierre Audoin Consultants1 (PAC) to take the pulse of senior business and IT decision makers in 240 companies across Europe2 from sectors including automotive, manufacturing, and retail. The lack of strategic focus for AI projects is despite an unambiguous understanding of the benefits of AI at a functional level, increasing levels of adoption and the widespread involvement of board-level executives in planning for AI adoption. Nevertheless, only one in four companies interviewed saw AI as strategically important and just 11 percent had an AI strategy in place.

Among manufacturing companies, the greatest potential from AI adoption is perceived to be predictive maintenance, rated as possessing ‘great value’ by 75 percent of respondents. The report ascribes this to the importance of on-time production or delivery of ordered products for smooth shop floor operations, with predictions based on the analysis and use of algorithms on a machine’s runtime data. Also rated as having great value is the ability to increase the adaptability of manufacturing processes to new products (70 percent of the relevant sample) and to improve production efficiency through the automation of AI-supported manufacturing (60 percent).

Most respondents agree on the value of AI in providing a better understanding of the customer within Sales and Marketing, the detection and prevention of fraud in Finance and Accounting, the automation of supply chain planning and fulfilment in Supply Chain Management, delivering improvements to cyber-security in IT and enhancing predictive maintenance in Production departments.

Other than legal and compliance issues, the greatest inhibitors to the adoption of AI are considered to be the lack of availability of AI within solutions (61 percent see this as a major obstacle) and internal culture and processes acting as a significant brake on adoption (52 percent). However, further evidence of strong demand for AI applications comes from the finding that three in five respondents are frustrated by the speed at which AI is being incorporated within IT solutions.

Dr David Snelling, Fujitsu Distinguished Engineer and Program Director Artificial Intelligence, CTO Office at Fujitsu EMEIA, says: “It looks as if AI is currently being driven by functional needs, with a clear understanding of the benefits on offer and initiatives well underway across Europe. However, from Fujitsu’s perspective, the apparent lack of a strategic framework for AI is surprising and points to a need for board-level executives to be more engaged in the discussion to unlock the full potential of this disruptive technology. We believe there is currently an over-emphasis on optimization, which is driven by a need to prove that AI is leading to better business outcomes. By failing to take a strategic approach, changing internal culture and removing bottlenecks, companies are missing out on opportunities to deploy game-changing apps that radically improve the customer experience and can drive a new paradigm of exciting business opportunities.”

Almost half the companies surveyed already have an AI implementation in place. Within the next two years, 70 percent of the firms will have equipped their existing business applications with AI technology. Readiness to adopt appears to be driven by a uniform clear-sightedness related to the functional value on offer from investments in AI. For example, nearly 80 percent of respondents anticipate high value from automation of workflows to drive lower levels of human interaction, 73 percent think this will lead to faster completion of business processes and 72 percent predict more and better recommendations for action, such as predictive maintenance or new products or services, as a result.

Further survey findings:

• When asked what competencies are required from business application providers to incorporate AI technologies, key requirements include the importance of choosing a supplier that understands the innovative potential of AI and which has solid, relevant use-case examples.
• Fewer companies in Italy and Spain (17 percent versus an average of 22 percent across Europe) see AI as strategically important, suggesting greater wariness in Southern Europe about this technology.
• The DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) is slower to implement AI than other regions, with just 10 percent already using AI tools and technologies.
• At the other end of the spectrum, the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden and Finland) are the most enthusiastic about AI, with 17 percent already having an AI strategy in place, while companies in the UK are the most likely to see AI as strategically important (33 percent versus an average across Europe of 25 percent).
• Manufacturing companies anticipate the greatest benefits from AI to be a reduction in human error (cited by 60 percent), minimizing human interaction (51 percent) and reducing manual processes (43 percent).
• In the Services, Trade and Transport sectors, respondents are more likely to have an AI strategy in place (15 percent) and to be more willing (25 percent) to look outside their organizations for skills and insight than other sectors.

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