Organizations Seeing Less Resistance–and Greater Trust–for AI Initiatives

eWEEK DATA POINTS: From the C-suite to employees to customers, the comfort factor is increasing for artificial intelligence (AI). A recent research report from Genpact lends key insights into these trends, as well as recommendations to senior leaders about how to further encourage employees to embrace new initiatives which deploy this emerging technology.

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The C-suite is giving less pushback. Customers are more willing to disclose their personal data to improve the customer experience (CX). And modern professionals aren’t quite as jittery these days about artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled machines taking their jobs.

At least those are the impressions conveyed in a new report from Genpact, titled “AI 360: Insights from the Next Frontier of Business.” The research findings indicate that most companies now recognize that they need to leverage AI to transform processes, with many even anticipating that these solutions will help them “reimagine their business.”

However, there are still obstacles to overcome: Some top execs harbor unrealistic expectations about the end result of their investment. Both consumers and employees believe AI could actually lead to discrimination against them. In addition, there are lingering concerns within the workplace about the long-term impact of AI.

An estimated 500 global executives and 4,000 customers/workers took part in the survey, which was conducted by Wakefield Research for Genpact. In this eWEEK Data Points, we highlight the following seven trends from the report.

Data Point No. 1: For visionaries, advancements already serving key core functions.

A clear majority of large companies plan to use AI to transform processes–up from just two in five in 2017. One-quarter even predict they will “reimagine their business” through AI. These are the AI “visionaries,” according to Genpact, and they are applying these technologies to at least four business functions, with finance/accounting, IT services, operations/production and strategy/general management leading the way.

Data Point No. 2: Leaders express less hesitation but continue to expect too much.

Misgivings among leadership members are fading, with only 15 percent of execs saying they perceive the strongest resistance to AI from the top (i.e., the C-suite, board and/or upper management). However, those senior leaders still often convey unrealistic expectations about the investment, envisioning Alexa-like experiences within weeks or months that employees struggle to deliver.

Data Point No. 3: Customers more comfortable with the leveraging of their data for improved CX.

Consumer-facing AI apps depend upon user data to improve the customer experience (CX). Given the wealth of high-profile data breaches, you’d think that those customers would voice growing concerns about this trend. But the majority feel comfortable about companies using AI to improve their experiences, up from just three in 10 who indicated this two years ago.

Data Point No. 4: Discrimination emerges as prime concern among consumers, employees.

From a societal perspective, two-thirds of citizens/workers say they are at least “somewhat” concerned about AI tech discriminating against them in the way it makes decisions, say, about credit card approvals. Also, some AI systems that identify employee candidates for recruitment or promotions have been demonstrated to be biased against women because the algorithms are based upon data from when men dominated senior roles.

Data Point No. 5: Execs and customers disagree about “bot” interactions.

There’s a wide “perception gap” about bots: Eighty-six percent of execs believe customers prefer to be served by a bot as opposed to a live, call center agent. But just 15 percent of consumers agree. The execs could be overly influenced by the cost-savings aspects of the bots, perhaps overlooking (intentionally or not) the actual experiences that customers have with them.

Data Point No. 6: Proactive communications could relieve workplace anxieties.

Employees are getting slightly more comfortable with the idea of AI in the workplace–but only to a certain degree. More of them feel that AI will create more career opportunities than those who believe AI will threaten their jobs, but many voice concerns about AI’s impact on the careers of their children and future generations. To address the fears, companies must change the narrative by communicating to staffers about the continuous value AI will bring.

Data Point No. 7: AI training leads to greater trust and a more capable talent base.

Of course, when you train employees to work with AI tools, you strengthen existing skill sets while reducing trepidation about these changes. Four of five professionals, in fact, are interested in doing this, and more than one-half of companies are offering training, seminars and workshops to provide this opportunity. At TD Bank, for example, commercial credit division senior managers involve and train staffers at every stage of an AI initiative–welcoming them to take part in design, development and testing efforts.