AI adoption continues to accelerate

Juniper Networks has published the findings of a global research project that shows a big increase in enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) adoption over the last 12 months, which is yielding tangible benefits to organisations. However, a shortage of human talent still exists, and governance policies continue to lack in maturity – both of which are needed to responsibly manage AI’s growth when considering privacy issues, regulation compliance, hacking and AI terrorism.

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Juniper partnered with Wakefield Research to conduct a survey of 700 senior leaders around the world with direct involvement in their organisation’s AI and/or machine learning (ML) plans or deployments, with 201 of those respondents based in Europe. The survey gauges sentiment around the value of AI, the perceived maturity of deployments and where challenges still exist.

This year’s survey found that enterprises have largely moved past proof-of-concepts and limited trials of AI and are now implementing AI across their organisations, thanks to pandemic-related digital acceleration and the maturation of AI tools available. While Juniper’s 2021 report previously showed only 6% of C-level leaders had reported adoption of AI-powered solutions across their organisations (citing technological, skillset and governance challenges), this year, 63% of company leaders surveyed say they are at least “most of the way” to their planned AI adoption goals.

European AI/ML leaders recognize that establishing oversight and control across the entire organization is a key component for successful AI adoption. Also, 45% of the respondents in Europe think more needs to be done to effectively govern AI as it is applied to more facets of business and life. Additionally, 35% of respondents in Europe reported data availability as the most critical component to enable AI adoption across their industry, compared with North American respondents who ranked AI tool capabilities as the most critical component.

However, globally, only 9% of IT leaders (10% in Europe) consider their AI governance and policies, such as establishing a company-wide AI leader or responsible AI standards and processes, to be “fully mature.” At the same time, more global leaders see governance as a priority: 95% agree having proper AI governance in place is important to stay ahead of future legislation, up from 87% in 2021. Despite leadership recognising the importance of AI governance and having policies in place to manage, govern and maintain, almost half of respondents (48%) think more needs to be done to effectively govern AI.

“In recent years, many European governments have stepped in to regulate the collection, storage and usage of data, spurring organisations to take a more proactive approach to internal AI governance to stay ahead of legislation and allow their AI solutions to expand safely. As a result, organisations are developing comprehensive AI and data governance policies to protect against financial and reputational loss. As AI use continues to grow, we will see more being done to effectively govern and secure it.”

Laurence Pitt, Global Security Strategist, Juniper Networks

Additional research findings:

The data shows that having up-to-date AI tools and infrastructure in place has the biggest impact on AI adoption for European organisations (62%). Of companies that incorporated AI into their network infrastructure and capabilities, over 70% have seen improved user experiences for end users (75%) and network and IT teams (74%).

To help enable the growth of AI in the workforce, organisations in Europe are already increasing their AI talent pipeline with internships and partnerships with universities to upskill and expand talent (33%). Additionally, approximately half of European respondents (51%) have indicated they intend to change employee learning and development frameworks to include AI skills (usage, management and development) in the next 12 months. This is much higher than in North America (31%).

Hiring people with AI capabilities and skillsets is a top area for investment for optimising AI. IT leaders in Europe rank three areas as the top investment options: hiring the right people to develop and operate AI capabilities (21%); training end users to interact effectively with AI tools (22%); further training the AI models (22%).

Despite growing dependence on AI, IT leaders do not see AI replacing humans, but rather allowing employees to save time and focus on more strategic and nuanced tasks. More than half of European IT leaders (55%) say AI will allow IT employees to focus on being more innovative, improve their career development (54%) and pivot to customer experience (52%).

Almost all AI/ML leaders (95%), globally and in Europe, agree cybersecurity is a critical component to maintaining and securing an enterprise AI solution. Cybersecurity substantially increased in importance as the most critical area for AI adoption: 29% said cybersecurity was the most critical to AI adoption in 2022, versus 14% in 2021.

Almost all the European IT leaders (91%) say that in the next 12 months, AI will assist in reducing risk and increasing quality within their organisation, with IT Infrastructure (21%), Sales & Marketing (19%) and Networking/Cloud (18%) as the business functions thought to have the greatest potential to derive benefits from implementing AI.

“AI is ultimately designed to perform tasks on par with humans but at higher scale via automation. Many of Juniper’s own customers are leveraging cloud AI in their networks to dramatically cut support tickets, which frees up IT teams from the drudgery of tactical issues, allowing them to focus on improving end users’ experiences. But with all the positives, enterprises need to responsibly manage AI’s growth with proper governance to stay ahead of regulation and minimize potential negative impacts. In Europe, for instance, we are seeing regulators starting to classify certain AI use cases as risky and requiring CE certification. AI regulation is changing quickly and business leaders must make AI governance a strategic priority.”

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