UK tech execs not convinced about return on investment from AI

A new study from IT consultancy Zartis shows that UK tech executives are confident about the level of AI skills within their organizations, but aren't convinced about the return on investment from AI.

The report shows 85 percent rate their existing workforce's combined AI knowledge and expertise as 'skilled' while 51 percent rate it as 'highly skilled'. Despite this confidence, many of these executives have concerns about barriers that might prevent further AI adoption.

An overwhelming 94 percent say their organization uses AI in some form, while six percent are still exploring or researching options. The motivations behind adoption are not entirely universal, with 40 percent of executives feeling pressured to prioritize adoption and investment in AI following industry-wide momentum around the technology.

Barriers preventing some businesses from adopting AI as much as they would like include budget restrictions (41 percent), a shortage of AI talent within the business (38 percent), and technical complexity (35 percent). Meanwhile, the primary concerns businesses have related to AI adoption, according to the executives, include integration challenges (44 percent), cost and ROI uncertainty (42 percent), and data privacy and IP security (38 percent). Interestingly, only 28 percent of respondents said there is cultural resistance to AI adoption from within their organization.

"AI adoption isn't some 'on or off' switch," says Michal Szymczak, head of AI strategy at Zartis. "To a lot of businesses, it involves a significant financial investment, and there are complex questions to grapple with surrounding data privacy, or integration with existing technology stacks. That makes executives' confidence in their company's AI skill set rather ironic. They puff their chests out, while simultaneously pointing to all the obstacles that could stop them in their tracks. That feels like a severe underestimation of how much work needs to happen to make AI capabilities work with software development and DevOps practices."

Software development is the most popular area (59 percent) where executives say they plan to make AI investments with this money in 2024. The next most popular areas include quality assurance (44 percent) and DevOps and automation (44 percent). This lines up with the data showing that skills shortage and talent acquisition (46 percent), quality assurance and testing (40 percent), and continuous integration and deployment (40 percent) are the top three cited challenges organizations face within their software development teams today.

How much money will be saved in the long term remains uncertain. About 56 percent of executives believe AI will reduce software development costs by at least 20 percent, while 36 percent expect less.

You can read more on the Zartis blog.

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