Covid spurs AI adoption
Next step will be to embrace 'responsible AI' to build greater trust among stakeholders, according to PwC survey
published : 28 Jul 2021 at 04:00
newspaper section: Business
Thai organisations have increased the use of artificial intelligence (AI) since the outbreak of Covid-19. Many large companies have invested in machine learning and other AI technologies to optimise data management, according to a survey by PwC.
Similarly, worldwide companies are considering adopting responsible AI to build trust among stakeholders, the AI Predictions 2021 survey found.
One quarter of participating US companies report widespread adoption of AI, up from just 18% last year, according to the survey. Likewise, another 54% are heading there fast. And they've moved way beyond just laying the foundation.
"In the wake of Covid-19, we're seeing large companies becoming more and more active in studying and investing in machine learning and other AI technologies," said Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, consulting lead partner and financial services leader at PwC Thailand.
"Most of them are using AI for internal improvements and upskilling their workforce on how to use AI or using AI on multiple platforms. Many companies are now optimising AI to maximise their data management."
Many types of platforms are now available that embed AI into various functions, such as customer service platforms with intelligent customer analytics, AI accounting platforms with financial statement analysis, human resources platforms with employee engagement and data analytics, and smart sales platforms with sales growth analytics.
Companies must consider using responsible AI, Ms Vilaiporn stressed. Most Thai companies at the moment are only focusing on the benefits of AI to optimise their business, unlike some companies in other countries that are also using AI to reduce bias. This mindset creates an enormous impact on overall consumer confidence and trust.
"Many of the world's leading companies have advanced to the next level of AI usage by focusing on how responsible AI can help to mitigate biases," she said.
PwC, for example, offers a Responsible AI Toolkit that consists of customisable frameworks, tools and processes designed to help companies harness the power of AI in an ethical and responsible manner, said Ms Vilaiporn.
The study also highlights five areas where companies can harness the potential of AI:
1. No uncertainty: 52% of survey respondents said they had sped up their AI adoption plans in the wake of the pandemic, which will have an impact for years to come. When considering not just the benefits but the costs, 76% of organisations are barely breaking even on their AI investments. However, 86% say that AI will be a "mainstream technology" at their company in 2021. They see AI paying off in concrete ways, with benefits ranging from revenue growth and better decision-making to improved customer experience.
2. Strategic ally: Business leaders should use AI as their business partner to help maximise the organisation's key strategies. Investing in AI for workforce planning, simulation modelling and supply chain resilience, scenario planning and demand projection will help companies make faster and better decisions, especially for unforeseen situations and high-risk events.
3. From risk awareness to risk action: Most companies are aware of the risks of AI, but most are not actually mitigating them. Responsible AI is the only way to effectively mitigate AI risks, and it's crucial for companies to assess their vulnerability by examining how AI affects financial, operational and reputational dangers.
4. Beyond upskilling: While upskilling is necessary, business leaders need to re-evaluate and develop a workforce plan that identifies new skills and roles required because of AI. Building a culture that cultivates AI is another area to be considered, as employees will need to work increasingly with data and adopt an experimental mindset, questioning and continuously seeking to improve data and models.
5. The model is never complete: AI reorganisation goes beyond breaking down silos. It also requires a cultural shift so that everyone's decisions become data-based, as they evaluate the simulations and forecasts that AI produces from that data. As AI models are constantly improving themselves, decisions can constantly improve as well.
"For companies that have not yet invested or are studying how to embed AI into their business, they should start by looking for use cases to see where AI can close the gaps," said Ms Vilaiporn. "Piggybacking off the ideas of other organisations that have already adopted AI is another good option."
"Companies can start by adopting AI for internal functions such as HR, purchasing, accounting, manufacturing or even customer service, such as chatbots, call centres, advertising and marketing," she said.
"Otherwise, they can focus on functions that require advanced analysis to see how AI could help maximise performance. All in all, companies' flexibility will help create the AI usage that best fits their business needs."