State Of Enterprise IT 2018

The evolution of IT

Machine learning and AI

By Callum Budd, Project Manager

AI is one of those sexy trends that science fiction has been promising is just around the corner for decades. As we go into 2018, the idea of intelligent software that intuitively learns, evaluates, and responds doesn’t seem so alien.

Voice assistants on our phones and speakers are fun novelties that give personality to our devices and are making us rethink how people could and should engage with computers. Can similar machine learning and AI systems be disruptive to big business?

Enterprise IT decision makers certainly think so. Over a third told us that AI or machine learning has the potential to disrupt both their organisation and their industry over the next year - only the Internet of Things is seen as potentially more disruptive. Blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and VR might be getting a lot of press, but it’s AI and machine learning that IT departments think will bring big changes.

Part of the reason for this is that both AI and machine learning tally with efforts that organisations are making to remain competitive. Over half say that their strategies and projects are focusing more on innovation than efficiency, and just under half are looking to adopt digital solutions to address longstanding problems. Algorithms digging through data to deduce and present context-aware findings fits both these aims perfectly.

And as just over a third are increasing the level of automation across the business in order to remain competitive, systems that link and compare different data sources are very valuable indeed.

Does this mean that enterprises will be implementing AI and machine learning projects over this year?

Not necessarily. Our research shows a very real disconnect: although both AI and machine learning are predicted to be really disruptive digital trends, only a minority are actually investing in them right now.

Looking at the data, the vast majority of IT decision makers we spoke to say that their organisation is looking into these trends - 88% for machine learning, and 85% for AI. But under half are investing in each of them - 44% for machine learning, and just 37% for AI. Three other digital trends - customer experience, IoT, and hybrid cloud - are more likely to be receiving actual investment rather than just investigation.

If both AI and machine learning are likely to be disruptive to enterprises this year, why aren’t they getting investment? To be fair to the research, respondents said that both trends are the most likely candidates for their organisations to plan to invest at some point... but they don’t necessarily have clear plans right now. The research suggests that many organisations know there’s something interesting that both AI and machine learning could offer, but it’s not necessarily clear what that interesting thing is. If every organisation has masses of data held in different ways that mean different things, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that lets senior decision makers see how either AI or machine learning could benefit them.

What does this mean for technology marketers, particularly those looking to help organisations with AI or machine learning? Enterprises don’t necessarily need to be sold on the idea, but they need to see how it might work with the systems and processes they have in place, and what new opportunities it can present to them.

Any thoughts?

Other reports about the state of enterprise IT: