In Brief

  • Glean insights from 1,100 C-level business and technology executives around the globe—from 13 industries and seven countries—surveyed by Accenture Strategy on AI’s adoption, use and role in driving enterprise value.
  • While companies know AI is a critical piece of their competitive strategy moving forward, less than half say they have deployed fully sustainable AI programs that are delivering benefits as planned.
  • AI leaders demonstrate that the stumbling blocks to AI, when approached correctly, become enablers to value rather than inhibitors.

Accenture Strategy surveyed 1,100 executives across the globe to gauge AI adoption, the technology’s use in the enterprise and its role in driving value. Our results show that companies know that AI is a critical piece of their competitive strategy moving forward. However, less than half (45 percent) say they have deployed fully sustainable AI programs that are delivering benefits as planned.

That leaves 53 percent of companies in pilot mode or early stage adoption, not yet reaping benefits. The remaining 2 percent are not even in the starting blocks. Across industries and geographies, we see a significant deployment gap. Despite companies’ acknowledgement of AI’s strategic importance and its impact on their business, many are stalled in making it a key enabler for their strategy.

AI: Disruption or opportunity?

A chart showing the survey results about the importance of AI . The questions and responses are as follows: 1. AI will create new categories of products, business models and markets (38% Strongly Agrees, 47% Agrees), 2. AI will transform the workforce; good for business and employees (35% Strongly Agrees, 46% Agrees), 3. AI will disrupt my industry and change the nature of competition (33% Strongly Agrees, 45% Agrees), 4. AI will put my business at a severe competitive disadvantage if I don't implement (32% Strongly Agrees, 44% Agrees) and 5. Too early to invest (31% Strongly Agrees, 42% Agrees)

Leaders versus laggards

From the early stages of AI adoption and beyond, many companies are either stopped in their tracks or significantly delayed due to several obstacles that range from data, to talent, to the technologies themselves. For instance, almost half of all companies cite data issues, while four out of 10 say they lack AI expertise. When addressed, each of these perceived stumbling blocks becomes a key enabler of AI benefits.

Those who view AI as building a new long-term capability have the best chance to transform their organizations for competitive advantage.

The way in which companies handle these potential obstacles spells success or failure—rapid incremental progress versus corporate paralysis. Leaders and laggards seem to struggle in fairly equal measure, but leaders dive in and course-correct as they go. Laggards allow uncertainty to bring them to a halt.

Creating the AI momentum mindset

With AI—as with any new transformative technology—there really is no ideal ready state anymore. Most companies must begin to build AI capabilities into their business as they’re maturing, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach. Leaders do not get to competitive differentiation by refusing to take a risk or hesitating to transform. Our research shows that leaders who are deploying AI to their strategic advantage are doing a few common things right:

Leaders understand AI is more than just a tool or technology.

The majority of companies we surveyed recognize that AI will disrupt their industry. The true value of AI lies in building a foundation of capabilities that accelerate AI opportunities inside and outside the organization. The winning mindset sees AI as more than just a technology.

Leaders experiment and learn.

The more data companies feed AI over time, the smarter it gets. This fact eliminates some of the advantages fast followers have reaped with previous technologies. There is no better time to start than now. With fewer than half of companies having a sustainable AI program, the competitive window of opportunity is still open.

Leaders turn obstacles into opportunities.

Data quality and availability issues can stall AI, but they don’t have to. Leaders use these challenges to fuel an AI-driven insight capability. They do not shy away from a continuous, iterative approach.

Finding a more agile way of approaching AI—from making momentum a priority to flipping obstacles to opportunities—may be what is necessary to place your company among the leaders in unlocking new sources of growth from AI. A few organizations are already on their way, driven by their strategic business objectives. If you act now, your company can still meet—or even better, beat—them there.

Andrew Sinclair

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Technology Strategy

Jeffrey Brashear

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Technology Strategy​

John Shacklady

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Technology Strategy