Release of new PAC study: What AI can bring to business applications

Release of new PAC study: What AI can bring to business applications

Together with our sponsors – Accenture, Fujitsu, NTT Data, Salesforce and T-Systems – we conducted a comprehensive survey among IT and business executives in Europe, with the goal to understand if and how artificial intelligence can help innovate business applications and business processes. The resulting report, a business guide, is out today with some compelling results. For further information and to download the study, please click here.

Why we conducted this study

Artificial intelligence is currently evolving from a niche technology to the mainstream. It offers, among other things, new ways to analyze various sets of data, help optimize planning processes, automate voice/text interactions and responses and suggest possible next steps, e.g. in sales or customer service. Such features provide the basis for a higher level of automation and increase efficiencies of both processes and people.

Business applications have been providing efficiency gains and automation for business processes for quite some time. Quite a large number of companies rely on enterprise software to run their businesses. One major driver is their need for insights based on accurate enterprise-wide data to make decisions as fast and as relevant as possible.

Therefore, artificial intelligence can very well complement business applications, for instance, by guiding the user through ERP, by automating the analytics process, or even by making some recommendations. In addition, the combination of the two can help companies reinvent their business processes as well as their business models.

Some key findings

Business process improvements and automation: 53% of European businesses are already convinced that AI can help them improve existing processes and increase the level of automation. However, only 25% think AI is strategically important for the future of their business.

As of today, only 11% of companies have a strategy for AI in place. On the other hand, no one disputes the relevance of such a strategy and the majority of companies plan to develop a strategy in the near future.

Value of AI for specific business processes

We were surprised to receive such clear-cut answers to our question on how AI can provide value to specific business processes. Here are a few examples:

  • Highest value contribution of AI: automation of workflows and less human interaction
  • Highest value in marketing & sales: a better understanding of the customer
  • Highest value in finance & accounting: fraud prevention, predictions, and automation
  • Highest value in supply chain management: automation of planning and fulfillment
  • Highest value in IT: enhancing cyber security, automating user support and asset monitoring
  • Highest value in production: predictive maintenance and adaptive manufacturing processes

The main obstacles as seen by the executives are neither the lack of a business case nor fear of job losses. Instead, it is legal and compliance-related restrictions that are most often cited. In our view, companies are being confronted with a number of questions and uncertainties regarding the use of personal data, AI-supported decision making as well as topics concerning e.g. liability and responsibility.

Investment plans

Companies are planning to invest in AI technology to both augment existing business applications and deploy new applications that come with embedded AI. But beyond these physical solutions, firms will seek external support in terms of consulting, integration and training of end users.

Our view

The intersection of AI and business applications has already started to impact the software industry and the users of such applications. More and more companies will leverage AI technology to augment their existing applications and business processes. And, when it comes to selecting new business applications, we expect companies to look for those that include AI features. How the skills needed to leverage the enormous potential of AI for business applications will be developed remains an open question, however.

Methodology and PAC team

The study is based on telephone interviews with senior business and IT decision-makers with responsibility for AI strategies at 240 medium and large companies from the UK, France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Nordics (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway), Spain and Italy. The study was completed during the first quarter of 2018.

Besides myself, Melanie Flug, Sabrina Donatelli and Olivier Rafal contributed to this report & project. Thanks a lot guys, great job!