Thought leadership

Findings of a new survey reveal that more than half of respondents are in the “mature” phase of AI adoption – defined by those currently using AI for analysis or in production – while about one third are evaluating AI, and 15% report not doing anything with AI.

These numbers demonstrate growth when compared with surveyor O’Reilly’s 2019 AI Adoption in the Enterprise report, which found just 27% of organisations in the “mature” adoption phase and 54% in the evaluation phase.

Results of its 2020 artificial intelligence (AI) survey, “AI Adoption in the Enterprise 2020.” The benchmark report uncovers trends in the evaluation, implementation, and outcomes of AI enterprise adoption over the past year.

When it comes to data governance, more than 26% of respondents say their organisations plan to institute formal data governance processes and/or tools by 2021 and nearly 35% expect this to happen in the next three years. Currently, just one-fifth of respondent organisations report having formal data governance processes and/or tools to support and complement their AI projects, similar to findings uncovered in the O’Reilly Data Quality Survey.

Difficulties in hiring and retaining people with AI skills was once again noted as a top barrier to AI adoption in the enterprise, down slightly from 18% in 2019. As in 2019, the biggest bottleneck to AI adoption was reported to be a lack of institutional support (22%), followed by “Difficulties in identifying appropriate business use cases” at 20%.

“AI practices are maturing, and adopters are experimenting with sophisticated AI techniques and tools, which bodes well for the future advancement of AI in the enterprise,” said Rachel Roumeliotis, O’Reilly Strata Data & AI conference co-chair and strategic content director at O’Reilly. “However, organisations will continue to struggle to expand and scale their AI practices if they don’t address the importance of data governance and data conditioning in ML and AI development.”

Other notable findings include:

  • Among mature adopters, supervised learning was reported to be the most popular machine learning technique (73%), while deep learning (55%) is the most popular among organisations still in the evaluation stage of AI.
  • The bulk of AI use is in research and development—cited by just under half of all respondents—followed by IT, which was cited by just over one-third. Another high-use functional area of AI is customer service, with just under 30% of share.
  • By a 2:1 margin, respondents in companies that are evaluating AI cited an unsupportive culture as the primary bulwark to AI adoption, suggesting increased resistance for organisations who have yet to put AI into production. By contrast, AI adopters are about one-third more likely to cite problems with missing or inconsistent data as the biggest bottleneck.
  • Respondents identified the most critical ML- and AI-specific skills gaps in their organisations as the shortage of ML modelers and data scientists (58%), almost exactly on par with findings in 2019. This was followed by the challenge of understanding and maintaining a set of business use cases (49%) and data engineering (40%).
  • Unexpected outcomes/predictions were the single most common risk factor when building and deploying ML models, cited by close to two-thirds of mature—and by about 53% of still-evaluating—AI practitioners.
  • TensorFlow remains the most popular tool for use in AI-related work, as reported by roughly 55% of respondents in both 2019 and 2020. Additionally, four of the five most popular tools for AI-related work are either Python-based or dominated by Python tools, libraries, patterns, and projects.

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