The business value of AI is clear: it helps organisations operate efficiently, perform better, achieve more, and gain the insights required to make better business decisions.

However, while organisations are beginning to turbo-charge their AI efforts, not everyone is taking advantage of the technology. As a result, they’re handing success to their rivals.

This is one of the many significant findings revealed in Microsoft’s AI research report, ‘Accelerating Competitive Advantage with AI’, launched today at our flagship event Future Decoded. The report takes an in-depth look at AI’s potential to be a catalyst for business growth in the UK and provides practical steps to help organisations accelerate their AI journey.

Consideration vs. action

Our 2018 report ‘Maximising the AI Opportunity’, which collated the views of business leaders policymakers, and industry experts across every sector, revealed two fascinating insights. On the one hand, businesses understood the power of AI; on the other, many were locked in a constant cycle of assessment over implementation.

This year, we’re beginning to see that gap between consideration and action dramatically close. Executives realise the value and benefits of an AI-led digital transformation – improving experiences for both employees and customers, driving productivity, and, perhaps most important in these tumultuous times, giving them the competitive advantage.

As such, we’ve seen an incredible performance jump for businesses already engaged with scaling their AI. Last year, AI-driven businesses performed on average 5% better than their rivals. Today, that figure sits at 11.5%.

Last year, AI-driven businesses performed on average 5% better than their rivals. Today, that figure sits at 11.5%.

Despite this, many organisations remain locked in the exploration stage or aren’t doing anything at all. Our research shows that 48% of companies are still experimenting with AI; 34% aren’t using the technology at all. Just 8% of companies can be classed as ‘Advanced AI users’.

This puts companies at a huge disadvantage. Evidence shows that organisations already on the path to AI enablement are better equipped to adopt the technology more efficiently elsewhere in the business. In comparison, organisations that are new to AI are not experiencing the same speed of progress as those that are already on the journey.


Outpacing the competition

In many ways, the lack of action in introducing AI mirrors the start of the internet revolution of the 1990s, which saw countless businesses suffer because they didn’t have an online presence. Today, it’s unthinkable that a company wouldn’t have a website. In the coming years, we shall think the same about AI. It’s fast becoming essential for every organisation in every industry and sector.

At the same time, we’re witnessing a serious desire for innovation. Our report shows 38% of those surveyed want to pioneer AI technologies and applications in new ways. After all, if they don’t take the lead now, other organisations will. Robbie Stamp, Chief Executive Officer of BIOSS, explains:

“There is an element of organisations looking over their shoulders and fearing they are missing out on something that will provide a massive competitive advantage – that if they are not engaged in AI, they are going to lose.”


More work to do

The global AI market is rapidly expanding. By 2030, it’s set to be worth $15.7 trillion, according to PWC’s study ‘Exploiting the AI Revolution’. Little wonder, then, that the UK government has committed to investing £115 million in graduate-level AI training.

Despite this breakthrough, there is still more work to be done in AI implementation. For those not yet riding the wave, it’s imperative to introduce the right technologies and applications or risk being overtaken by their more progressive counterparts. Our research, however, shows this goes beyond technology, and into the realms of company culture. In the companies we surveyed, we uncovered three core areas where implementation is focused:

  • Scaling AI across the entire organisation, rather than single departments
  • Re-skilling all staff, if necessary, so they may contribute to the success of AI
  • The ethical development, deployment and operation of AI, promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace

This, then, is ‘AI for everyone’. A journey that begins with the ultimate goal of becoming an organisation that is truly powered by AI at all levels. For those that are prepared to make that journey, unprecedented opportunity awaits.

Find out more

Watch the keynote session from Future Decoded: Accelerating competitive advantage with AI

About the author

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Clare BarclayClare was appointed Chief Operating Officer for Microsoft UK in February 2017. Her remit covers leading the direction and success of sales, marketing, and services in each of the business groups, strategy and planning, as well as running marketing for the company’s products and services in the UK. She leads the transformation and cultural change for Microsoft UK and is very passionate about extending this work to help customers drive digital transformation in their organisations. With over 25 years in the technology industry, of which 20 have been spent in diverse roles across Microsoft, Clare was previously General Manager of the Small, Medium Enterprise and Partner Group. In this role, she led a team driving sales and marketing efforts, providing comprehensive solutions for small, medium, and corporate customers across both commercial and public sector organisations. Before joining Microsoft, Clare held many business development and marketing-related roles within the technology field, specialise in how to build partnerships and new routes to market. She lives in London with her husband, who is an author, and their two young sons.