Cisco Launches New Research, Highlighting Seismic Gap in Companies’ Preparedness for AI

Only Nine Per Cent of Canadian Organizations are Fully Prepared to Deploy and Leverage AI, with More Than Half Admitting Serious Concerns about the Business Impact if They Fail to Act in the Next 12 Months

Toronto, Nov. 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- News Summary:

  • Ninety-six per cent of organizations in Canada reported that the urgency to deploy AI-powered technologies has increased in their company in the past six months.
  • Considerable gaps exist across six key business pillars — strategy, infrastructure, data, governance, talent and culture — with only nine per cent of companies saying they are fully ready to integrate AI into their businesses.
  • Companies are racing against time as 55 per cent said they have a maximum of one year to deploy their AI strategy or else it will have a negative impact on business. 

Toronto, Canada, Nov. 14, 2023 — Only nine per cent of Canadian organizations are fully prepared to deploy and leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered technologies, according to Cisco’s (NASDAQ: CSCO) inaugural AI Readiness Index released today. The Index, which surveyed over 8,000 global companies, was developed in response to the accelerating adoption of AI, a generational shift that is impacting almost every area of business and daily life. The report highlights companies’ preparedness to utilize and deploy AI, showcasing critical gaps across key business pillars and infrastructures that pose serious risks for the near future.

The new research finds that while AI adoption has been slowly progressing for decades, the advancements in Generative AI, coupled with public availability in the past year, are driving greater attention to the challenges, changes and new possibilities posed by the technology. While 78 per cent of respondents believe AI will have a significant impact on their business operations, it also raises new issues around data privacy and security. The findings show that companies experience the most challenges when it comes to leveraging AI alongside their data. In fact, 83 per cent of respondents admit that this is due to data existing in silos across their organizations. 

However, there is also positive news. Data shows that companies in Canada are taking proactive measures to prepare for an AI-centric future. When it comes to building AI strategies, 95 per cent of organizations already have an AI strategy in place or in the process of developing one. In this category, over two thirds (68 per cent) of organizations are classified as either Pacesetters or Chasers (fully/partially prepared), with only six per cent falling into the category of Laggards (not prepared). This could be driven by the fact that most (96 per cent) respondents said the urgency to deploy AI technologies in their organization has increased in the past six months, with IT infrastructure and cybersecurity reported as the top priority areas for AI deployments.

“Canada is experiencing a significant gap in its ability to adopt, deploy and capitalize on AI’s full potential. Business leaders must think beyond the here-and-now, looking ahead to their needs and building the infrastructure to match,” said Shannon Leininger, President of Cisco Canada. “Businesses need to holistically consider the elements of AI readiness so that we can not only take hold of all that AI has to offer, but do so responsibly.”

Some of the most significant findings include: 

  • URGENCY: Businesses know they must act. Fifty-five per cent of respondents in Canada believe they have a maximum of one year to implement an AI strategy before their organization begins to incur significant negative business impact. 
  • STRATEGY: Step one is strategy, and organizations are well on their way. Sixty-eight per cent of organizations were benchmarked as either Pacesetters or Chasers, and only six per cent were found to be Laggards. Additionally, 93 per cent of organizations already have a defined AI strategy in place or are in the process of developing one, which is a positive sign, but shows there is more to do.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE: Networks aren’t equipped to meet AI workloads. Ninety-five per cent of businesses globally are aware that AI will increase infrastructure workloads, but in Canada only 33 per cent of organizations consider their infrastructure highly scalable. Over a half (55 per cent) of companies have moderate or limited scalability when it comes to meeting new AI challenges within their current IT infrastructures. To accommodate AI’s increased power and computing demands, over two thirds (79 per cent) of companies will require further data center graphics processing units (GPUs) to support current and future AI workloads.
  • DATA: Organizations cannot neglect the importance of ‘AI-ready’ data. While data serves as the backbone needed for AI operations, it is also the area where readiness is the weakest, with the greatest number of Laggards (18 per cent) compared to other pillars. Eighty-three per cent of Canadian respondents claim some degree of siloed or fragmented data in their organization. This poses a critical challenge as the complexity of integrating data that resides in various sources and making it available for AI implications can impact the ability to leverage the full potential of these applications.
  • TALENT: The need for AI skills reveals a new-age digital divide. While 87 per cent of respondents said they are planning to invest in upskilling existing employees, 21 per cent alluded to an emerging AI divide, expressing doubt about the availability of enough talent to upskill. 
  • GOVERNANCE: AI policy adoption’s slow start. Only 29 per cent of respondents said they have highly comprehensive AI policies in place, an area that must be addressed as companies consider and govern all the factors that present a risk in eroding confidence and trust. These factors include data privacy and data sovereignty, and the understanding of, and compliance with, global regulations. Additionally, close attention must be paid to the concepts of bias, fairness, and transparency in both data and algorithms.
  • CULTURE: Little preparation, but high motivation to make a priority. This pillar had the lowest number of Pacesetters (four per cent) compared to other categories. Twenty-seven per cent of companies have not established change management plans yet and of those that have, 68 per cent are still in-progress. But motivation is high. Three quarters (75 per cent) say their organization is embracing AI with a moderate to high level of urgency, with only a few (three per cent) resistant to change. Boards (83 per cent) and Leadership Teams (84 per cent) are the most likely to embrace the changes brought about by AI with high or moderate receptiveness. However, there is more work to be done amongst employees as a third (33 per cent) of organizations report that employees are either unwilling to adopt AI or outright resistant.

Cisco AI Readiness Index 
The new Cisco AI Readiness Index is based on a double-blind survey of 8,161 private sector business and IT leaders across 30 markets, conducted by an independent third-party surveying respondents from companies with 500 or more employees. The Index assessed respondents’ AI readiness across six key pillars: strategy, infrastructure, data, talent, governance, and culture. 

Companies were examined on 49 different metrics across these six pillars to determine a readiness score for each, as well as an overall readiness score for the respondents’ organization. Each indicator was assigned an individual weightage based on its relative importance to achieving readiness for the applicable pillar. Based on their overall score,  Cisco has identified four groups at different levels of organizational readiness – Pacesetters (fully prepared), Chasers (moderately prepared), Followers (limited preparedness), and Laggards (unprepared).  

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