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Companies must act now to implement AI business strategy, says Microsoft UK CEO

Microsoft UK's new report, Maximising the AI opportunity, found half of UK companies do not have an AI business strategy in place - even though 41% of bosses believe their current business model will cease to exist within five years

A lack of an AI business strategy means British organisations could be overtaken by overseas rivals, according to a new report by Microsoft UK.

The software giant’s research found that, in the face of significant disruption, 41% of business leaders believe their current business model will cease to exist within the next five years.

Despite big questions over the longevity of these models, 51% revealed they do not have an AI business strategy in place to address these challenges.

Clare Barclay, chief operating officer at Microsoft UK, said: “AI represents a huge opportunity, but only if UK organisations embrace its application in the right way.

“AI is not about making UK businesses leaner, it’s about how we use the technology to make them stronger.

“In doing so, we can make our work more meaningful and boost UK competitiveness.”

Microsoft UK COO Clare Barclay
Microsoft UK COO Clare Barclay

 

How an AI business strategy is already paying dividends for some companies

The study, conducted with YouGov and Goldsmiths, University of London, was based on a survey of more than 1,000 business leaders and 4,000 employees.

It found that companies that have started to adopt an AI business strategy models are already outperforming organisations that have not used the technology by 5%.

These organisations were found to be more productive, have higher performance and experience better business outcomes.

Microsoft UK’s report, Maximising the AI opportunity, highlights the country’s opportunity to lead the way in the development and use of AI – but only if organisations act now.

It also urges business leaders to take a principled approach by establishing underlying values, ethics and commitments.

The research reveals that those organisations that have already adopted an ethical approach to the use of AI are outperforming those that haven’t by 9%.

AI, artificial intelligence

Lord Clement-Jones, chairman of the House of Lords select committee on artificial intelligence, said: “Without doubt, artificial intelligence can provide a great opportunity for British society and the economy.

“Today, the UK enjoys a position of AI innovation, so as we enter a crucial stage in its development and adoption, the country has a clear opportunity to be a world leader.

“For this, an ethics-backed partnership between business academia and government will be pivotal.”

 

Majority of staff open to embracing AI business strategy – but don’t trust their employers

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft UK said 59% of UK employees surveyed are open to experimenting with AI to do new things at work.

But the software firm said a lack of strategy and direction from leaders is “fuelling fear”.

Less than half (44%) trust their organisations to use AI responsibly and only 26% say their organisation has a culture of transparency between leaders and employees.

Meanwhile, 41% believe AI will leave behind older generations of workers over the next five years.

Contributing to this fear is the fact that organisations are not helping employees to prepare for the future.

Some 46% of business leaders believe it is worth re-training their current workforce, and almost a third (32%) are unsure about how to start doing so.

As a result, just 18% of UK employees surveyed say they are actively learning new skills to help them keep up with future changes to their job as a result of AI.

Furthermore, the gap between attitude and action when it comes to an AI business strategy could lead to the nation “missing out”.

While 52% of employees believe using AI to automate tasks can create time for more meaningful work, a similar number (51%) are not using any types of AI to perform tasks at work.

 

When should companies be implementing an AI business strategy? Right now is the answer

Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose said: “How society, business and people adapt to AI will become one of the most pressing considerations of this generation and the next.

Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose
Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose

“Only by applying AI in the right way can we unlock its extraordinary potential for good.

“It is our firm belief at Microsoft that adopting a human-centric approach can help organisations of all shapes, sizes, and sectors use AI to positively impact their businesses, employees, and customers alike.

“But success tomorrow requires action today – organisations must act now to maximise the AI opportunity.”