AI: Are we nearly there yet?

Hologram of the artificial intelligence robot showing up from binary code
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Barely an hour, let alone a day, goes by without a mention of AI popping into my ear or inbox. Indeed, if I had a pound or dollar every time, I’d be very rich indeed. 

Alas, getting paid for my consumption of the latest industry trend is the stuff of fantasy rather than reality. What is real, though, is the growing appetite of business and IT decision-makers for how AI can make a positive impact on their businesses and, in turn, the bottom line. 

Much like how with cloud computing we moved from questions like  ‘What is the cloud?’ or ‘What is Saas?’ to prioritizing a better understanding of how the cloud could help individuals, teams, and organizations as a whole, conversations around AI are starting to become much more meaningful, realistic and action-oriented, rather than purely hypothetical. 

This doesn’t mean we’re in the era of dishing out blank checks for AI spending, but it does mean the investment is coming and/or funds are being diverted from elsewhere to spend on proof of concept activity to move things forward. 

Earlier this year, ITPro conducted research that looked at spending and decision-making priorities for the year ahead. AI was the standout topic, with the majority (71%) of respondents saying it was their main focus in 2023 and would remain a priority in 2024. (You can download the full Future Focus report here). 

At the time, the sentiment was one of optimism about AI’s potential role in business, rather than overwhelming fear, uncertainty, and doubt, or ‘FUD’. Security and cloud were also high on the agenda, which is perhaps unsurprising given they’re not-too-distant cousins when it comes to everything that needs to be considered as part of a comprehensive AI strategy. 

“I'm really interested to see how AI is going to make a big difference to our company in 2024. We are rolling it out, and it will be fascinating to see the results it provides,” said one research respondent. 

Most know AI will impact their business. Some get that it will disrupt – although disruption isn’t always bad – while others see the potential on the horizon. What these groups have in common is they all need help turning their AI vision into a business reality. 

Research published by analyst firm Gartner in May this year showed that generative AI tops the list when it comes to types of AI being deployed, but noted that organizations are still struggling when it comes to demonstrating business value.

“GenAI is acting as a catalyst for the expansion of AI in the enterprise. This creates a window of opportunity for AI leaders, but also a test on whether they will be able to capitalize on this moment and deliver value at scale,” said Leinar Ramos, senior director analyst at Gartner. 

“Business value continues to be a challenge for organizations when it comes to AI. As organizations scale AI, they need to consider the total cost of ownership of their projects, as well as the wide spectrum of benefits beyond productivity improvement.” 

Looking at other data points, specifically the content we’re producing and readers are consuming, AI dominates

We also see IT professionals from the grassroots level right up to C-Suite consuming a wide range of content types. Industry news remains of interest in such a fast-moving area of IT, but we also see demand for longer-form content such as analysis, deep-dive features, and tutorials. This shows us that despite this audience being information-rich and time-poor, they are still very keen to get a more granular understanding of AI and related topics. Podcasts also offer an opportunity for them to hear from industry experts and expand their knowledge base while on the move – multi-tasking in action!

Talent is another area that’s front of mind for IT professionals when it comes to both AI and security. Indeed, the Gartner research also cited a lack of talent as a key barrier to AI adoption. 

In addition, the security skills gap lingers on and causes concern as this piece on what’s missing shows. Although published in January, it remains one of the top pieces in terms of engagement for the calendar year to date. 

Compliance poses a potential headache too when it comes to AI, with leaders still missing the clarity they need to make effective and sustainable decisions according to this news piece published this week on the EU AI Act

What does this all mean? The growing appetite, complexity, and constraints surrounding AI represent real opportunities for vendors and service providers to engage with and help businesses set themselves up for success both now and in the future. As the subject's complexity and noise intensify, business and IT decision-makers crave simplicity and solutions and, above all, trusted partners who can deliver on the promise of AI. 

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.