Nearly half of senior leaders in the UK and US expect generative AI to impact their bottom line next year, with more than half prioritizing use cases with an immediate impact on revenue or cost.
According to research from contract management software company Icertis, business leaders also expect competition to become fiercer and workforces to be transformed - in a space of months, rather than years.
"We are living in a revolutionary era for technology with the proliferation of generative AI, yet the question remains whether AI will live up to the hype in terms of its value for businesses," says Monish Darda, CTO and co-founder of Icertis.
"According to this survey from Icertis, the resounding answer from forward-looking leaders is yes – and the profound effects of AI on the enterprise are imminent."
Most generative AI programs appear to be focused around revenue and cost cutting, the study found, with more than half of respondents agreeing that AI will trigger greater competition by minimizing gaps between competitors.
Four-in-ten also noted they are in favor of government regulations that prioritize responsibility and ethics over the opportunity for innovation, highlighting an appetite among business leaders to avoid a ‘Wild West’ type scenario in the AI space.
UK business leaders were found to be more receptive to the prospect of AI regulation compared to their US-based counterparts.
Generative AI security concerns linger
Concerns about data security were also a key issue for c-suite executives, according to the study. Nearly half of execs said they have actively discouraged employees from sharing company data with public models like ChatGPT.
In recent months, organizations globally have introduced rules and safeguards to prevent workers from using proprietary data in generative AI platforms.
Alphabet advised staff not to enter confidential materials into chatbots, including its own Bard chatbot, due to growing concerns about the risk of data leakage.
A host of other organizations including Accenture, JPMorgan Chase, and Verizon also barred staff from using ChatGPT in a workplace setting due to security concerns.
Generative AI budget governance is still unclear
The research found that senior leaders are still unclear on who exactly should be handling AI budget governance.
One-third thought the responsibility should be assigned to the CEO while another third believed CTOs and CIOs should shoulder the burden.
The remaining respondents suggested various collaborations across the C-suite to ensure an objective approach to budget governance.
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In terms of the workforce, 90% of executives say they're concerned that AI will ultimately automate strategic initiatives managed by the C-suite.
However, just over half are planning to create new mid-to-senior level positions directly tied to AI next year.
Meanwhile, executives also believe employment levels will be the top macro-economic factor driving AI adoption in the year ahead, with hopes that they can exploit the technology in today's strained labor market.
Misplaced focus in generative AI adoption
In a separate survey last month, Gartner found that many organizations starting to use AI initially place too much attention on cost optimization and efficiency.
The consultancy said organizations exploring the use of generative AI tools should focus primarily on efficacy, quantifiable value, and potential business agility improvements during the infancy of any adoption process.
"2024 will be pivotal to determine which use cases deliver tangible outcomes as companies tap into rich data pools that exist within their own organizations," said Darda.
"Enabling them to harness the full power of AI and bring it to life across critical functions like legal, finance, procurement and ESG initiatives."
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Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.