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Artificial Intelligence

Has Covid-19 changed business’ perceptions of AI?

By Fountech Ventures
October 7, 2020

 Is artificial intelligence (AI) just hype? This is a question that has no doubt played on the mind of any business leader mapping out their digital transformation journeys. The debate over risk vs reward has, at times, been contentious.

That was until the Covid-19 pandemic made a clear case for the value of AI. Not only has the ongoing crisis inspired AI-powered solutions that are helping us bring the virus under control, but it has also offered a helping hand to businesses that might otherwise have had no other recourse.  

Just days ago, Garter’s 2020 Hype cycle for AI was released, offering an insight into how the pandemic has changed business’ reliance on AI. The research highlights that a substantial 30% of organizations have plans to increase their investments in AI despite the economic impact of the global crisis – with just 16% having temporarily suspended investments or decreased them (7%).

The report accredits the role that AI has played during the disruption; from enlisting the help of chatbots to field an influx of pandemic-related queries, to enabling a newly dispersed workforce to work from home, all the way to using machine learning (ML) to model the economic impact of the disruptions, AI has been invaluable. The insights offer concrete evidence that AI is not just hype; it has offered support to businesses when they needed it most, and has no doubt played a starring role in helping many to survive.

Is AI just for the big guys?

Fountech.ai’s latest research revealed that it is not just large enterprises that are exploring how AI can bolster their operations and improve their recovery efforts. Small businesses, too, have been inspired to look farther afield to new technologies.

Of the 430 UK businesses polled, the majority (55%) said they have started exploring how AI could improve their product or service, or the way they deliver it. This figure is in fact highest amongst small (61%) and medium-sized (66%) enterprises.

While Covid-19 has accelerated the need for AI and has made businesses more receptive to automation, it also raises the question: How can we dispel the misconceptions that continue to surround the technology? Indeed, there is still a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to how AI can be used strategically within business, which stands in the way of more widespread adoption of AI solutions.

Fountech.ai’s research reveals that half (50%) of businesses perceive AI technologies to be too expensive to bring any real value to their organization. This opinion is particularly common across SMEs, with only 35% of large organisations (those with over 250 employees) holding the same view. 

Meanwhile, a third (31%) of large organisations are confident that they have the skills needed to implement or take advantage of AI. This figure plummets to just 5% across small businesses: those who employ between 10-49 workers.

Dispelling the myths

There is clearly still a lot of work to be done before AI becomes mainstream within business. Concerns about cost, complexity and value are still rife, and as an industry we must work to demonstrate not only the advantages of utilising AI toolsets, but also their accessibility.

Implementing AI solutions that complement the enterprise that deploys them is no longer the headache it once was. The difference now is that any organization – large or small – can put AI to work with minimal effort; and without the need to onboard a dedicated team of experts to run it.

The pandemic has nonetheless provided a strong impetus for business leaders to explore new solutions; a trend that has been in motion for many years and will place companies in a better position to overcome any further disruptions. Indeed, Covid-19 may be the very thing that brings about the mass adoption of AI in the private sector.

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