A new report released by Microsoft last week at their headline UK event, Future Decoded, has revealed that companies in the UK risk falling behind foreign rivals unless they use more artificial intelligence.

Currently, organisations that use AI are outperforming those that are not by 11.5%. Despite the advantages available, the report found that business leaders in the UK have big doubts about the country’s ability to be an AI leader.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed for the report believe the UK does not have the right structures in place to be a leader in AI despite its historical position as a global leader in the creation of technology. This lack of structure could lead to other nations, in particular the US and China, becoming global leaders in the field of AI and benefiting from the business advantage that comes hand in hand with it.

A critical success factor

Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK said “UK businesses and public sector organisations that forego or delay implementing AI solutions risk missing the boat on driving down costs, increasing their competitive advantage and empowering their workers. Given this moment, where both UK leadership and competitiveness on the global stage is more vital than ever, there is no doubt that fully embracing AI-led digital transformation is a critical success factor for UK businesses, government and society.”

While it may seem that the UK is at risk of falling behind, the new report found that more than half (56%) of UK organisations now use AI to some extent, with the country seeing an 11% rise in machine learning, 9% rise in automation, 7% rise in voice recognition and 6% rise in smart assistants in the last year.

Embedding AI

For me the key take away of the report, however, is that it is now no longer enough for organisations to just experiment with AI. All organisations need to be embedding AI in every aspect of their operations and in a way that enables everyone to take part. Scaling AI throughout an organisation is not a technology choice, it is a structure and mindset shift. UK organisations will not embrace AI and digital transformation if it is just treated as a standalone project.

The country has a long way to go in terms of moving beyond projects and experimentation. 96% of employees surveyed as part of Microsoft’s report stated they had never been consulted by their boss about the introduction of AI and only 11% of staff had completed training to improve their understanding of how to use AI based technologies in their role. Organisations have a responsibility to take their staff with them on their AI journey, helping them to learn and develop their skills in the face of digital changes.

Varying sector adoption

The rate of AI adoption also varies depending on sector, with financial services leading the way. Nearly three-quarters of the UK’s finance leaders say their organisation is using AI which is considerably higher than the national average of 56%. The benefits available to all sectors are huge. For example, by 2040, retail profitability is expected to increase by 60% thanks to AI.

I believe the findings of Microsoft’s report are clear – the organisations embracing and embedding AI are powering ahead. The time is now to get serious with AI. Organisations with AI expertise in-house have a good head-start in terms of adopting these technologies compared to those without – however this does not mean it is off-limit to those without.

With a digital transformation partner, the possibilities of AI are not limited to those with full-time AI experts in-house. Through the likes of Incremental’s Data as a Service, AI is accessible to all types of organisations regardless of where you are on your digital transformation journey or what skills you have in-house.

To find out more about how Incremental could help you adopt and embed AI throughout your operations please get in touch today or to read more about AI, download our whitepaper – ‘AI Maturity and organisations – Understanding AI maturity’.