Going all-in on GenAI brings promise (and peril) - Ascendion

Going all-in on GenAI brings promise (and peril)

Get ready to bust AI out of the IT department

Ascendion December 11, 2023


HFS Research

The authors of this study have more than a century of combined experience researching and deploying enterprise technology (ouch, but in this case, it’s useful), including analyzing and assessing thousands of years of historical trends. We can learn a lot from the past, but the rapid rise of generative AI (GenAI) is poised to be a historical outlier.

We’ve never seen anything like this, and our study data give this another exclamation mark.


We are nearly all all-in

Almost 90% of the AI leaders we surveyed have seen enough evidence to say business leaders should go all-in on GenAI. This is remarkable for a technology still in the earliest days of broader adoption. Importantly, most see the impact as company-wide vs. being an “IT thing.” About two-thirds (64%) warn that focusing only on productivity gains is missing the point of GenAI, which could improve experiences, drive growth, and create new business models. Early adopters have learned that GenAI will impact the CIO’s office first and fastest, but a third have already identified that GenAI will help other business leaders just as much.

“If you are just starting, you probably aren’t seeing the big picture yet. You need to look beyond automating tasks and making processes better. You need to consider how the business will change. – Andy Fanning, Vice President and Global Leader for Gen AI, Intelligent Automation and Tech Innovation at EvernorthHealth Services

“GenAI allows us to leverage our existing data in completely new ways and create new solutions and new value propositions to solve problems that we could never imagine solving otherwise. – Sandeep Sacheti, EVP, Customer Information Management & Operational Excellence, Wolters Kluwer


AI arbitrage is being greeted with open arms

We asked, a little tongue-in-cheek, if early adopters wished “generative AI had never been invented.” What came back showed an overwhelming endorsement for the future. Only a scant 18% were pining for the pre-GenAI days, meaning 82% effectively shouted, “Bring it on!”


Leaders have all heard the starting gun

There is little doubt that the sudden impact of consumer-facing versions such as ChatGPT and Dall-E placed a lot of pressure on boardrooms to react. Eighty percent (80%) say that most companies are only trying GenAI to “appear to keep up with others.” Even if FOMO drives some of the passion around GenAI, it’s a strong force driving real investment and forward motion.


And yet … many see GenAI as smoke and mirrors

For all the positivity around GenAI, there are still those who have yet to see a real impact. More than 45% of those surveyed agreed that GenAI is mostly smoke and mirrors and will not deliver much impact. Much of this is likely rooted in concerns around governance, regulation, and deployment speed bumps.

Fausto Artico, Global Head of Data Science at GSK (models and tech stack), warned that enterprises face “scalability hurdles.” It is one thing to run some AI models in a sandbox and quite another to scale them across an enterprise of thousands of people. The devil is in the detail: compute power, architectural choices, and costs, he said.


Double down on being more human

Our GenAI early adopters see the rise of the bots as an opportunity for all of us to be more human and demonstrate the skills where humans have, and will have, an advantage over the bots. Most (87%) of those with experience in GenAI recognize its value in making power skills more important-communications, empathy, curiosity, and emotional intelligence. These are singularly human skills. Practitioners are finding that GenAI is not only about doing more work; it also supports humans in doing better work. It augments rather than replaces. It offers opportunities to reimagine how work gets done rather than simply doing things the old way-but faster.

“The more technology enhances us, the more it creates the opportunity for a human touch. When the computer does what it does well, it allows us to focus more on what we do well: being empathetic, building relationships, and making sense of complex situations… Analytical, communication, and learning skills, as well as the ability to relate to other people, have always been and will remain vital for business success. –Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Benjamin Pring, authors of ‘What to Do When Machines Do Everything’ ”


The Bottom Line: Early adopters say businesses should get very serious about GenAI, but they have learned where to be cautious, too.

With 82% of companies eager to adopt the emerging technology, the clear advice of our early adopters is that enterprise leaders should adopt at least a fast-follower strategy when it comes to GenAI-that means having the agility and budget prepared to move fast. GenAIis set to impact almost everything we do; however, concerns remain about governance, regulation, and enterprise deployment.

To capitalize on GenAI, businesses should look beyond productivity gains to improve experiences, enable growth, and create new business models. The key will be augmenting human skills like communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence rather than replacing workers. With the right strategy, generative AI can transform how work gets done rather than just doing old work faster. But business leaders must thoughtfully address risks around data, ethics, and job impacts alongside the technology’s breathtaking possibilities.


About this research

Your Generative Enterprise™ playbook for the future is a HFS Research and Ascendion research program based on more than 20 in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 100 C-suite leaders and practitioners with first-hand experience implementing GenAI in organizations.

Watch out for more, and join us on the journey at Ascendion and HFS Research to access all our research findings.

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