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Lack of AI skills a myth - Gartner

Investment in artificial intelligence increased or remained unchanged despite the onset of COVID-19, a new survey from Gartner has revealed.

A Gartner poll of roughly 200 business and IT professionals in September,2020 revealed that 24% of respondents’ organisations increased their artificial intelligence investments and 42% kept them unchanged since the onset of COVID-19. Growth – namely customer experience and retention, and revenue growth – along with cost optimisation were the top focus areas for their current AI initiatives.

Over the course of the next six-nine months, 75% of respondents will continue or start new AI initiatives as they move into the Renew phase of their organisation’s post-pandemic reset, the survey says.
 
“Enterprise investment in AI has continued unabated despite the crisis,” says Frances Karamouzis, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. 

“However, the most significant struggle of moving AI initiatives into production is the inability for organisations to connect those investments back to business value.”

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said their organisations were exploring or piloting AI projects, while only 21% stated their AI initiatives were in production.

According to Gartner, the "lack of AI talent" is a myth. 

The minimal strides made across organisations in operationalising AI cannot necessarily be attributed to lack of AI talent. A Gartner survey of 607 IT leaders in November and December 2019 found that only 7% of respondents said that limited AI skills are a barrier to AI implementation. 

Instead, security and privacy concerns, along with the complexity of integrating AI within existing infrastructure, are at the top of the list.

“AI talent is not one thing, it’s multiple things,” explains Erick Brethenoux, research vice president at Gartner. 

“The biggest misconception in the journey to successfully scaling AI is the search for ‘unicorns,’ or the perfect combination of AI, business and IT skills all present in a single resource," he says.

"Since this is impossible to fulfill, focus instead on bringing together a balanced combination of such skills to ensure results.”

Gartner says organisations with the lowest AI maturity level are not experiencing a shortage of AI skills, with 56% reporting they either have enough talent or can easily hire or train AI talent. 

As organisations increase in AI maturity, so too does the level of reported AI talent, with 89% having no issues acquiring AI skills at the highest maturity level, it says.