The State of AI: Remaining Competitive in a Fast-Paced World

With insights from Sreekar Krishna, Head of AI at KPMG, we explore the importance of AI upskilling and how businesses can best benefit from the technology

AI continues to make its mark in the global business landscape, with a wide range of companies across various industries keen to invest.

However, despite such progress, it is important for businesses to consider the risks that over-investing in AI, or not having safety strategies in place, could do to a workforce. According to a 2024 study by Deloitte, nearly one-third (28%) of respondents state that they worry about the technology threatening their jobs.

Technology Magazine examines, alongside KPMG insights, how organisations can benefit from upskilling existing staff to better understand and deploy AI - allowing the technology to coexist with human workforces.

AI continues to gain speed in the business world

Technology Magazine speaks with Sreekar Krishna, Principal/Partner and Head of AI at KPMG, about the current enterprise appetite for AI. He highlights that there is a growing focus on ethical AI, as organisations prioritise transparency, fairness and accountability in AI systems.

“Advancements in natural language processing (NLP) have led to the rise of virtual assistants and chatbots that can better understand and respond to human queries,” Krishna says. “Machine learning automation tools and edge computing are also gaining popularity, streamlining the process of deploying machine learning models and enabling faster response times.”

As a result of this evolution, AI is making significant progress in almost every industry, including healthcare, finance and cybersecurity. Large technology corporations are currently leading the charge, much like Google investing heavily in improving global security outlooks by utilising the power of AI as an ally to combat threats. However, greater AI investments could see positive results trickle down to smaller businesses too.

“While 2023 was the year of small pilots and experimentation, productionalisation of the AI initiatives have been a challenge for the majority of the industry,” comments Krishna. “We foresee the guard railing of AI apps and capabilities will be top of mind for the majority of our clients in the coming years.”

AI upskilling necessary to “future-proof” organisations

There is no doubt that continued job cuts across the technology sector is causing further AI-related anxieties for employees worldwide. We at Technology Magazine have previously reported that 2023 was one of the worst years on record for layoffs, with estimates suggesting that organisations eliminated more than 200,000 job roles.

It has been suggested that this occurred because, after the massive digital boom and mass hiring initiatives in 2020/2021, investments into new technologies plateaued. However, investments could be rising once again, with a Capgemini report finding that 83% of business leaders plan to increase investments in digital tools and technologies such as AI.

“If anything we are noticing that institutions are hiring more business individuals who have exposure to Gen AI tools,” Krishna comments. “An investment in upskilling demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to professional development as it arms employees with the necessary tools and training and gives them a competitive edge over those who choose not to embrace AI to augment their work.”

As AI is increasingly used as a driver of innovation, business leaders will increasingly realise its full power and seek to drive further use cases. With this in mind, upskilling can lead to staff within organisations using AI in ways they haven’t previously and ultimately drive further innovation. 

Krishna continues: “By equipping their staff with AI skills, businesses can future-proof their workforce and navigate the evolving technological landscape with confidence.”

Offering advice for businesses seeking to invest in AI, he says: “It is crucial to clearly define the problem or opportunity that AI can address within your organisation to help drive its AI investment strategy and ensure alignment with business objectives. Having an empowered leader to do so is a must since they can provide the proper guidance and direction, ensuring that investments in AI tools, experimentation, and other resources are not duplicated or wasted.”

He adds: “AI relies heavily on data, so ensuring you have reliable, relevant, and well-organised data is essential for successful AI implementation. It is also vital to establish a robust governance framework to address ethical considerations, data privacy, and regulatory compliance. 

“By following these guidelines, businesses can make informed AI investments that drive value and deliver sustainable competitive advantage.”

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