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Into uncertainty: what’s driving IT and business leader views on AI?

In his recent article “Do you know your AI from your elbow?” our Managing Director Neil Thorington listed some of the many uncertainties that technology clients have with regards to AI, based on the latest wave of our AI Barometer series:

“…People don’t know exactly how AI can help them. They don’t know what operational impact it will have. They don’t know how to roll it out. They don’t know how AI will impact their jobs or the jobs of their colleagues. They don’t know what their company’s competitors are up to (and they fear the worst). And they don’t know how the technology is likely to evolve, which solutions to invest in for the long term or which vendors to trust (you’re not helping, OpenAI).

From the findings, while most IT and business leaders we surveyed see AI positively (see the charts below), the uncertainties start to show when we compare their view of the impact of AI on their organisation vs. its impact on them personally.

With this in mind, we wanted to take a closer look into where all the uncertainty is coming from. Having asked what their feelings are on AI’s impact, we also followed up to uncover why that might be, with the aim to connect the dots and identify areas where AI vendors could be offering more support.

Here are five themes that emerged around IT and business leader AI certainty:

1. Uncertainty on how AI will impact their jobs or the jobs of their colleagues

Potential job losses are a worry for decision makers – particularly when it comes to process-focused roles or early career positions. They don’t know what the role of humans will be in 10 years’ time or if a human will be required at all. Acknowledging these concerns will be key – with the need to offer retraining or upskilling programs to those who jobs will inevitably be impacted or replaced by AI.

2. Uncertainty on how AI technology is likely to evolve, where to invest and with who

We’ve all seen the media coverage and Terminator 2: Judgement Day – both of which are bound to leave us feeling a bit uneasy with passing control over to AI, or even perhaps working alongside it. The security of personal and business sensitive information is quite rightly a worry for decision makers.

AI has been identified as an enabler for cybercriminals in the World Economic Forum’s report  Cybersecurity and AI: The challenges and opportunities. What’s to say it won’t do more harm than good? Can we take our organizations and vendors’ word for it? We don’t know how the regulatory environment will evolve in the future. Addressing security, ethical and regulatory issues is essential to gain trust.

3. Uncertainty on how and where AI can be implemented

There’s been discourse around whether AI implementation should be tactical or strategic in nature. It has arguably been easier to start the AI journey by seeking out individual use cases.

However, the real question needs to be if they can stitch together into something coherent and altogether better than what came before? We must then ask ourselves how will AI do that for organizations and employees alike? Is it going to help cut costs, free up time, or add value to service offerings? These outcomes are all good for businesses (and profit), but not necessarily for employees. Unless there is a clear role that employees will play to enhance their contributions.

4. Uncertainty on what their competitors are up to

The lack of a clear vision over how to roll out AI makes it all the scarier to think “what if our competitor has a breakthrough rendering us redundant?” Employees are not the only ones facing substantial pressures to continue riding the AI bandwagon. Fear of missing out makes it high stakes for organisations too.

However, it is difficult to get a clear message from vendors about what is working well and what isn’t. Many customers don’t yet see AI as being truly transformative for them and their organisation or are unclear what the future of AI looks like. Some can’t see how AI relates to their specific sector.

5. Uncertainty on separating fact from fiction

Many are simply struggling to see beyond the marketing jargon and buzz words to understand where AI is truly at – perhaps being clearer in AI marketing, offering a more balanced view, can help gain the trust of both organisations and their employees. However, it also needs to be able to enhance and complement the human element of the role. Rather than positioning itself as a miracle replacement.

A key task for AI vendors: understanding the customer

While the focus from AI vendors – which nowadays seems to be all tech vendors – is understandable, a bigger part of their approach must be to work harder to understand the perspective of their customers and to tailor their communications and service offerings to include a degree of reassurance.


Identifying user needs for AI can be tricky – this is where we at Vanson Bourne can help. We have vast experience in using quantitative and qualitative research to help identify customer needs, frustrations and knowledge gaps. Whatever your need or situation, we are here to help. Get in touch today.