Data and AI

AI Leads Corporate Data Priorities, but Worries Outweigh Progress

By Marianna Kantor

Executives in the boardroom embrace AI, big data

The Esri Brief

Trending insights from WhereNext and other leading publications

Big data persists as a top-of-mind concern for business leaders, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise. Most companies now lump traditional data analytics, big data, and AI together in their strategies, since all help businesses make sense of the data explosion they’re experiencing.

These findings come from New Vantage Partners’ recently released annual survey of how large corporations view data. The Harvard Business Review (limited access) summarized the report with some encouraging and worrying findings.

On the positive side, 73 percent of respondents reported having achieved measurable value from initiatives involving data analytics, big data, and AI. On the negative side, nearly 80 percent of the executives who responded said they fear disruption or displacement.

In short, they fear their companies won’t move fast enough to compete with upstarts steeped in a data-driven culture. A full 99 percent of the executives surveyed say they are shifting to become data-driven, but only one-third have achieved the objective.

Executive Roles for AI, Big Data

New data-oriented management roles are helping to accelerate the shift, including chief information officer, chief data officer, chief digital officer, chief analytics officer, and more.  Unfortunately, the survey found that the roles still lack clarity, particularly as they relate to one another.

Survey responses came predominantly from chief data officers (CDOs), who accounted for 56 percent of the surveys completed. This illustrates the CDO’s growing role—32 percent of last year’s respondents held the title, while only 12 percent did in 2012). Amen Ra Mashariki, former chief analytics officer (CAO) of the City of New York and urban analytics lead at Esri, helped define the distinction between the CDO and CAO in a recent WhereNext article. He says CDOs collect and organize data to ensure accuracy, currency, and accessibility, while the CAO analyzes the data to pinpoint solutions and make better, faster business decisions.

The New Vantage Partners study singles out AI as the most disruptive force (72 percent chose it as the most disruptive, while 13 percent picked cloud computing and 7 percent chose blockchain). Most executives are looking to AI to extend analytical capabilities and make better decisions around customer service and expense reduction. Just 27 percent are pursuing innovation and disruptions of their own at this stage, and those that are are focused on speed to market or data monetization.

Experts advise executives to proactively develop a strategy for applying AI within their company, rather than waiting to see which AI applications bubble up from the lines of business. This recent WhereNext article examines a strategy an executive might use to improve customer service through AI. The strategy combines big data analysis, location intelligence, and AI to provide faster service and customer care by empowering field employees to make more-informed decisions.

For business executives, big data and AI loom large in importance, as the survey results clearly illustrate. As organizations explore different techniques to make sense of disparate data, many are finding location intelligence a valuable part of the equation. Every business activity happens somewhere, and the combination of location analytics, big data, and AI is helping unlock patterns and eliminate fear as businesses seek to strengthen their decision-making.


Dive deeper into digital transformation and business decisions at the edge in this podcast interview.

Photo courtesy of Dane Deaner.

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