AI-readiness for C-suite leaders

Generative AI, like predictive AI before it, has rightly seized the attention of business executives. The technology has the potential to add trillions of dollars to annual global economic activity, and its adoption for business applications is expected to improve the top or bottom lines—or both—at many organizations.

While generative AI offers an impressive and powerful new set of capabilities, its business value is not a given. While some powerful foundational models are open to public use, these do not serve as a differentiator for those looking to get ahead of the competition and unlock AI’s full potential. To gain those advantages, organizations must look to enhance AI models with their own data to create unique business insights and opportunities.

Preparing an organization’s data for AI, however, unlocks a new set of challenges and opportunities. This MIT Technology Review Insights survey report investigates whether companies’ data foundations are ready to garner benefits from generative AI, as well as the challenges of building the necessary data infrastructure for this technology. In doing so, it draws on insights from a survey of 300 C-suite executives and senior technology leaders, as well on in-depth interviews with four leading experts.

Its key findings include the following:

Data integration is the leading priority for AI readiness. In our survey, 82% of C-suite and other senior executives agree that “scaling AI or generative AI use cases to create business value is a top priority for our organization.” The number-one challenge in achieving that AI readiness, survey respondents say, is data integration and pipelines (45%). Asked about challenging aspects of data integration, respondents named four: managing data volume, moving data from on-premises to the cloud, enabling real-time access, and managing changes to data.

Executives are laser-focused on data management challenges—and lasting solutions. Among survey respondents, 83% say that their “organization has identified numerous sources of data that we must bring together in order to enable our AI initiatives.” Though data-dependent technologies of recent decades drove data integration and aggregation programs, these were typically tailored to specific use cases. Now, however, companies are looking for something more scalable and use-case agnostic: 82% of respondents are prioritizing solutions “that will continue to work in the future, regardless of other changes to our data strategy and partners.”

Data governance and security is a top concern for regulated sectors. Data governance and security concerns are the second most common data readiness challenge (cited by 44% of respondents). Respondents from highly regulated sectors were two to three times more likely to cite data governance and security as a concern, and chief data officers (CDOs) say this is a challenge at twice the rate of their C-suite peers. And our experts agree: Data governance and security should be addressed from the beginning of any AI strategy to ensure data is used and accessed properly.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

Download the full report.

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