AI reality check: 6 statistics on IT hopes and fears

What do IT professionals really think about artificial intelligence (AI)? For IT leaders, these data points shed light on priorities, opportunities, and career anxieties
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Crossing the gap to big data

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to reshape the way we work - but what that will ultimately look like remains an open question. Such questions are top of mind not only for those of us in IT, where intelligent automation is already taking hold, but also for the larger organizations.

Robert Half recently explored both the fears and benefits swirling around our increasingly AI-fueled workplaces with its Future of Work: Jobs and AI Anxiety report. “[AI is] dramatically transforming the skills and experience needed by employers today. What we’re seeing now as far as the effect of AI on the workplace is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Jim Johnson, senior vice president of Robert Half Technology. “AI is paving the way for tremendous opportunities, both for companies and employees. However, change is disruptive, and some workers are wondering where they’ll stand in the workplace of the future.”

[ What’s next? Read also: 10 AI trends to watch in 2020 and How big data and AI work together. ]

Understanding the impact and potential disruption that these systems will cause is critical for effective IT leadership.

"IT leaders need to understand how intelligent systems will transform their workplace, and what skills their team members will need."

“IT leaders need to understand how intelligent systems will transform their workplace, and what skills their team members will need to successfully implement and manage these new systems,” Johnson says. “Companies that recruit curious and motivated professionals with the drive to learn and understand new technologies, as well as their potential effects on the workplace, can gain a competitive advantage.”

Six AI statistics

Robert Half’s survey of 1,200 U.S. managers offers some stats to consider as IT leaders determine how to best educate their teams and constituents and prepare for a more AI-driven workplace.

One in 10: That’s the number of IT managers who don’t expect to use AI within the next five years. That should be surprising: “Ready or not, disruption and transformation are underway in the workplace already,” Johnson says. “Rather than sit by and wait for change to happen, managers should be making an effort to understand the ways technology will transform their business.”

[ Read also: How big data and AI work together. ]

53 percent: More than half of IT managers think that technological advancements in AI and robotics will require new skills in their professions. Smart IT leaders will get out ahead of talent issues. “Training employees takes a lot of time and resources, but it’s crucial to retaining employees and staying competitive,” says Johnson. “Very few professionals currently possess the skills needed to work with AI and other emerging technologies, so employers should be prepared to train and upskill existing staff on new systems.”

39 percent of IT leaders say they are currently using AI or machine learning in their organizations.

Four out of 10: Nearly that number (39 percent) of IT leaders say they are currently using AI or machine learning in their organizations. Another one-third (33 percent) indicate they expect to use AI within the next three years, and 19 percent expect to use it within five years.

Half of IT managers see new opportunities for themselves and their staff.

50 percent: According to the data, half of IT managers believe that these same technology developments will create new opportunities for themselves and their staff. That’s significantly higher than the 39 percent of the overall respondent base that thought so, and the highest across all functions surveyed. Just a quarter of accounting and finance leaders said AI would have such an upside for their teams.

“While emerging technologies will undoubtedly transform jobs across professions, freeing workers from routine tasks and creating a greater focus on strategic work, tech pros are playing an integral part in the development, integration, and oversight of new tools,” Johnson explains. “That may be why they’re likeliest to be met with new opportunities, as the data suggests.”

47 percent: That’s the portion of IT managers who say that the use of AI and robotics will allow their teams to focus on more strategic areas of work. Forty-four percent say these technological advancements will replace employee’s routing responsibilities and enhance their productivity.

In addition, 42 percent believe that AI and robotics will lead to a change in processes. Just 20 percent say AI and robotics will create distractions for workers.

45 percent say AI improves customer experience.

Productivity, security, and customer experience: These are the top three areas where respondents say AI is most helpful to the workplace. Forty-six percent said AI eliminates repetitive or mundane tasks, thereby improving productivity; 45 percent say it improves customer experience and customer service; and 46 percent say it provides the most value for the detection of security issues and breaches.

One takeaway: Prioritize development opportunities

In the end, AI will help tech professionals in their jobs by making processes more effective and accurate, freeing them up to focus on strategic work and projects that benefit from uniquely human capabilities, says Johnson. But that will require some new thinking and behaviors.

“As day-to-day workloads are changing because of this emerging technology, IT pros need to evolve their skill sets,” Johnson says. “Managers can play a key role in getting staff up to speed by providing opportunities for training and professional development.”

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.