2019 C-Suite Survey Illuminates AI Outlook

The Global Business Policy Council (GBPC) in August published the sixth-annual Views from the C-Suite survey, which polled nearly 450 C-level executives and board members from organizations across the globe. The survey reveals that top executives are both excited and concerned about the emergence of artificial intelligence and its impact on business operations.

The GBPC survey makes clear that executives are confronting a host of challenges, including increased regulation, uncertain trends in globalization and trade, and shifting consumer focus toward sustainable and locally sourced goods and services. There are also concerns around revenue and capitalization as the market peaks and growth slows.

Technology, however, emerges as an area of sustained optimism in the survey. Successful adoption of new technologies was identified as the top operational opportunity for companies for the third straight year. Nearly half of respondents identified technology adoption as the top ranked opportunity, putting it far ahead of the next highest-ranked responses (improving strategy execution and improving business model efficiency).

More specifically, the survey reveals that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have gained the full attention of the C-suite.

"Executives are broadly aligned across all regions and sectors in their views that AI/ML will shape their success or failure in the year ahead," the report states. "A striking 50 percent of executives who see technology adoption as a leading opportunity selected AI/ML as their top opportunity, up from just 27 percent last year."

Not that executives are ignorant of the trials that lie ahead. In the survey, 43 percent of respondents flagged AI/ML as a top technological adoption challenge.

Regardless, the survey authors urge executives to develop realistic expectations for AI. While the technology promises to create significant business opportunities, the authors state that AI's "game-changing potential may not be fully realized for years to come."

"Executives should work with their technology teams to set reasonable expectations for the benefits that AI can bring to their company in the next year -- and where investments may pay off in the longer term," the authors write.

Security Risks

Another technology concept loomed large in the 2019 survey -- the escalating threat posed by cybersecurity failures. In fact, cybersecurity risks were polled as the leading operational challenge facing enterprises for the fourth straight year. The share of respondents citing cybersecurity as a top concern has climbed from 40 percent in 2016 to 49 percent in 2019.

Last year's survey found that 85 percent of executives reported that their companies had been the victim of a cyber attack in recent years. The ubiquity of the threat demands that organizations implement a robust cyber-defense strategy, yet too few to date have done so.

"For the second consecutive year, the lack of a fully implemented cyber-defense strategy remains a conspicuous blind spot among executives," the report authors state. "Only 33 percent who see cybersecurity as a leading challenge have fully developed and implemented such a plan."

Read the entire report here.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.