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AI set to drive 25% efficiency boost in 80% of Aussie SMEs in next two years

A recent report, titled “Laying the foundation for data- and AI-led growth,” conducted by MIT Technology Review Insights in collaboration with Databricks, sheds light on the promising future of AI technology in the Australian business landscape.

The study, which included in-depth interviews with C-Level technology leaders from both public and private sector organizations in Australia and various global markets, featured renowned companies such as ADP, Condé Nast, Dell Technologies, General Motors, and Starbucks among its participants.

According to the findings, a remarkable four out of five Australian businesses (80%) are confident that they will witness a substantial 25% increase in efficiency within the next two years, all thanks to the adoption of AI technology. This widespread optimism underscores the growing recognition among Australian enterprises of AI’s potential to reduce operational costs, accelerate productivity, drive innovation, and enhance overall business agility.

Adam Beavis, Vice President and Country Manager ANZ at Databricks, emphasized the importance of balancing AI adoption with data privacy and governance concerns. He urged organizations to establish sustainable systems that democratize access to AI and data capabilities across their structures to fully unlock the potential hidden within their unique datasets.

The report also unveiled a two-speed adoption of AI tools within the Australian enterprise landscape. While some entities, particularly large banks, are rapidly embracing AI to gain a competitive edge, 42% of organizations are progressing at a moderate to slow pace, potentially putting their competitiveness at risk, both locally and on the global stage.

Key findings specific to Australia included:

Rapid Adoption in Key Industries: Australia boasts a higher percentage of technology executives (30%) who believe their industries are rapidly adopting AI compared to other markets. Nevertheless, the report revealed that a significant 42% perceive a moderate to slow pace of AI adoption across various sectors.

Focus on Cost Reduction: 70% of Australian respondents prioritize cost-cutting as the top objective for AI implementation, diverging from their counterparts in the US, UK, and Singapore, who primarily aim to generate new revenue through AI projects. Furthermore, 42% of Australian respondents underscored the significance of investing in talent and workforce development to achieve their data-related objectives.

Lakehouse Architecture Prevalence: Australian enterprises display the second-highest adoption rate (78%) of the lakehouse architecture, surpassed only by Japan (80%). Respondents emphasized the importance of this architecture in supporting real-time analytics, seamless integration of emerging technologies, and live data sharing across platforms.

Governance Amidst AI Democratization: As generative AI gains traction, executives seek governance frameworks that ensure data accuracy, integrity, privacy, and security. Globally, 60% of respondents advocate for a unified governance model for data and AI, a sentiment echoed by 54% of Australian participants.

Flexible Approaches to Generative AI: A whopping 98% of Australian enterprises are either using or experimenting with generative AI. The majority (52%) employ a hybrid approach, leveraging vendors’ large language models for certain use cases while developing their proprietary models when stricter requirements concerning IP ownership, privacy, security, and accuracy are at play.

Talent and Skills Gap: Addressing talent and skills gaps takes precedence among Australian organizations’ data and AI challenges, with 42% of respondents emphasizing the need to invest in talent and upskill their workforce. Moreover, 80% view innovation as crucial for attracting and retaining talent.

“With data and AI at the forefront of innovation, our report underscores the commitment of C-suite executives to steer toward a transformative future,” says Laurel Ruma, global director of custom content for MIT Technology Review. “Strategic investments, consolidation efforts, and dedication to governance and democratisation of AI are not merely choices; they are imperatives for success.”

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