With generative AI making it possible to cut down on workloads across departments, CEOs are turning their attention to maximizing productivity in 2023, as many believe that the competitive advantage today will depend on who has the most advanced generative AI. Although there are still serious concerns about the young tech—including data bias, security, accuracy, and responsible use—new large-scale research from IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that nearly half of CEOs surveyed identify this potential for productivity as their highest business priority, up from sixth place in 2022.
The new global study, CEO Decision-Making in the Age of AI, Act with Intention, based on a survey with research partner Oxford Economics that included 3,000 CEOs worldwide, also affirms that leaders recognize technology modernization is key to achieving their productivity goals, ranking it as second highest priority. Yet, executives are also weighing potential risks or barriers of the technology—more than half (57 percent) of CEOs surveyed are concerned about data security, and nearly half (48 percent) worry about bias or data accuracy.
Non-CEO execs aren’t as sure about taking the AI plunge
Half (50 percent) of CEOs surveyed report they are already integrating generative AI into products and services, and 43 percent say they are using generative AI to inform strategic decisions. Yet, just 29 percent of their executive teams agree they have the in-house expertise to adopt generative AI—only 30 percent of non-CEO senior executives surveyed say that their organization is ready to adopt generative AI responsibly.
“Generative AI can reduce the barriers to AI adoption and half of CEOs interviewed are actively exploring it to drive a new wave of productivity, efficiency and quality of service across industries,” said Jesus Mantas, global managing partner at IBM Consulting, in a news release. “CEOs need to assess their company requirements around data privacy, intellectual property protection, security, algorithmic accountability and governance in order to plan their deployment of emerging use cases of generative AI at scale.”
Key findings include:
CEOs are increasingly looking toward operational, technology and data leaders as strategic decision makers
Additional data gathered during the survey indicates the following:
- When asked which C-Suite members will make the most crucial decisions over the next three years, CEO respondents identify COOs (62 percent) and CFOs (52 percent).
- The influence of technology leaders on decision making is growing—38 percent of surveyed CEOs point to CIOs (up from 19 percent a year ago), followed by Chief Technology or Chief Digital Officer (30 percent) as making the most crucial decisions in their organization.
CEOs indicate they are ready to adopt generative AI, but other executives have reservations
- Three out of four (75 percent) CEOs surveyed believe the organization with the most advanced generative AI will have competitive advantage.
- Half (50 percent) of CEOs report they are already integrating generative AI into products and services; 43 percent say they are using generative AI to inform strategic decisions, with 36 percent using the technology for operational decisions.
- While 69 percent of CEO respondents see broad benefits of generative AI across their organization, just 29 percent of their executive teams agree they have the in-house expertise to adopt generative AI.
- Only 30 percent of non-CEO senior executives surveyed say that their organization is ready to adopt generative AI responsibly.
Generative AI is fueling workforce changes, but broader assessments of its impact on the workforce are lagging
- About 43 percent of surveyed CEOs say they have reduced or redeployed their workforce due to generative AI, with an additional 28 percent indicating they plan to do so in the next 12 months.
- At the same time, 46 percent of CEOs surveyed have hired additional workers because of generative AI, with 26 percent saying they have plans for more hiring ahead.
- Yet, fewer than one in three CEOs (28 percent) surveyed have assessed the potential impact of generative AI on their workforces, and 36 percent say they plan to do so in the next 12 months.
Shifting CEO priorities:
The IBM Institute for Business Value, in cooperation with Oxford Economics, interviewed 3,000 CEOs from over 30 countries and 24 industries as part of the 28th edition of the IBM C-Suite Study series. These conversations focused on executives’ perspectives on leadership and business; their changing roles and responsibilities; and CEO decision making today, including key challenges and opportunities, their use of technology, data and metrics, and their visions for the future.