66% of organizations increased or did not change AI investments since the start of COVID-19: Gartner

24% of business and IT professionals? organizations increased their Artificial Intelligence (AI) investments and 42% kept them unchanged since the onset of COVID-19, according to Gartner?s recent poll of roughly 200 business and IT professionals. Growth ? namely customer experience and retention, and revenue growth ? along with cost optimization were the top focus areas for their current AI initiatives.

Over the course of the next six-nine months, 75% of respondents will continue or start new AI initiatives as they move into the Renew phase of their organization?s post-pandemic Reset.

?Enterprise investment in AI has continued unabated despite the crisis,? said Frances Karamouzis, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. ?However, the most significant struggle of moving AI initiatives into production is the inability for organizations to connect those investments back to business value.?

79% of respondents said their organizations were exploring or piloting AI projects, while only 21% stated their AI initiatives were in production.

Lack of AI Talent is a Myth

The minimal strides made across organizations in operationalizing AI cannot necessarily be attributed to lack of AI talent. A Gartner survey of 607 IT leaders in November and December 2019 found that only 7% of respondents said that limited AI skills are a barrier to AI implementation. Instead, security and privacy concerns, along with the complexity of integrating AI within existing infrastructure, are at the top of the list.

?AI talent is not one thing, it?s multiple things,? said Erick Brethenoux, research vice president at Gartner. ?The biggest misconception in the journey to successfully scaling AI is the search for ?unicorns,? or the perfect combination of AI, business and IT skills all present in a single resource. Since this is impossible to fulfill, focus instead on bringing together a balanced combination of such skills to ensure results.?

Organizations with the lowest AI maturity level are not experiencing a shortage of AI skills, with 56% reporting they either have enough talent or can easily hire or train AI talent. As organizations increase in AI maturity, so too does the level of reported AI talent, with 89% having no issues acquiring AI skills at the highest maturity level.

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