Everyone may be talking about artificial intelligence (AI) but its adoption is being held back, not because of lack of technology but, in part, because of a shortage of data science skills.
This is according to a survey of 100 European organisations by analytics firm, SAS, which asked business leaders how they felt about AI’s potential, current and future AI Plans, and the challenges they face.
The survey, called The Enterprise AI Promise: Path to Value, found that while the vast majority of organisations are already talking about AI, far fewer are ready to exploit its potential. As well as the talent gap, there are deeper organisational and societal challenges to overcome – 56% see the effect of AI’s automation and autonomy as a barrier to adoption, while 39% cited ethical issues as the second biggest challenge. Platform readiness is another issue as firms start to move towards the advanced analytics required for AI.
So where does this leave the jobseeker who is looking to adapt to the forthcoming AI revolution?
Timeframe reality check
Enterprise’s readiness for AI is in its early days. While business leaders recognise AI’s potential, good own-industry use cases are rare and headlines are focused on digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri. Certainly in one of Firehead’s main recruitment areas – techcomm – chatbots for user assistance are a hot topic, as is how to structure content for their implementation.
But while optimism around AI was found to be high, two-thirds of the survey respondents felt that AI’s wide-ranging effects would happen within the next five to 10 years; others thought AI uptake would be decades away.
This is certainly a reality check for the medium-term when it comes to jobs. However, we think it is not too early to start preparing and adapting. Those who are suitably skilled or prepared to step up should start reading, planning and positioning now.
Talent reality check
A skills shortage in areas such as data science was the third most important challenge identified in the study. Some respondents said that their organisation would probably hire in consultants rather than try to develop in-house expertise, perhaps recognising that shortages of data science skills might make the latter impossible.
The preferred option for the organisations surveyed, though, was a central data science team, although business units were also involved in many companies. Only 12% felt their data science teams were ready, however, while 18% had no data-sciences teams at all.
Recruiting data scientists to build organisational skills was the plan for 20% of respondents, while 26% said they would build AI skills in their existing analyst teams through training, conferences and workshops.
Those who had not yet started, but felt that exploiting AI was essential, suggested that they were most likely to opt for cloud-based solutions and/or consultancy support.
Expect to see the rise of the Chief Data Officer job title at C-suite levels, as the need for senior-level sponsorship of AI grows.
Another area for development was the issue of business knowledge. Respondents commented that data scientists needed to improve their knowledge of the business to contribute fully to AI deployments, and that there was perhaps a new or future role for data scientists in bridging analytics/IT and business.
Recruitment reality check
CJ Walker at Firehead has been actively researching how data scientists and linguists can transition into job roles in artificial intelligence. Recently she gave a webinar on ‘Trends in Information in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’ to the students in the TCLoc (Technical Communication and Localisation) Masters programme at the University of Strasbourg, looking at AI’s impact on digital communications and what this means in job terms.
She says: “AI is going to change how we work; that’s clear to everyone. This survey shows that we are in the early days of AI adoption but that there will be potential job opportunities in AI for those in the digital communication field. The future of information – for example, Information 4.0 as it adapts to Industry 4.0 – and how it will interact with AI is still being defined, but those technical communicators, marketers, content strategists and digital information specialists who plan now and start to adapt to the new skills required will be well placed to take advantage.
“What will those skills be? Data science is an obvious one, as well as linguistics – and we’re actively looking for data scientists and linguists here at Firehead, particularly those with some programming skills, so please do get in touch if you’re working in these areas.
“At a wider level, we’ve started looking at how professionals currently working in digital communications might start to prepare for the world of AI in Will robots replace human jobs (and how do you deal with that)? A new report from Nesta and Oxford University on The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 also shows that the higher-order cognitive skills, such as creativity, adaptability and judgment, as well as interpersonal and systems skills, will be key.
“It may be too early to talk AI job trends but the disruptive structural changes will create pockets of opportunity in different sectors. Being prepared to respond to them will be the best way to transition and improve future employment odds. The first step for many will be understanding this and taking appropriate action.”
For the latest discussion and links, also check out the #futureofwork topic on Twitter.
AI Survey infographic
You can download the full SAS artificial intelligence survey here or view the infographic below for the key highlights (click to view larger, appears in a new tab).