Blog: Developers are leading the charge on innovation with AI, say IBM

Artificial intelligence is rapidly coming of age, poised to transform businesses and industries globally. The market for AI is on an exponential growth curve and is expected to reach $16.06 billion by 2022.

With over half of all developer teams projected to embed AI services in their apps by 2018, it’s inevitable that consumers will soon be interacting with these new technologies on a regular basis.

While the growing popularity of AI is clear, who’s actually driving the adoption of these new technologies at organisations? While senior and line of business executives are instrumental in making investment decisions, the first step if for companies to recognise that adoption of intelligent technologies can be a key differentiator for their business.

Senior executives and line of business managers are not the only catalysts for change. They may not even be the most important players in this movement. In fact, our recent survey found that developers are leading the AI innovation charge at their organisations.

A recent IBM global study looked at more than 600 organisations with AI initiatives underway or already planned. Among these early adopters of cognitive technologies, half the respondents cited “executive mandates” as a major driver for their AI initiatives. But, experimentation with AI by developers or business users came in close, with 47% citing it as a major driver.

To better understand developers’ perspectives on AI and how they differ from their non-developer counterparts, we analyzed the study data by role. Here’s what we learned:

1. Developers play a prominent role in AI decision-making

60% of developers say they have a major leadership role or substantial involvement in the decision to purchase or recommend AI technologies at their organisations. In stark contrast, only 35% of non-developers reported the same.

2. Developers resoundingly value AI as a business differentiator

Three quarters of developers believe AI is very important to their organization’s strategy and success (vs. 61% of non-developers), and two-thirds regard it as essential to digital transformation (vs. 55% of non-developers).

Developers strongly believe that their organization is already achieving major competitive advantage from their AI initiatives (64% report this, vs. 43% of non-developers), and are also more optimistic about achieving a major competitive advantage through AI two years from now (73% of developers say this vs. 56% of non-developers).

3. Developers are at the front lines of AI implementation

Developers have greater visibility into what their organizations are doing with AI: 91% report their organization has adopted one or more AI capabilities, and only 9% say they’re still in the planning stage. In contrast, 30% of the non-developer respondents report their organisation is still in the planning stage.

Moreover, developers are in a stronger position to shepherd their organisations’ AI initiatives from planning to reality: Almost 8 in 10 developers report having substantial involvement in the implementation of AI technologies at their organisation, vs. just half of the non-developers.

4. Developers are pioneering at the AI frontier

For all the AI capabilities we surveyed (including natural language processing, machine learning, knowledge representation and reasoning, pattern recognition, automated scheduling and planning), developers report higher use than their non-developer counterparts.

But where developers’ influence really stands out is in areas of emerging AI opportunities: Developers are 83% more likely than non-developers to report they’re already making use of social and emotional (effective) computing, and twice as likely to report initiatives in intelligent robotics.

5. Developers are intensely customer-focused

For developers, the top motivator for adopting AI is external customer demand (62% cite this as a major driver), closely followed by developer and business user experimentation. For non-developers, the top AI driver is executive mandates.

This means that developers are more concentrating on what AI can do for their customers, not necessarily what executives are telling them to do.

Developers are the first to admit that they’re using AI to deliver value to those customers. The top two AI outcomes they report are personalised customer/user experiences and improved customer service. Six out of 10 developers report that they’re achieving these outcomes through their AI initiatives.

To truly drive innovation at your company, empower your developers

From everything we learned about AI developers, there’s one overriding takeaway:
If your organisation wants to be AI-savvy, keep an eye on and support your developers.

They’re at the front lines of experimentation with intelligent technologies, believe in the business value, and are able to deliver that value to your organisation.

Notably, 54% of developers cite lack of support and buy-in from executives as a top challenge to their AI efforts!

Clear the way for their (and your organisations) success. Give developers room to experiment, listen to their concerns, and nurture their AI efforts.

Susanne Hupfer, Ph.D., is a Principal Analyst for the IBM Cognitive Study. The original article featured on the official IBM website, which can be viewed here.


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