Microsoft urges UK business to step up AI use

UK businesses must be more diligent in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence if they want to compete effectively on the global stage, according to a report from Microsoft.

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A survey by the tech giant has found that organisations already using AI widely in their operations are more productive, see higher profits and produce better business outcomes.But the report warns that there is a widening gap between companies using AI effectively and those still in the testing phase or simply not implementing it at all.The study was based on interviews with more than a thousand business leaders and some 4,000 employees. The retail sector was found to be among the weakest adopters of AI, while financial services among the strongest with 43 per cent currently employing AI, compared to 28 per cent a year ago.In retail, however, automation has only increased by two per cent over the year to 18 per cent.
Clare Barclay, chief operating officer for Microsoft UK, said were now more opportunities for firms to think about innovation to drive their business models, customer service and integration of warehouses to stores."A year ago we spoke about a lot of experimentation, where people were nervous about what the impact was going to be, and so our message last year was: 'Get going'. But I think it's now we have to get serious about the benefit that this kind of technology will bring."The report found that organisations were failing to reskill employees to make the most of technology, with only 11 per cent of employees and 19 per cent of business leaders having completed training to improve their understanding of AI.A total of 96 per cent of all UK employees said they had been consulted by their managers about the introduction of AI."If organisations don't talk about it, it becomes this kind of elephant in the room and as you start to think about piloting or playing around with it, it doesn't create innovation, it creates a culture of mistrust and fear if it's not managed correctly," Ms Barclay said.Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK, added: "The results are clear: UK businesses and public sector organisations that forgo or delay implementing AI solutions risk missing the boat on driving down costs, increasing their competitive advantage and empowering their workers."Given this moment, where both UK leadership and competitiveness on the global stage is more vital than ever, there is no doubt that fully embracing AI-led digital transformation is a critical success factor for UK businesses, government and society."

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