Deloitte: AI’s “Early Adopter” Phase Is On the Way Out

The last few days of December won’t only mark the end of the calendar year, it will also place a time stamp on the end of the “early adoption” period for artificial intelligence.

If a company’s c-suite hasn’t begun creating and deploying an AI strategy, chances are their competitors already have.

That’s the takeaway from Deloitte’s recent State of AI in the Enterprise survey, which predicted AI spending would rise to $98 billion at the end of 2023, or about 2.5 times AI spending for 2019.

“We are entering a new chapter in the adoption of the current generation of AI technologies: Capabilities are advancing, it is becoming easier to develop and implement AI applications, and companies are seeing tangible benefits from adoption, Deloitte states. “Governments have developed national strategies for AI and are making substantial investments in research and education. They are also crafting ways to better govern the use of AI technologies to protect and benefit society.”

“We have seen AI deployed across a wide spectrum of use cases to solve business problems,” the report adds. “From managing and automating IT infrastructure to gleaning new insights about customers, to identifying and responding to cyber threats, to helping guide medical decisions, to improving the hiring process, AI is increasingly being integrated into the fabric of the business.”

That’s not to say corporate financial executives aren’t attempting to get a good grip on AI and what the technology brings to the table.

According to Deloitte’s North American CFO Signals study, chief financial officers have had AI and machine learning technologies on their radar for several years now. According to the survey, AI has been “one of the top strategic shifts” for CFOs since 2020.

A “Rush” to AI

As the clock ticks to 2024, company executives may have to accelerate their AI initiatives even faster than they may have thought.

The rising problem now is labor, or more specifically, the lack of it.

A recent study by the tax and compliance service firm Avalara marks “an exodus” of skilled financial help, especially accountants.

Here’s where companies are being hit the hardest with finance-related staff shortages, according to the survey.

• 81% report a talent shortage in accounting roles
• 49% report a talent shortage in Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)
• 42% report a talent shortage in Accounts Receivable (AR)
• 39% report a talent shortage in Accounts Payable (AP)

The survey of 300 CFOs in the U.S. and the U.K. also shows “short-staffed” companies
have three options:

• Ask existing employees to work more hours.
• Cut back on services.
• Or invest in technology to improve the efficiency of the current workforce.

Forced to find relief from finance team shortages, “many chief financial officers facing staffing challenges now favor leaning into artificial intelligence,” Avalara notes.

That’s where AI can fill the breach according to CFOs. The Avalara survey reveals that as a result of skilled labor shortages, AI can step in and drive efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

“With fewer people available to complete essential tasks, CFOs are turning to AI,” Avalara reports. “Just over 92% of CFOs surveyed on both sides of the Atlantic agree that AI tools will help businesses find efficiencies and drive productivity and profitability.”

“This is true for polled CFOs of all ages, though particularly for those age 55-plus,” the survey noted.

With AI’s early adopter phase closing down and skilled financial services labor on the rise, CFOs may have to start leveraging AI ASAP to handle the accounting, cash management, and regulatory compliance reporting workload their dwindling staff cannot handle.

“Given how many of the surveyed CFOs agree that AI tools will help their businesses moving forward, it stands to reason that 89% of the polled CFOs plan to invest in AI right now,” Avalara says.

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