Gen AI Becoming “Ubiquitous” Inside Companies

Like typewriters and spreadsheets before it, generative AI is a company staple in 2024.

It’s not exactly a shock that companies are turning to generative AI to improve performance, productivity, and efficiency. What is an eye-opener is how many companies have Gen AI programs up and running on the job.

As usual, the data tells the story.

According to a new report from the global consultancy giant Bain, nine out of 10 companies have either rolled out or are testing Gen AI technology. The growth of the technology is “nearly unprecedented,” Bain stated.

Not only is Gen AI a workhorse standard in U.S. companies, but it’s also a front-of-the-line budget item. “More than 60% of businesses surveyed put it among their top three priorities for this year and next, with 87% ranking it among their top five priorities for the next three to four years,” Bain reported. The average Gen AI budgeting rate from companies surveyed stands at $5 million, with 20% of the nation’s largest firms spending up to $50 million.

Additionally, companies are applying serious manpower to managing Gen AI. Bain stated that between 100 and 240 staffers are working on AI initiatives in 2024.

Bain also noted that executive angst over risk, data security and privacy, and uncertainty around regulation have also declined, although most companies “still see room to improve their generative AI preparedness” across the areas of data readiness, data security and talent, the report stated.

“The scale and pace of generative AI adoption across the business landscape is remarkable. It speaks to this technology having a truly far-reaching and transformative impact for companies across sectors as it continues to develop – and as deployments continue to accelerate,” said Gene Rapaport, Bain & Company partner and leader of AI initiatives. “It’s equally impressive that, with most major businesses already putting money and muscle behind generative AI implementations, the majority are seeing a path towards realizing real business value.”

Equally clear is that CEOs and executive committees need to take clear ownership of activating AI in their organizations and ensuring a clear, well-defined vision for its use. “The businesses that do will emerge quickly as those that lead with AI and secure the best results and the greatest competitive advantage,” Rapaport added.

Noting that Gen AI is growing at a “breakneck pace,” Bain partner Sanjin Bican said that company deployments aren’t fully formed, which should leave room for more Gen AI investment. “Many software companies are adding AI features to their products at a breakneck pace, but our research shows those solutions are not yet fully featured enough to create value for the enterprise,” he noted. “This gap in perceived value combined with the availability of frontier models as APIs are the two main reasons we’re seeing so many companies choosing to build to capture value quickly. As solutions improve, we expect to see more buying, but the landscape is shifting rapidly, and it’s not yet clear where building might be a correct long-term solution.”

Key Factors Going Forward

As companies weigh the impact of their Gen AI rollouts, they’re concerned about multiple issues that could trip them up. These four themes are the biggest concerns, executives tell Bain.

• Are we delivering value yet? Across industries, conversations about generative AI are more earnest, moving from excitement and hype to more realistic assessments.
• Five promise areas: As companies experiment with generative AI, they report that some use cases show the best signs of success, including sales, software development, marketing, knowledge worker assistants, and customer service.
• Tech companies are finding out first: Compared to Bain’s 2023 Q4 survey, companies in the tech industry were more likely to say their data and security protocols were ready for generative AI and being further ahead in adoption. “This contrasts to companies across other (non-tech) industries, which reported about the same readiness levels in both surveys, indicating they have not yet hit this bottleneck,” Bain reported.
• Buy or build? Both approaches are being tested across use cases. “Companies are buying third-party solutions when available but are investing in tailoring them for their needs,” the report added.

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