62 percent of CEOs say AI will boost employment

62 percent of CEOs say AI will boost employment

A survey of 1,300 CEOs from large companies around the world has uncovered the opportunities and challenges that digital transformation presents.

The Global CEO Outlook 2018, from tax and advisory specialists KPMG, reveals that 95 percent of business leaders see disruptive technologies as an opportunity, rather than a threat – a 30 percent increase on last year.

This is despite the fact that one-third say they are struggling to keep pace with the rate of technology change in their sectors.

Nonetheless, cybersecurity risks and the challenge of connecting with customers in a multichannel world present hurdles, as does the geopolitical uncertainty created by frictions between the world’s major powers. Alongside Brexit in the UK, this threatens a “return to territorialism”, says KPMG, which it believes is the greatest threat to growth.

The report also reveals how CEOs are reconfiguring their companies to facilitate an environment in which smart machines and people can work together. Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, shared his views on where the impact will be greatest:

Humans will continue to do jobs in high-touch segments such as the arts, social enterprises, and entertainment, selling and marketing, where humans pull on people’s heartstrings. But I believe that almost all blue-collar workers will be replaced by ‘metal-collar’ workers

Despite these sentiments, 62 percent of the CEOs interviewed felt that AI will create more jobs than it destroys.

KPMG AI and jobs
Credit: KPMG 2018 Global CEO Outlook

Leading digital transformation

In response to the report’s findings, KPMG UK chairman Bill Michael highlighted the UK’s hands-on approach to digital transformation:

The most successful are doing this by leading from the centre. They are placing themselves at the heart of their organisations – staying in touch with every part of the business and injecting agility, resourcefulness, and realism where and when it is needed.

For many, this means forming third-party partnerships to give themselves an edge. However, for that to be successful, it’s vital that there is a shared cultural ethos.

Two thirds of CEOs claim to be leading from the front. However, around half of those surveyed in the UK lack confidence that their leadership teams are equipped to bring about necessary innovation.

Half of CEOs believe they will be targeted by cyberattacks and that a strong cyber strategy is vital to building trust among stakeholders.

Internet of Business says

The focus of many boardrooms on short-term results means that CEOs often struggle to argue for the long-term investment and rollouts that digital transformation requires. And while many companies are applying AI and robotics to traditional processes, it’s often the newcomers that create the greatest disruption, as they are not hampered by IT or cultural legacies.

This is why many large organisations are increasingly bringing front-of-house product development and back-office IT under the same umbrella, with a focus on a DevOps approach to digital business.

For industry start-ups and stalwarts alike, however, a new challenge is to navigate the regulations, politics, and market rules that surround data – not least GDPR, and the escalating cybersecurity challenges that the connected world presents.

But regardless of whether leaders believe that AI and automation will create more jobs than they make redundant, new technologies are redefining workforces.

However, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son missed a key challenge when he claimed that automation will push human beings into marketing-style roles. Marketing is itself increasingly automated and AI-enabled, and the rise of digital-assistant enabled commerce means that traditional concepts of marketing risk becoming irrelevant. Grabbing the attention of Alexa-enabled machines means playing the algorithm game, not creating eye-catching adverts and social media campaigns.