Global artificial intelligence (AI) adoption grew steadily over the last year. More than a third (35%) of companies surveyed in 2022 are using AI in their business, according to new research by IBM. 

In fact, more than one-third of organizations polled in the IBM Global AI Adoption Index 2022 say they are using AI today to address skills and labor shortages and respond to competitive and environmental pressures. 

AI is poised to play a significant role in sustainability initiatives: 66% of IT professionals surveyed said that their company is either currently applying AI or plans to apply AI to accelerate ESG initiatives.

Six key findings from the Global AI Adoption Index 2022 include:

1. Global AI adoption is growing steadily, and most companies already use or plan to use AI: 

  • Compared with 2021, organizations are 13% more likely to have adopted AI in 2022. Additionally, 42% of companies report they are exploring AI. 
  • Large companies are more likely than smaller companies to use AI. Chinese and Indian companies are leading the way, with nearly 60% of IT professionals in those countries saying their organization already actively uses AI, compared with lagging markets like South Korea (22%), Australia (24%), the U.S. (25%), and the U.K. (26%). 
  • IT professionals in the financial services, media, energy, automotive, oil, and aerospace industries are most likely to report that their company has actively deployed AI, while organizations in industries including retail, travel and government/federal services and healthcare are the least likely.

2. Setting clear data and AI strategies are key for horizontal deployment: 

  • A major explanation for gradual AI adoption is the need to implement a successful data management strategy and apply AI to that data to achieve business goals. Companies that have not deployed AI are three times as likely to say they have little to no confidence that their company has the proper data management tools. 
  • Today, 37% of companies are developing an AI strategy, 28% already have a holistic strategy, and 25% have a strategy focused only on limited or specific use cases.

3. Automation is helping address skills gaps, labor shortages: 

  • More than costs, lack of tools, or project or data complexity, the skills gap remains the biggest barrier to AI adoption. 
  • At the same time, AI is also helping organizations address skills shortages, for example, by automating tasks for skilled workers to be more productive or using AI-assisted learning or employee engagement. 
  • Almost one-in-four companies are adopting AI because of labor or skills shortages, and 30% of global IT professionals say employees at their organization are already saving time with new AI and automation software/tools.

4. A growing emphasis on trust – but few concrete actions: Establishing trustworthy, responsible AI practices and AI maturity go hand-in-hand: The more likely a company is to have deployed AI, the more likely they value the importance of trustworthiness. 

  • IT professionals at businesses currently deploying AI are 17% more likely to report that their business values AI explainability than those simply exploring AI.
  • But while growing majorities of business leaders say that trustworthy AI is critical, the majority of organizations have not taken key steps to ensure their AI is trustworthy and responsible, such as reducing bias (74%), tracking performance variations/model drift (68%), and making sure they can explain AI-powered decisions (61%) 

5. Building more sustainable operations

  • AI is poised to play a growing role in organizations’ sustainability initiatives worldwide, as more than two-thirds of businesses either use or plan to use AI today as part of their sustainability initiatives. 
  • One-in-five companies are already adopting AI because of environmental pressures.

6. Popular use cases like automation and security drive adoption: 

  • Organizations apply AI in various use cases today, with the most advanced adoption happening in areas like IT operations, security and threat detection and business process automation. 
  • Today, a third of companies are already using AI for IT Operations (AIOps) to automate key processes, which helps them maintain application performance while also making resource allocation more efficient. A third of companies deploying AI are applying such as natural language processing to fields like marketing, sales and customer care. 

While AI investment continues to grow, barriers to adoption remain, particularly for smaller organizations that are significantly less likely to take advantage of AI. The survey determined top three barriers to AI adoption for businesses are:

  • Limited AI expertise or knowledge (34%).
  • High prices (29%).
  • Lack of tools and platforms for developing AI models (25%).

While the potential of machine learning and AI has helped address several problems across many industries, it has also created an acute imbalance in the supply and demand of AI talent, says Oliver Tavakoli, CTO at Vectra. Cybersecurity companies have to deal with this shortage as they compete with major organizations for talent and “have resorted to AI-as-a-sidecar (solving a small number of peripheral problems through the application of AI) rather than AI-as-the-engine (building the core of their offerings around AI and solving peripheral problems with conventional techniques). Predictable, the former approach has resulted in a large gap in what they deliver vs. the value customers think the AI should be delivering,” Tavakoli explains. 

Download the full report here.