Nearly three-quarters (73%) of business leaders are feeling pressure to implement artificial intelligence tools at their organizations, but the majority are wary of giving up too much decision-making power, finds the new AI IQ report from Workday. The survey of 1,000 business decision-makers found that 93% believe it's important for humans to have oversight of AI or machine learning when making significant decisions.
“Business leaders understand that AI and ML are critical to success in the future of work. But enterprise organizations continue to lack the skills needed to implement the technology, and concerns around data integrity, ethics, and role elimination persist,” says Workday Chief Technology Officer Jim Stratton. “Successful adoption of AI and ML requires a commitment to keeping humans in the decision-making loop and working with partners who are committed to responsible AI.”
“Successful adoption of AI and ML requires a commitment to keeping humans in the decision-making loop and working with partners who are committed to responsible AI.”
— Jim Stratton, Workday
As they look toward the future, members of the C-suite across finance, HR and IT should take steps to ensure they have high-quality data, clear AI use cases and strategies for overcoming AI skills gaps.
“These tools can change how your security team thinks about the world,” says Sayan Chakraborty, Co-President, Head of Product and Technology at Workday. “They can also make your CFO’s job easier, and they can completely change your CHRO’s talent strategy.”
Freeing finance for more strategic work
AI and ML are helping CFOs streamline their most basic, and often most tedious, responsibility: closing the books. Whether it’s at the end of the quarter or the year, this is a job that requires going through hundreds or even thousands of transactions in search of outliers and anomalies—the kind of thing that AI handles well. Workday’s platform helps CFOs move to “continuous close,” in which the ML algorithm identifies problems as they arise.
The platform allows “people to focus on more business-critical things, provide more leverage in the problems they're able to solve and better answer questions for the business,” says Chakraborty. The result is more time for the finance team to apply their skills in ways that generate value for the company.
CFOs responding to the Workday survey recognize the potential. Thirty-four percent say they see AI eventually helping them improve forecasts and budget decisions, 32% say it will improve scenario planning and 32% say it will provide planning support across business lines, further optimizing financial processes.
For IT leaders, enhanced security and responsiveness
Forty-eight percent of IT leaders say AI and ML will be a gamechanger for their function, and 47% say it will make their jobs more rewarding, according to the Workday study. Yet 33% say their team is not fully prepared for AI and ML, and 37% are taking a wait-and-see approach, potentially putting their company further behind the adoption curve.
IT leaders taking the bull by the horns are getting the best return by using AI tools in two ways, explains Chakraborty. The first is by alleviating alert fatigue for the security team. As cyberattacks have increased in volume and complexity in recent years, IT professionals find themselves overwhelmed by a steady barrage of alerts, making it hard to know which alerts require a response.
“If I hear the alarm go off again and again, and it's not a problem, the human answer is to turn off the alarm,” says Chakraborty. “Machine learning doesn't do that—it doesn't get bored by the alarms.” AI tools can search for patterns that signal trouble and free human operators from the drudgery of monitoring them and reduce the risk of missing something vital.
Second, forward-thinking IT teams are using AI and ML tools to automate employee support. Because so many inquiries are similar, they are well suited to be quickly and easily handled by chatbots.
Empowering a skills-based approach to talent
To understand how these tools can contribute to organizational success and improve the HR function, consider how hiring itself is changing. Today’s job market is increasingly skills based, with companies less concerned with where a candidate went to school or what degrees they hold than with what skills they bring to the table. But manually assessing the skills of a workforce or a massive candidate pool is a near-impossible task, particularly considering the lack of uniformity in how skills are classified across industries.
With AI and ML tools, leaders can easily gain visibility into the talent their organization needs. For example, Workday’s Skills Cloud uses AI and ML to help organizations understand the skills that exist in their workforce and see where gaps exist. By searching through the data of more than 60 million Workday users—all of whom are on the same platform, which provides a clear, unified data model—Skills Cloud offers results that create more opportunities for skills-based hiring and support better-informed talent strategies.
To appreciate how such a tool can help improve and diversify a workforce, consider the case of young military veterans. “These are people in their 20s who are taking on responsibilities that, in the corporate world, you don't get until you're in your 50s,” says Chakraborty. For instance, younger, lower ranking military professionals often manage large teams as well as millions of dollars of equipment. “But we miss that when we look at them through a traditional lens of, ‘Well, you don't have 20 years of experience.’ With machine learning, you can clearly pull out that signal from the noise,” he says.
“This is as big as cloud, as big as the smartphone, as big as the internet. You have to engage with it.”
— Sayan Chakraborty, Workday
Believe the hype
While 61% of businesses have at least made a start, only 39% have begun piloting AI and ML, suggesting that even the most motivated decision-makers lack direction and understanding in their quest to implement these new tools.
With the right partner—particularly a company like Workday, which has embedded AI and ML into its platform for nearly a decade and continuously adapts it—companies can begin adopting AI and ML and avoid being left behind.
“This is as big as cloud, as big as the smartphone, as big as the internet. You have to engage with it,” says Chakraborty.