Intelligent Automation is the Top Driver for AI Investment: Report

While larger businesses make up the bulk of investment in AI, a new report says emerging enterprises are stepping up their investment and levelling the playing field in the process.

Enterprise investments typically decrease during slower economic times, but investments involved in implementing AI have increased exponentially according to latest State of Intelligent Automation Report: Impact of the Economy on AI Priorities, commissioned by Charlotte, N.C.-based process intelligence company ABBYY.

Some 82 percent of IT executives taking part in the survey indicated substantially increased investments in AI implementation. Respondents from the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France attributed this increase to higher value work (60 percent), happiness (62 percent), and employee innovation (59 percent), noting that intelligent automation freed employees from many routine and mundane tasks to focus more on customer and revenue-driven initiatives.

Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) reported an increase in staff retention levels since introducing intelligent automation. They also stated that improvements in employee efficiency (52 percent) and productivity (48 percent) were among the top benefits to the organization, as well as the benefit to employees, with almost a third (32 percent) stating there was better work-life balance.

“More than half of the leaders surveyed stated higher quality products and projects, along with faster delivery of their products to customers. More than a third reported improved customer service outcomes,” said Gabrielle Lukianchuk, Chief Marketing Officer, at ABBYY.  “It’s no surprise they achieved twice the ROI by leveraging AI in their intelligent automation initiatives to accelerate the improvement of complex processes and putting data to work.”

Almost half (47 percent) of enterprise executives saw a 2x return on their AI investments in 2023, up from 43 percent in 2022. Additionally, 82 percent said their AI budgets increased this year and 48 percent plan to invest more, despite reductions in costs in other parts of the organization.

The survey also revealed that mid to large enterprises are placing the greatest investments in AI to enable intelligent automation. Increased investments of up to 35 percent by emerging enterprises indicates growing recognition that AI is leveling the playing field and required for a competitive advantage.

As AI adoption becomes more widespread with the use of large language models such as generative AI, 89 percent of IT executives responded that they have AI strategies in place. 37 percent have compressed their roadmaps into three-to-five-year plans, noting revenue-impacting processes as top priorities including operations, marketing, product development, sales (as it relates to customer experience), and logistics services.

Key Findings from the report:

  • The average global investment in intelligent automation in 2022 was between $190,000 and $379,000
  • 82 percent of organizations saw a budget increase for intelligent automation projects in 2023, despite an uncertain economic climate
  • On average, 48 percent of respondents said they are more likely to invest and 57 percent are still expecting 2x the investment cost, yet only 47 percent have actually achieved 2x ROI
  • 60 percent of respondents said employee happiness increased, alongside productivity, customer service and work-life balance
  • 51 percent of respondents identified quality products/projects and faster delivery as some of the key benefits for customers; pricing reduction was least rated
  • Customer experience is the key revenue generating process for 41 percent of respondents
  • 89 percent of respondents have long term plans for AI with 37 percent having a near-term three-to-five-year plan
  • Monitoring software, intelligent document processing platforms, and data analysis and insights are the most utilized technologies
  • If IT budget had no constraint, respondents would invest more in sales processes (44 percent), inventory management (43 percent) and customer experience (42 percent)

Download the full report on ABBYY’s website.