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AI Skills Confidence Among Tech Executives: Overcoming Adoption Challenges

While executives exude confidence in their organizations’ AI capabilities, they concurrently acknowledge significant impediments to its broader adoption.

A recent Zartis study revealed that 85% of UK tech executives rate their workforce’s combined AI knowledge and expertise as ‘skilled,’ with over half (51%) considering it ‘highly skilled.’ However, this confidence is juxtaposed against concerns about obstacles preventing wider AI implementation.

AI adoption is nearly ubiquitous among UK tech companies, with 94% of executives reporting some form of AI use. The remaining 6% are still in the exploration or research phase. Notably, not a single respondent claimed to be completely avoiding AI.

Industry pressure appears to be a significant factor driving AI adoption, with 40% of executives feeling compelled to prioritize AI investment due to widespread momentum around the technology.

Despite the enthusiasm, several barriers hinder full AI adoption. Budget restrictions (41%), shortage of AI talent (38%), and technical complexity (35%) were cited as primary obstacles. Executives also expressed concerns about integration challenges (44%), cost and ROI uncertainty (42%), and data privacy and IP security (38%).

Michal Szymczak, Head of AI Strategy at Zartis, commented on this apparent contradiction: “AI adoption isn’t some ‘on or off’ switch. To many businesses, it involves a significant financial investment, and there are complex questions to grapple with surrounding data privacy, or integration with existing technology stacks. That makes executives’ confidence in their company’s AI skill set rather ironic. They puff their chests out, while simultaneously pointing to all the obstacles that could stop them in their tracks.”

The financial aspect of AI adoption presents a mixed picture. While 42% of executives cited ROI uncertainty as a primary concern, 53% view cost savings through improved efficiency as one of the most significant long-term benefits of adopting AI.

Investment in AI capabilities is substantial, with 93% of companies spending at least £100,000 in 2024, and 44% allocating £500,000 or more. Software development emerges as the most popular area for AI investment (59%), followed by quality assurance (44%) and DevOps and automation (44%).

Angel Benito, CTO at Zartis, offered insight into the investment trends: “There is significant pressure on organizations to keep up with AI development or risk being left behind. This explains why many are investing despite the uncertainty about ROI. They see the potential for long-term cost savings but need a well-curated plan to implement the changes. It’s crucial to understand that it’s not just about the tools; it’s about the people.”

As companies navigate the AI landscape, their focus varies. The top three cited utilities of AI for software development are AI-powered copilot tools for coding (53%), improved continuous integration and deployment (52%), and enhanced team communication and collaboration (46%).

This study follows recent Zartis research indicating that over three-quarters of UK tech executives favor increased government oversight of AI, with many anticipating benefits from regulations such as the EU AI Act.

As the AI revolution continues to unfold, it’s clear that UK tech companies are eager to embrace the technology, even as they grapple with its complexities and challenges.

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