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Where Is the ROI in Artificial Intelligence Deployments?

July 21, 2021 Information Management
David Roe
By David Roe

Anyone with any doubts about the interest in AI and its use across enterprise technologies only needs to look at the example of the Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) market and the kind of verticals that are investing in it to quash those doubts.

According to the Everest Group's recently published report, Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) State of the Market Report 2021 (purchase required) the market for this segment alone is estimated at $700-750 million in 2020 and expected to grow at a rate of 55-65% over the next year. 

Artificial Intelligence and Document Processing

Cost impact is now the key driver for intelligent document processing adoption, closely followed by improving operational efficiency and productivity. Enterprises looking for tangible benefits from the technology.

IDP solutions automate the processing of complex documents with accuracy. These solutions blend AI technologies to efficiently process all types of documents and feed the output into downstream applications. Optical character recognition (OCR), computer vision, machine learning (ML) and deep learning models, and natural language processing (NLP) are the key core technologies powering IDP capabilities. 

In sum, enterprises are looking to AI to drive productivity in this space, and many other areas of computing too. However, the IDP market demonstrates where AI is being used across many verticals. The Everest report shows, for example, that:

  • Banking and insurance continue to be the largest adopters of IDP solutions and account for approximately 30% (Banking) and 13% (Insurance) of the IDP market, respectively.
  • Government and the public sector have shown significant growth in 2020, driven mainly by an increased need to improve efficiency and compliance and reduce dependence on manual processing.
  • North America continues to be the largest market for IDP software solutions with over 50% market share, while the Asia Pacific (APAC) market is growing rapidly.
  • Adoption of IDP solutions in industry-specific processes, especially in Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) and healthcare, observed significant growth.

Large buyers continue to have the highest adoption; however, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are showing the highest growth rate in the adoption of IDP solutions.

Artificial Intelligence Is Inevitable, but Is ROI?

AI adoption is inevitable, as the use of AI in business continues to grow and offer valuable benefits to organizations. That is not to say that adoption will not come with challenges, but considering the perceived productivity and possible operational efficiencies, enterprises and verticals are following suit. But where is the ROI here?

Eric Rohrback, chief marketing officer at Orlando, Fla.-based Hill & Ponton, said that while AI can reduce costs, the primary focus should be on expansion and growth to achieve the best results. This encompasses product and service innovation, productivity gains, and market share gains. “AI is optimized when it is implemented at all levels of technology, from value chains to pricing, and when customers' AI preferences are understood,” he said. “Staying focused on expansion by inventing new items and fine-tuning your business model is your best bet. Stay on the offensive to get the most out of AI's technological advantages.”

AI has gotten a lot of attention in the past several years, but the financial payoff has been low, Chelsea Cohen, the co-founder of SoStocked an inventory management SaaS for eCommerce sellers, adds. "There is a place for AI, but several industries do not need to implement it until further development. Sectors such as healthcare and financial have had some positive benefits to AI implementation, but businesses in hospitality and retail may only be throwing money away," said Cohen.

Companies that will start to see more AI use in the next couple of years will be in the cybersecurity sector. There may be signs of higher ROI for cybersecurity companies that employ AI tools as part of their strategy. Cybersecurity is one of the largest growing fields in IT and there are a lot of benefits that artificial intelligence can offer.

Related Article: Why AutoML Is Emerging as a Key Digital Workplace Technology

AI Usage in Business Has Had Mixed Results

In fact, Eric Carrell, chief marketing advisor at Spain-based SurfShark, a digital security company, points out that while AI implementation is most likely thriving in a variety of ways, it still could fail us, and in a huge way too. “We might not be able to show that AI is generating any profit for us or our stakeholders. In today's age of AI, failures can range from minor to disastrous,” he said

Most data science projects never make it to production, and worldwide CEOs believe that seeing a genuine return on their AI investment will take 3-5 years. Regardless of this fact, you can rest assured that you need to be a leader, not a follower, that you must be the one who can demonstrate that your AI implementation is contributing to ROI through expansion and growth. “Artificial intelligence has taken over practically every aspect of the business,” he added. AI is at the heart of practically every initiative undertaken by every significant participant in every industry.”

Carrell cites Domino's Pizza, which has employed artificial intelligence to reduce and more accurately anticipate delivery times from 75% to 95% accuracy. In the mining industry, companies in Australia are adopting self-driving trucks and drilling technologies to decrease costs, improve worker safety, and increase output by 20%. They also estimate that technological innovations will affect 77% of jobs in the country's mining sector, increasing productivity by up to 23%.

Where To Find the ROI in Artificial Intelligence Deployments?

Recent research published this month by Netherlands-based Unit4, an enterprise cloud applications provider, on the use of AI in the finance vertical shows that adoption among them is high with 70% at least a little knowledgeable about AI. It is also clear that those using it are outperforming their peers. 

Their research highlighted that when contrasted with respondents who have not yet adopted AI there are clear, notable, differences:

  • 47% of those who adopted AI believed their companies were performing strongly, compared to only 28% of non-adopters. 
  • 49% of AI adopters felt their companies had strong leadership in contrast to only 32% of non-adopters. 
  • Looking ahead 43% of AI adopters compared to only 21% of non-adopters believed they will maintain their strong position in 12 months.

AI Should Be Seen as More Than Automation

“AI is very much on the mind of finance departments around the world, with early adopters confident it is having a positive impact on the performance of their organizations,” said Gordon Stuart, CFO of Unit4, of the findings.  “However, AI should not just be seen as a way to automate processes. Finance professionals should use it as an opportunity to move into a more strategic role, becoming storytellers and influencers, interpreting data through technology analysis, and translating the findings into meaningful insights relevant to their organizations.”

The survey of 1,760 decision makers within finance departments in companies up to 10,000 also showed that in the next two years 83% of global respondents expect to be increasingly involved in strategy and decision making, while 75% say their day jobs will have changed significantly in the same timeframe.

It also showed that there is a very strong desire to upskill, as 83% say that those in finance roles will have to enhance their skill sets in the next two years. In the next 12 months, more than four-fifths of respondents are expecting to focus this upskilling on AI, machine learning, coding, analytics and data science capabilities, but a third of respondents accept their organizations will need to bring in new hires to address the skills gap.

There is significant potential for AI to enhance the use of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A), but this requires an understanding that AI can do more than automate mundane tasks.

Respondents to Unit4’s study suggest the top benefits of AI are improving data quality (33%) and saving time (32%), but only a quarter of respondents say it would help colleagues make faster decisions, and only 24% believe it would deliver actionable insights for decision making. 

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