New research from Rackspace Technology has revealed how demand for bespoke Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions is fuelling a skills gap. The majority of Middle East IT leaders report that their organisations intend to build AI/ML solutions from the ground up, with just 9% opting for off-the-shelf solutions.
The research, AI/ML Annual Research Report 2022, indicates that demand has been fuelled by the trend towards AI/ML maturity – 83% of Middle Eastern IT leaders are actively seeking to hire people with AI and ML expertise. When reporting on the most difficult skills to hire for, IT leaders reported that ML specialists are the hardest to find. Predictive modelling experts, deep learning specialists, and AI/ML solutions programmers closely followed as difficult capabilities to hire.
More than one-quarter of organisations (13%) report a lack of skills as having created challenges for exploiting the results of AI and ML programs. IT leaders need further upskilling for team members in AI and ML programming and software design (44%), ML (40%), data quality analysis (46%), and data governance and security expertise (44%).
The majority (68%) of IT leaders report that AI and ML are now part of their current business strategy, with the majority of companies (71%) reporting having realised substantial benefits from AI and ML to their operations. Those that have implemented it report a positive impact on revenue (77%), the ability to reduce expenses (68%), brand reputation (73%), and brand awareness (74%).
Organisations are now moving into a stage where they are optimising and scaling their AI and ML models with (35%) or moving from proof of concepts and pilots to formalise the solution in production (27%). To further realise the technology’s potential, IT leaders are investing a greater proportion of their IT budgets in AI and ML programs. 90% of Middle East organisations are dedicating more than 6% of their annual IT budget to these initiatives in 2022 – a 32 percentage point increase on those that committed that proportion of their budget in 2021.
Simon Bennett, CTO, EMEA at Rackspace Technology, commented, “Many organisations are moving into the next stage of maturity for their AI and ML implementations to drive real return on investment, and we are seeing this reflected in the more prominent role AI plays in business and IT strategies. But this shift means that the use of AI is no longer a competitive advantage. The lack of investment in AI has become a significant competitive disadvantage.”
“To help increase the understanding of AI and ML, many leaders are investing in internal upskilling programmes. But, companies should not only look at what dedicated skills they can hire into their organisation which can be both expensive and hard to source but consider where trusted partners can offer expertise and experience to kick start initiatives that will grow in frequency and importance.”