Canadian IT firms increasingly using AI at work: Report

What are the top barriers to exploring and deploying AI?

Canadian IT firms increasingly using AI at work: Report

Canadian employers in the information technology (IT) space are increasingly tapping into the resource that is artificial intelligence (AI), according to a recent IBM report.

Overall, 37% of these companies have deployed AI at work by November 2023, up from April that same year.

Globally, 42% among large employers have adopted AI, holding steady from the number recorded in April 2023, according to IBM’s survey of 2,342 IT Professionals in 20 countries, including Canada.

The top drivers of this AI adoption are: 

  • advances in AI tools that make them more accessible (46%)
  • the need to reduce costs and automate key processes (46%)
  • the increasing amount of AI embedded into standard off-the-shelf business applications (34%)

"2023 was a transformative year for AI adoption in Canada and around the world, and based on the strong ecosystem, investments and talent from coast-to-coast, Canadian businesses are well-poised to maintain a leadership position and to transform critical industries," said Deb Pimentel, General Manager – Technology, IBM Canada.

"As more companies explore AI in 2024, it will be critical for businesses to even more clearly define how AI delivers value including how it complements the work teams are doing today, ensuring sound governance for responsible adoption, and enforcing a roadmap to upskill or reskill talent so employees are trained to use the technology effectively."

Over half of Canadian professionals are using AI with no workplace policies, according to a previous report from Salesforce.

Early adopters of AI, barriers to AI adoption

Early adopters are leading the way when it comes to the increasing use of AI, with 35% of the enterprises already working with AI intending to accelerate and increase investment in the technology, according to the IBM report.

Reskilling and workforce development (42%) and research and development (41%) were cited as the top AI investments at Canadian organizations exploring or deploying AI.

One company that has benefit from adopting AI is Bell.

“Equipping our team members with the necessary skills to use AI tools effectively while establishing a solid foundation of responsible policies and practices is critical as we continue to further adopt AI in our business,” said Osama Abu-Shihab, VP, Business Technology Services, Bell.

However, there are still barriers hindering successful AI adoption at enterprises both exploring or deploying AI, including: 

  • limited AI skills and expertise (41%)
  • too much data complexity (24%)
  • high costs (24%)
  • not having the ability to properly govern AI models (21%)
  • ethical concerns (20%)
  • AI projects that are too difficult to integrate and scale (20%)

Currently, 21% of organizations do not have employees with the right skills in place to use new AI or automation tools, and 17% cannot find new hires with the skills to address that gap. And only 25% are currently training or reskilling employees to work together with new automation and AI tools.

Also, most (82%) Canadian IT professionals strongly or somewhat agree that consumers are more likely to choose services from companies with transparent and ethical AI practices. Over seven in 10 (71%) among companies that are exploring or deploying AI claim that being able to explain how their AI reached a decision is important to their business.

But because employers lack the necessary talent to do so, well under half are taking key steps towards trustworthy AI like reducing bias (26%), tracking data provenance (29%), monitoring AI across cloud and AI environments (39%) or safeguarding data privacy through the entire lifecycle (42%).

Managing introduction of AI

AI adoption must be a team effort, according to an expert. 

For employers looking to introduce AI to their workers, it's important to “proactively manage the introduction of AI, considering the impact on employees and addressing concerns through clear communication, training, and support programs,” said Susan Power, founder & CEO of PowerUp Leadership, via LinkedIn.

“Providing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling can empower employees to adapt to the changing landscape and contribute to a more positive reaction to AI integration in the workplace,” she said.

A majority of hourly workers are not concerned over the rise of AI tools, according to a previous report.

Power added that implementing AI in human resources requires “a thoughtful and strategic approach”. 

“By embracing AI technologies in talent acquisition, employee onboarding, engagement, performance management, and decision-making processes, HR professionals can elevate their role within the organization. 

“As organizations continue to evolve, leveraging AI in HR becomes not only a necessity but a key enabler for staying competitive in the dynamic business landscape. With careful planning and consideration, AI can empower HR professionals to drive positive organizational change and create workplaces that thrive in the digital age.”

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