Only 12% are using AI at a level that achieves strong competitive advantage, according to new global research from Accenture.

Today, so much of what we take for granted in our daily lives stems from machine learning. From wayfinding apps to unlocking a smarrtphone using face ID, we’re relying on artificial intelligence (AI).

Despite these ever-expanding use cases, most organizations are still barely scratching the surface when it comes to making the most of AI’s full potential and their own investments – according to Accenture’s latest research, which consisted of a survey of 1,615 C-suite executives, and interviews with 25 CEOs, Chief Data Officers and Chief Analytics Officers.

While the majority of organizations that use AI are still experimenting with the technology, only 12% are using it at an AI maturity level that achieves a strong competitive advantage, according to the new global research from Accenture.

The Art of AI Maturity: Advancing from Practice to Performance” uncovers strategies for AI success through a holistic framework, which includes a new index to express company AI maturity on a 0-100 scale.

According to the research, AI maturity is the degree to which organizations outperform their peers in a combination of AI-related foundational and differentiating capabilities. These capabilities include the technology – data, AI, cloud – as well as organizational strategy, responsible AI, C-suite sponsorship, talent and culture.

The research puts the median AI maturity of organizations at a moderate score of 36, revealing most companies have significant opportunities to generate greater value with AI. The research highlights a small group (12%) of organizations that already use AI to outpace their competitors. This group is dubbed ‘AI Achievers’, with a score of 64 on the maturity scale, almost doubling that of others and correlating with 50% higher revenue growth than their peers.

Key insights

Some key insights from the study include:

  1. AI has rapidly matured during the pandemic – but even the most mature companies have plenty of room for growth
    • Only 12% of the companies using AI have the AI capabilities to create growth and value, but even these AI Achievers have reached only two-thirds of their AI potential.
    • Moreover, the average company has only reached one third of its potential AI maturity.
  2. Adopting and scaling AI is key enabler to transform the business – and no longer a choice
    • Investments in AI are on the riseand paying off: The world’s largest companies that discussed AI on their earnings calls in 2021 were 40% more likely to see their share prices increase—up from 23% in 2018.
  3. AI drives growth and innovation, not just efficiency
    • AI Achievers (companies that have advanced their AI maturity enough to achieve superior growth and business transformation) enjoy 50% higher revenue growth than their peers.
    • They outperform their peers in sustainability and the customer experience, and many embed innovation in their organizational strategies.

The analysis further shows that most companies (63%) are ‘AI Experimenters’, barely scratching the surface of AI’s potential with an AI maturity score of 29. ‘AI Innovators’ (13%), scoring 50, and ‘AI Builders’ (12%), at 44, are somewhat advanced in their level of AI maturity, but are still leaving the full value of AI untapped.

 “We believe every part of every business must be transformed by technology, data and AI, in some cases resulting in total enterprise reinvention,” said Sanjeev Vohra, global lead for Applied Intelligence at Accenture.

“AI Achievers are showing their peers what’s possible when you release the full potential of talent and technology, working in tandem, supported by a clear vision and commitment to change. But even this most mature group has plenty of room for growth. And while most industries have AI Achievers, they vary greatly in how AI-mature they are overall and the leaps they will make.”

AI maturity across industries

Examples for the current and projected future state of AI maturity by industry include:

  • Tech firms already have a high AI maturity score of 54, which will rise moderately to 60 in 2024, but still position them at the pinnacle of AI maturity across all industries.
  • In contrast, carmakers and suppliers will leap from a moderate 39 today to 57 in two years – betting on a significant surge in sales of AI-powered self-driving vehicles.
  • Similarly, retail companies will evolve in their AI Maturity from 38 today to 54 in 2024. Notably, many retail companies show a deeper commitment to AI transformation than other industries. Walgreens Boots, as part of its efforts to create a more data-driven organization that can offer customers highly personalized digital service, migrated from legacy databases to advanced cloud databases and analytics. The company also built more than 100 high-value AI products that create detailed customer profiles and help it better optimize inventory and prices.

Regardless of industry, the impact of AI on businesses is growing and accelerating. The world’s largest companies that discussed AI on their earnings calls in 2021 were 40% more likely to see their share prices increase—up from 23% in 2018. Moreover, investments in AI are on the rise. In 2021, 19% of the surveyed companies used more than 30% of their tech budgets for AI projects. By 2024, the percentage of organizations investing more than 30% of their tech budgets in AI will increase to 49%.

Subsequently, the machine learning models utilized for the research suggest that the share of AI Achievers will increase rapidly from the current 12% to 27% by 2024. In the same timeframe, the overall AI maturity score will rise from 36 today to 50.

“Adopting AI at scale and embedding it deeper in all aspects of business is no longer a choice, but a necessity and opportunity facing every industry, organization and leader,” Vohra said. “While the science of AI is ground-breaking and inspiring, harnessing it fully is an art that leaders must continually practice. Our report provides actionable recommendations for how to advance AI maturity to join the ranks of the AI Achievers.”