UK businesses investing £3 million each in AI but struggling with lack of strategy and skills

UK companies are currently spending an average of £3.1 million per company on AI technologies, with large businesses investing over £6.5 million, new research from content IQ provider ABBYY has found. The UK’s investment in automation projects averages at £1.2 million per company, but more than two-thirds (67%) aren’t educating staff well enough on how to use it and 1 in 6 said their business had no strategy in place or that they weren’t aware of one. Across the automation stack, the research found that content-centric process automation is a particularly promising area delivering benefits for businesses, and creating huge opportunities for early adopters of new-generation technologies.

Efficiency was the highest-ranking benefit for these technologies, with a majority of businesses already seeing improved efficiency from their automation investments. Content-centric process automation in particular impressed on efficiency – with over 62% seeing efficiency gains as a result of implementing the technology.

It also provided higher ROI than general AI technologies when it came to productivity, revenue growth and business transformation (see Figure 1). What’s more, content-centric automation beat businesses’ expectations, helping businesses grow their revenue, increase market share, and get ahead of the competition by 15% more than anticipated before deployment.

It’s clear that the majority of UK companies are still at the start of their automation journeys –on average, UK businesses use only two types of automation, and only 1 in 20 use the full automation stack. This demonstrates that there is still a way to go before the full potential of automation can be realised.

A potential reason for this lies in a lack of training – two thirds (67%) of those surveyed feel their organisation isn’t educating staff well enough on automation technologies, and a quarter (27%) of those who have not invested in automation admitted this is because they “wouldn’t know what to do with it”. This indicates a substantial automation skills gap in the UK. An increased focus on strategy would also benefit businesses struggling to make the most of automation and AI, as 1 in 6 said their business had no plan in place or that they weren’t aware of a plan (15.4%), and 61% of businesses only have a plan for up to 5 years.

“Automation isn’t a panacea – but the potential of automation technologies to transform businesses is abundantly clear. Making it work requires not only monetary investment, but also a watertight, long-term strategy and the right people with the right skillsets,” said Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY. “But many businesses are still not adequately educating their staff on technology, and as a result, the technologies that deliver the most ROI are often overlooked. It’s no wonder that the benefits of AI and automation aren’t yet being fully realised.”

Tapping the full potential of automation for businesses requires a long-term strategy. AI solutions need to be trained and customised to fit the company’s specific needs, focusing on accuracy, reliability, and speed. Therefore, ABBYY is encouraging businesses to choose a provider who can offer guidance in training a system, and in full solution lifecycle support.

For solution providers, it is important to eliminate barriers to AI adoption by developing platforms and solutions that are easy to use, that minimise complexity, and that reduce dependence on IT experts for configuration. This is why ABBYY is focused on building powerful content IQ technologies and solutions that are quick and easy to set up and use.

Murphy continues: “Businesses aren’t providing adequate training on understanding the benefits of the whole automation stack, or how to train AI and automation solutions to fit their specific business needs. This, coupled with a lack of strategy, means businesses may be unable to reap the rewards of their innovation. Enterprises must focus on improving education and strategy to avoid missing out on the automation solutions that could truly transform their business, and to help them succeed on their digital transformation journey.”