Adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a central focus for businesses globally, with 91% of technology leaders considering AI an important business priority, and 69% already implementing or using it at scale.

These were among the results of an Expereo survey conducted by IDC, which found AI readiness is closely tied to company size, growth prospects and maturity, creating a divide between leaders and laggards.

The evolving role of AI is also reflected in organizational structures, as 40% of respondents believe that a Chief AI Officer (CAIO) will take over many of the chief information officer (CIO) responsibilities within the next two years.

Despite this shift, finding and retaining top talent in data, AI and automation remains a significant challenge, with 40% of organizations struggling in this area.

This focus on AI comes as global enterprises express optimism about their business outlook, with 81% of technology leaders expecting moderate to high growth in the next year.

“We’re seeing a fair number of organizations get caught up in the hype around the latest and greatest technology, but their deployment plans might end up falling short due to rushed planning and tunnel vision,” said Expereo CEO Ben Elms.

He said to balance short-term technology plans with long-term digital strategy, leaders need to have a clear, focused objective in mind.

For example, if the goal is to get on board the AI hype train just so the organization isn’t seen as “falling “behind”, the organization likely isn’t factoring in the impact of this new tech on the long-term strategy.

“Will it ultimately make sense one year from now, or five years from now, or will you need to eventually course-correct?” Elms asked.

Tackling this challenge requires tech leaders to ensure they have the right infrastructure to adapt to change and innovation, scale alongside enterprise growth, and ensure they maximize return on investment into key technologies, including AI. 

The survey also found 29% of respondents said that while the CEO supports digital initiatives, they do not work closely enough with technology leaders, which in turn puts digital transformation initiatives in jeopardy.

Elms explained this misalignment can cause a divide between the short-term implementation of new technology and the long-term vision for the organization’s digital strategy.

“It’s more crucial than ever to have C-suite alignment on the short- and long-term vision of the company,” he said. 

The research revealed only 22% of organizations globally have reached full digital maturity.

“Organizations that develop and follow more long-term plans will find it easier to orchestrate an enterprise-wide digital-first trajectory, leading to growth and success of the company,” Elms said. 

He added communication and transparency are critical, which requires technology leaders, including CIOs, CTOs and CISOs, sit alongside the CEO and articulate the costs and benefits of technologies such as AI, or the benefits of public versus hybrid cloud. 

“Our research found that CEOs are becoming more directly involved in digital decisions,” Elms said. “We also found that business unit leaders are having greater influence over technology spending decisions.”

He added while there are potentially a lot of cooks in the kitchen, CEOs and technology leaders recognize they need to perform a balancing act when it comes to modernizing IT, managing risk and driving growth.

“We’ve seen that the most successful businesses are those with leaders who maintain consistent communication and collaboration around a resilient, long-term digital strategy,” he said. 

In a business climate colored by geopolitical issues, inflation and economic uncertainty, Elms acknowledged the only thing certain these days is uncertainty, which requires businesses to face this reality.

“Something they can control is their digital maturity,” he said. “For example, pragmatically using AI and automation could help businesses run more efficiently and potentially save costs.” 

Adopting stronger cyber defenses can protect businesses in a world of more sophisticated threat actors, and paying close attention to the regulatory ramifications of elections will allow businesses to better anticipate the impact of new rules and reporting measures.

“Adopting these types of strategies will give businesses the confidence they can operate smoothly in this unpredictable environment,” Elms said.