In 2023 and for the fourth year in a row, CEOs identified artificial intelligence (AI) as the top new technology that will most significantly impact their industry, according to a recent survey from IT research firm Gartner. 

It is now named by almost a quarter (21%) of CEOs and Gartner analysts expressed the view that a tipping point has been reached where each CEO in an industry will be concerned that others may be moving ahead of them.

The survey of more than 400 CEOs and other senior business executives spanned the globe, across different industries, revenue and company sizes.

“CEOs see that generative AI could change all kinds of knowledge work from simple customer service jobs to the most advanced professions,” says Mark Raskino, distinguished VP and Gartner Fellow. “It’s a disruption that could spur productivity and growth. But if they don’t seize it, someone else might and then it becomes a competitive threat.”

Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP and Gartner Fellow, adds CEOs have been watching AI with anticipation since 2016, sensing that this is a technology with great potential. 

“A combination of tight labor supply, inflation, rising interest rates and other factors means that in 2023 they need something that will help accelerate productivity improvement, to drive business growth,” she explains. “Generative AI Chatbots arrived with almost perfect timing, providing AI tools that are readily accessible to everyone.”

From the perspective of Patrick Harr, CEO at SlashNext, however, we have yet to reach the tipping point.

“CEOs are aware of the impact of Gen AI on business in the coming years, and they are in learning mode to determine what strategy will fit the goals and growth of their organizations,” he says. “We are hearing from C-suite executives about two concerns in the data and security space.”

The first is how they can invest in generative AI to automate manual, time-consuming tasks to secure, manage and access data.

“Secondly, they are concerned about having the right tools to keep their employees and data safe from generative AI cyberattacks,” he says. 

Harr explains the entire C-Suite has a role in building a strategy to use generative AI tools for automation to improve productivity.

“They must determine the policy requirements for employees using generative AI and how to protect the organization from generative AI threats,” he says. 

Andy Byrne, co-founder and CEO of Clari, says like the mobile and cloud revolutions before it, generative AI represents a next-generation platform shift that will underpin enterprise success for years to come.

“This is what economists and businesses have been waiting for – when is technology truly going to drive massive change in productivity?” he says. “I think this is the moment and why so many leaders are taking notice. We’re finally starting to see this transformation become a reality across industries.” 

However, Byrne cautions that he thinks there’s too much hype around the fears of AI displacing jobs.

“AI will create new jobs and augment others – particularly those held by knowledge workers,” he explains. “Like previous technology revolutions, we’ll be able to solve practical, high-value problems that weren’t feasible to solve before. And we’ll see the creation of jobs and applications that we can’t even conceive of right now.” 

Dave Gerry, CEO at Bugcrowd, says for many, if not most, CEOs, generative AI has prompted board level discussions around investments, roadmaps and so on.

“The challenge is understanding where Gen AI can add accretive value to the company via opening new market opportunities, providing additional value to clients, or creating internal efficiency gains,” he says.

For some companies, simply stating they have a Gen AI plan has given them a short-term bump in value, but, without truly creating value for the business, a long-term gain is unlikely.

“The reality is AI has been around for a long time, what the recent spike in interest has done is bring AI to the masses in such a quick way it is creating an immense amount of buzz, which, if not harnessed correctly can become a big distraction,” Gerry cautions. 

He points out leveraging AI and preparing the business for scale go together.

“AI will continue to provide avenues to scale internal teams by offloading basic tasks to AI and harnessing the human creativity of employees to focus on higher-value activities,” he says.

From a revenue standpoint, many businesses are leveraging AI to open new routes to market or introduce new product offerings.

“Organizations are going to need to have a plan of action to drive meaningful shareholder, customer and business value by leveraging AI to continue to succeed,” Gerry notes. 

He predicts quickly pivoting investments, resources, and plans will continue to be a topic for CEOs to tackle.

“More broadly, understanding how, when and why employees leverage AI products internally can be a risk to IP and security concern around how company, customer and other confidential information is handled,” he adds. 

Byrne calls generative AI is an “exciting sea change” in what’s possible–the latest major platform shift in technology akin to the introduction of mobile devices or cloud computing.  

“AI is a force multiplier, a productivity enhancer. It’s able to answer questions and solve problems we previously didn’t even dare to tackle,” he says. “This is what I’m most excited about.”