Generative AI to be a key priority for senior IT leaders: Salesforce report

Generative AI has become a top priority among businesses even though IT leaders are expressing concerns about potential ethical issues posed by the technology, according to a new Salesforce survey.

Sixty-seven percent of senior IT leaders surveyed said they will be prioritizing the technology over the next 18 months, and 33% claimed it would be their top priority, the survey said.

Despite its perceived benefits, however, respondents to the survey remain skeptical about some of the ethical challenges currently surrounding generative AI, in particular that its output could be biased or inaccurate.

Various forms of AI have been used by businesses for decades. Generative AI is the latest major development in the field. According to IDC, it is a form of artificial intelligence that uses unsupervised and semi-supervised algorithms to create new content from existing materials, such as text, audio, video, images and code.

The Salesforce survey, which asked 515 senior IT leaders in the US about their thoughts regarding generative AI, comes a week after CEO Marc Benioff told analysts that the growth of AI presents an opportunity for Salesforce. It also precedes the launch later this week of the company’s EinsteinGPT, which Benioff said will complement the company’s Einstein technology.

Launched in 2016, Salesforce Einstein is an integrated set of AI technologies that brings artificial intelligence into all Salesforce products, which the company says ultimately provides customers with more personalized and predictive experiences.

Although 33% of respondents to the Salesforce survey think the technology is already “over-hyped,” 57% said they believe that generative AI is a “game changer.” According to the report, better serving customers, helping to take advantage of data, and allowing organizations to operate more efficiently were cited as the top benefits of the technology by 87%, 80% and 79% of respondents respectively.

In addition, 79% of senior IT leaders said generative AI will help reduce team workload and thereby reduce burnout, and 77% believe that the technology will help their organization serve their customers faster. Seventy-five percent of respondents said generative AI helps their organization sell efficiently.

IT leaders express concerns about AI

However, as recent events have shown (Microsoft’s Bing chatbot recently professed its love to a New York Times reporter and told him to get a divorce), generative AI is not without its problems, a concern reflected by a significant percentage of the senior IT leaders surveyed by Salesforce. Seventy-nine percent of respondents believe that the technology has the potential to be a security risk, while 73% are concerned it could be biased, and 59% of respondents believe generative AI outputs are inaccurate.

Furthermore, 66% of respondents said their employees don’t have the skills to successfully leverage generative AI, while 60% believe the technology won’t integrate into their current tech stack, and 59% don’t have a unified data strategy to implement generative AI successfully.

Consequently, 99% of senior IT leaders surveyed believe their business must take measures to better equip themselves to successfully leverage the technology.

The importance of acknowledging the technical and ethical concerns regarding the implementation of AI was further highlighted by the fact that 83% of respondents to the survey think businesses must work together to ensure generative AI is used ethically.

In comments posted along with the announcement of the survey findings, Clara Shih, CEO of Salesforce’s Service Cloud, said that generative AI represents a change in how organizations across industries will analyze data, automate processes, and empower different departments to improve customer relationships. However, she also warned that the technology is not without new risks and challenges.

“Whether generating a tailored sales email or customer support chat response, an ethics-first approach grounded in trusted data and human-in-the-loop workflows is what will allow enterprises to safely and responsibly use generative AI to deliver against today’s growing customer expectations,” Shih said.

Artificial Intelligence, Enterprise Applications