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Technological Transformation and AI: Insights from the EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey

TECHNOLOGYTechnological Transformation and AI: Insights from the EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey

The technological transformation spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic has stimulated innovation within companies, helping them to avoid financial losses. The next phase of digital transformation is the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence. The latest edition of the EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey indicates that three-quarters of CEOs (76%) believe that this technology will benefit productivity, but will have little impact on revenue growth, with only 11% of them holding a different view. Respondents from private equity firms are slightly more optimistic about the potential of artificial intelligence, with nearly one in five (19%) believing it will also help increase revenues.

Currently, most organizations primarily use AI for optimizing operations, automating processes, and developing self-service tools such as chatbots. However, its potential is much greater. Challenges remain in data protection and intellectual property rights, which in the European Union will be regulated by the recently adopted AI Act. Regulatory frameworks are needed so that CEOs can minimize operational risks and invest more boldly in artificial intelligence.

According to the EY survey, globally, 41% of CEOs prioritize implementing AI within the next 12 months to boost efficiency and improve business outcomes. Respondents from Poland are more conservative, with only one in four (27%) prioritizing artificial intelligence. Higher on their list of priorities are reconfiguring supply chains (47% of mentions) and investing in new products and services (40%).

Geopolitical conditions continue to influence the strategies of Polish entrepreneurs. The priority is to secure and stabilize current business operations and introduce products and solutions that consumers expect. This will enable them to maintain their market position. Investing in new technologies, led by artificial intelligence, is on the agenda, but due to the need to find the right partner and train teams, it is not the project CEOs focus on first, comments Arkadiusz Gęsicki, Partner at EY-Parthenon in Poland and the Baltic countries, Leader of Transaction Strategy & Execution in the CESA Region, in the Strategy and Transactions team at EY Poland.

Technologies influence the portfolio

Since tools like chatbots emerged, AI has moved beyond being solely an IT expert domain, becoming an easily accessible tool that supports daily work and enhances efficiency. It offers many opportunities for automating and optimizing processes in sectors such as commerce, marketing, manufacturing, and logistics. Technologies have a significant impact on business and entrepreneurs’ plans, as highlighted by the EY survey respondents. Nearly one in three CEOs from Poland (29%) stated that modern solutions are one of the main factors causing them to rethink the shape of their business portfolio. Global leaders agree – for 32%, the impact of technology is a key factor. Success will be measured by their ability to use it to increase competitiveness and attract new customers.

Generative artificial intelligence opens up unprecedented possibilities for companies to analyze vast amounts of their own data and create new content based on it. Although investments in AI in Europe, including Poland, are much smaller than in the United States or China, a technological wave will appear sooner or later. Certainly, those companies that decide now to develop and effectively implement artificial intelligence, while ensuring that their teams acquire new digital competencies, will benefit, observes Włodzimierz Gołębiowski, Director at EY-Parthenon.

A significant majority of surveyed CEOs worldwide (76%) are very concerned about how artificial intelligence might be misused in the context of this year’s elections. Both in the European Union and the United States, they generate political uncertainty in the short and medium term. The election outcomes will affect the shape of international relations and economic policy, which will also impact the global business environment.

It must not be forgotten that AI not only helps increase efficiency and generate innovative ideas but also enables the creation of false information in the form of deepfakes. Completely untrue content can be put into someone’s mouth or a video can be created that is merely generated fiction. While the adopted AI Act mandates the labeling of such creations, there is still a huge space for abuse. Therefore, the role of business leaders will undoubtedly also include maintaining ethical oversight over the use of AI, not just focusing on efficiency and business outcomes, comments Enio Chłapowski-Myjak, Manager at EY-Parthenon.

About the study

The CEO Outlook Pulse Survey was conducted on behalf of EY from December 2023 to January 2024 by FT Longitude, the specialized research and content marketing division of the Financial Times Group. The survey involved 1200 CEOs of large companies from 21 countries who participated in an anonymous online survey. They represented countries including Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the United States, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, India, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

Nearly one-fifth of the surveyed organizations (19%) report annual global revenues below 500 million USD. Another 19% report revenues ranging from 500 million to 999.9 million USD, while 30% of companies report revenues from 1 billion to 4.9 billion USD, and the final group (32%) report revenues above 5 billion USD.

In the Polish edition of the survey conducted on behalf of EY-Parthenon, 30 CEOs of Polish companies operating internationally or globally participated.

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