26 Mar 2024
by Kirsty Biddiscombe

NetApp guest blog: It’s time to plan for AI in UK businesses in 2024

Guest blog by Kirsty Biddiscombe, EMEA Business Lead on AI, Machine Learning & Data Analytics, NetApp

From everyday generative writing tools and customer engagement, to sophisticated new healthcare research, we know that AI is finding a home in our personal and working lives. But how are UK businesses grappling with the opportunities this presents?

Fresh insights landed this week, with new YouGov research commissioned by NetApp showing that the planning and foundations for AI are at a critical moment for UK businesses. Drawing on input from 1,000+ IT decision makers, the survey shows that we’re at a crucial point where enthusiasm and excitement are meeting a deep need for better planning.

It’s clear that AI is landing with real momentum in UK businesses of all shapes and sizes. Over a third (34%) have adopted some form of AI tool or service - and 59% expect their spending to increase on AI projects in 2024 compared to last year. A further quarter are actively exploring the technology or plan to adopt AI for the first time this year.

In the face of this momentum, there’s concern around lack of preparedness, knowledge and strategy. 

Whilst planning to invest significantly, only half (51%) of those surveyed said they understand how AI can benefit their operations, and just 20% said they have a strong understanding of how they can harness AI technology.

Build a plan, and lay the right AI foundations

With pressure to deploy, pilot and open budgets to spend on AI, the risks of unplanned initial decision-making are growing. What does this mean? Firstly, you need a plan, not just shiny new tools. That means there needs to be a strategic, long-range view on AI in your organisation, clear prioritised use cases, and a shared view of what ‘good’ looks like for AI in your business, building from an initial focus on targeted instances of ‘everyday AI’.

The second takeaway here is that businesses really need to start by laying the right foundations for AI. AI models are literally only as good as the data they draw on. High quality, consistent data - at massive scale, and available in real time, with appropriate security and other management controls is a must.

AI is nothing without a robust data strategy, and this should be a top priority for any business wanting to harness AI. That strategy needs to deliver data that is secure, accessible, and resilient - and easy to manage. And for an AI model to successfully train with meaning, that data also needs to be ‘clean,’ so it’s complete, consistent, uncorrupted, free of duplication and ambiguity.  

You can think about this as being like the process of building a house. You plan it first, architecting the layout, considering important practicalities like light and access, then consider how you’re going to use rooms and how they work together. You build that out in plans that contractors draw from.

In other words - before you do anything else you make sure it is safe, secure and sound.

Sue Daley, techUK’s Director for Tech and Innovation sums it up, There’s a pressing need for a strategic approach to AI adoption and readiness to ensure long-term effectiveness and competitiveness, and ensure that organisations are well-prepared to maximise the benefits of AI adoption. Those that fail to do so may miss out.”

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techUK - Putting AI into Action 

Our Putting AI into Action campaign serves as a one stop shop for showcasing the opportunities and benefits of AI adoption across four strategic sectors - Health and Social Care, Cyber, Central Government and Transport

techUK is coordinating a calendar of events, reports, and insights to demonstrate some of the most significant opportunities for AI adoption in 2024, as well as working with key stakeholders to identify and address current barriers to adoption.

Visit our AI Adoption Hub to learn more, or find our latest activity below.

Upcoming AI Adoption events

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Contact the team

Usman Ikhlaq

Usman Ikhlaq

Programme Manager - Artificial Intelligence, techUK

Learn more about our AI Adoption campaign:

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Kirsty Biddiscombe

Kirsty Biddiscombe

EMEA Business Lead on AI, Machine Learning & Data Analytics, NetApp