Will GenAI
transform business
as we know it?

What GenAI topics are important to Irish business leaders? How does Ireland compare with the US? And what is the expected impact of GenAI on Ireland’s enterprises and economy? Explore the answers in the 2023 PwC GenAI Business Leaders Survey.

How mature is Ireland’s GenAI market?

The 2023 PwC Business Leaders GenAI Survey asked Irish business leaders about their views on GenAI. How will it impact their organisations? Who owns AI in the enterprise? Is it positive for the Irish economy? And where do they plan to use GenAI?

Their feedback helps us understand the maturity of GenAI adoption in Ireland, what it means for employees and the economy, the scale of opportunity, and where more work is needed.

Substantial and widespread usage is anticipated

76% of respondents expect GenAI to significantly impact their enterprise over the next five years. The survey shows that GenAI is expected to be used in several areas across the organisation in the year ahead, from customer targeting and financial, marketing and strategic planning to supply chain management. However, 20% admitted they have no plans to use GenAI, such as ChatGPT, in the year ahead.

A common theme among organisations beginning their GenAI journey is their struggle to identify which use cases to prioritise.

While the potential for GenAI is enterprise-wide, it is also different to most IT systems. GenAI provides a new capability that can be directed at many different business challenges with the implementation of a single system. Traditional IT systems, on the other hand, are developed and deployed to address specific business issues or requirements. GenAI therefore represents a transformation project rather than an IT implementation.

As with all change projects, business leaders must build trust across the organisation. And at its core, GenAI implementation must be human-led and tech-enabled. A change management programme should run in parallel to support any GenAI initiative. However, to attempt this across the entire organisation is challenging. As a result, organisations are increasingly looking to bundle multiple GenAI projects in a single business area, such as the finance function.

A positive impact on the workforce and economy

When we asked business leaders about the expected impact of GenAI on the Irish economy over the next five years, the sentiment was positive with 74% expecting GenAI to have a positive effect on the local economy. In addition, 82% felt that GenAI would increase jobs or have no net impact. Meanwhile, 70% of business leaders do not plan to use GenAI to solve labour shortages or increase workplace automation.

So, Irish business leaders see the potential of Gen AI to benefit their organisations and the Irish economy. In their view, it does not present a threat to jobs.

These factors point to the need for organisations to help their employees maximise the value of GenAI. Skills such as prompt engineering, which is the structuring of the queries for GenAI systems, are expected to become more mainstream and part of the standard skillset. Such upskilling should be part of your learning and development plans.

Good prompting is one of the key elements to unlocking the potential of GenAI. When combined with strong data governance, it allows organisations to marry the power of pre-trained GenAI models, such as ChatGPT, with organisational knowledge. This provides the basis for GenAI systems that are fine-tuned to your organisation’s policies, products and practices.

Ireland still lags behind the US in adoption

Just 7% of respondents have rolled out AI on a large scale in their organisations. This compares to 26% in a previous PwC survey among US business executives. However, 61% of Irish business leaders are either considering adopting AI or using it to a limited extent.

As GenAI’s potential is realised, we expect this gap to decrease in the coming years. With some 80% of organisations planning to deploy GenAI in some form in the next 12 months, all industries will likely adopt it to some extent. The market pressure from competitors and the wide range of capabilities GenAI provides mean Irish organisations cannot afford to ignore it.

The challenge will be Irish organisations’ ability to understand the return on investment from their AI implementations.

Turning GenAI’s potential into real benefits

55% of respondents are not confident in their organisation’s ability to assess the return on investment on current AI initiatives. As GenAI represents a tremendous opportunity, organisations must have robust processes to measure return on investment.

Furthermore, just 6% of Irish organisations have implemented AI governance structures. With the EU AI Act soon to become law, good governance of AI systems will no longer be a ‘nice to have’; it will be a legal requirement with significant financial penalties for non-compliance. The responsible use of AI isn’t just a series of technical measures; it’s a change in governance that covers all three lines of defence. Responsible AI frameworks are rooted in the regulatory and legal environment, but they must also align with the strategy and values of the organisation. At their core, they must encourage and enable trust. Trust in AI is essential—not just in the systems but in how it is used. This includes understanding its impact on, for example, employees, customers and reputation.

AI is a business-wide initiative, and a leader should be appointed to set the strategy. However, the survey highlights that a large majority (70%) of Irish organisations have not yet started the process of putting a ‘Head of AI’ in place. This role should have an enterprise-wide remit to develop and deploy appropriate AI solutions in a responsible way that addresses use cases which are well-understood and well-governed. This role is new for many organisations, and education and change management skills will be critical.

Key actions businesses can take today

1. Focus on use cases

GenAI represents a new type of IT system. Its potential is enterprise-wide but should be driven by well-defined use cases. Focus on single business functions or end-to-end journeys initially, then take the learnings to an enterprise level.

2. Human-led, tech-enabled

New capabilities mean new ways of working, and GenAI is more of a change process than an IT implementation. People must be upskilled if these technologies are to deliver value.

3. Realising benefits through governance

Good governance for AI systems will soon become a legal requirement through the EU AI Act. Organisations’ ability to realise the value of AI in a responsible, ethical and secure way requires governance and the capacity to measure the benefits.

The key actions to take now

Assess your regulatory compliance

Implement an effective third-party risk management programme

Understand your cybersecurity technology portfolio

Create a Zero Trust roadmap

Integrate your organisation’s AI use cases into your risk management processes

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We are here to help you

At PwC, we believe the best GenAI systems are those based on trust—trust in your data, your technology, your workers’ skills and, ultimately, trust in your governance of AI. By combining our deep business understanding with our AI implementation and change management expertise, we can help build trust and real business impact.

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Contact us

Martin Duffy

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Aisling Curtis

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

David Lee

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

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