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Singapore CIOs lag in machine learning adoption, according to “The Global CIO Point of View” Survey

ServiceNow recently released the results of its “The Global CIO Point of View”, and found that the adoption of machine learning is on the rise in the enterprise. However, it was revealed that Singaporean respondents are lagging behind their peers in Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe in adopting machine learning. 

The report surveyed 500 CIOs from around the world with almost 10% from Singapore, to uncover the competitive benefits of adopting machine learning and hear how these leaders are accommodating digital labour, including creating new jobs that focus on work with intelligent machines. A third (32%) of CIOs in Singapore surveyed said their organisation are using machine learning in some or all parts of their business, compared to counterparts in Australia (59%) and New Zealand (49%). 3 key areas were identified as barriers to adoption and maturation of automated decision making in their organisation:

·      70% of CIOs in Singapore cite outdated processes and insufficient data quality (65%) as a substantial barrier to adoption.

·      35% cite the lack of skills to manage and maintain smart machines, and a lack of budget for new skills (61%).

·      Almost 40% of respondents in Singapore feel that there is a lack of budget allocated for new technology in their organisation.

More than half (52%) of CIOs in Singapore surveyed agree on the ability of machine learning to make complex decisions that are imperative to the success of their organisation, with 54% respondents citing that machine learning as a strategic focus for their organisation. The enthusiasm for this technology is driven by widely-held confidence by CIOs that greater automation through machine learning will increase the accuracy (80%) and speed of decisions (87%). Machine learning software promise to analyse and improve its own performance without direct human intervention, giving it the ability to make increasingly complex decisions as it learns:

·      87% of Singapore CIOs cite profitability growth and top-line growth as the area that would benefit the most from decision automation over the next 3 years.

·      59% said that product development and research are automated to an extent but still requires substantial human intervention. 41% of CIOs expect decision automation brought about by machine learning to allow more room for developing new products and services for the organisation.

·      76% said that routine decision making takes up a meaningful amount of employee and executive time especially in departments like Finance and Human Resources (57%). CIOs in Singapore expect decision automation to contribute to their organisation’s employee productivity by 41%, and talent recruitment and retention by 35%.

The survey also found that 28% of CIOs in Singapore are making some investments in machine learning currently, and this number is expected to grow within the next few years as Singapore gears towards a Smart Nation. Half of CIOs in Singapore say that they are making organised changes to processes or leadership to prepare their organisation for machine learning adoption. 

Machine learning is not just about the right technology – organisations must train employees to work with machines and redefine their job scope to accommodate the necessary skillsets, which are diverse across multiple disciplines from engineering to data science, critical thinking to problem solving. 

Organisations in Singapore have shown that they are willing to make such changes to make rapid progress with machine learning:

·      17% of CIOs in Singapore have already set plans for workforce size and role changes within their organisation.

·      More than half of CIOs in Singapore (52%) have begun to redefine job descriptions to include a focus on work involving intelligent machines – well ahead of Asia-Pacific peers in Australia (43%) and New Zealand (27%).

·      Almost 40% of respondents said that they have developed a roadmap for future process change.

Achieving Value from Machine Learning 

ServiceNow recommends five steps on how CIOs can jumpstart their journey to digital transformation with machine learning:

1) Build the foundation and improve data quality. One of the top barriers to machine learning adoption is the quality of data. If machines make decisions based on poor data, the results will not provide value and could increase risk. CIOs must utilise technologies that will simplify data maintenance and the transition to machine learning.

2) Prioritise based on value realisation. When building a roadmap, focus on those services that are most commonly used, as automating these services will deliver the greatest business benefits. At a high level, where the most unstructured work patterns that could benefit from automation? Commit to re-engineering services and processes as part of this transformation, and not simply lifting and shifting current processes into a new model.

3) Build an exceptional customer experience. A core benefit of increasing the speed and accuracy of decision-making lies in creating an exceptional internal and external customer service. When creating a roadmap to implement machine learning capabilities, imagine the ideal customer experience and prioritise investment against those goals.

4) Attract new skills and double down on culture. CIOs must identify the roles of the future and anticipate how employees will engage with machines – and start hiring and training in advance. CIOs must build a culture that embraces a new working model and skills. That means establishing guidelines for executives, engineers, and front-line workers about their work with machines and the future of human-machine collaboration. 

5) Measure and report. The benefits of machine learning may be clear to CIOs, but other C-level executives and corporate boards often need to be educated on its value. CIOs must set expectations, develop success metrics prior to implementation, and build a sound business case in order to acquire and maintain the requisite funding. CIOs should also consider building automated benchmarks against peers in their industry and other companies that are of similar size.

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