Firms want to embrace AI, but bewildered by range of options

The vast majority of Chief Information Officers plan to increase AI tool spending in 2024, but say their teams are overwhelmed by the number of apps on the marketThe vast majority of Chief Information Officers plan to increase AI tool spending in 2024, but say their teams are overwhelmed by the number of apps on the market. As a result, 77 percent are concerned about application sprawl adding to their complexity and security risks. That is according to a new report from Canva which includes insights from more than 1,360 CIOs on their priorities, opportunities and the challenges of managing their IT amid the AI boom. The company commissioned Harris Poll to survey CIOs from the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, India, and Australia to understand how they’re managing application sprawl and making decisions about workplace tools in the AI era.

“Leveraging AI without succumbing to application sprawl is a challenge CIOs are facing on a global scale,” said Duncan Clark, Europe Lead at Canva. “Our findings show a clear aspiration from CIOs to champion transformative change and innovation by opting for solutions that streamline costs and reduce complexity. This data is another example of how AI continues to reshape the future of work, and how IT leaders are embracing the technology with open arms.”

The top findings specific to UK respondents include:

More apps are entering the workplace, but consolidation and reducing complexity are top of mind. CIOs report the pace of new apps in the market is rising globally, with 69 percent expecting to adopt between 30-60 new apps in 2024. With the rise in the number of new applications, application sprawl (the growth in individual applications used in a workplace) is a challenge for 77 percent of CIOs. As a result, nearly half (45 percent) are planning on some level of consolidation, with 19 percent planning for significant levels.

AI is dominating the mindshare of CIOs but identifying the right tools is a challenge. Despite concerns about application sprawl, nearly all CIOs (91 percent) plan to increase their budget to make investments in AI apps, with over a third (36 percent) planning budget rises of more than 50 percent. IT leaders recognise the benefits of adopting AI, such as saving time on creative or strategic tasks (52 percent), helping consolidate apps (49 percent), and offering greater insights to guide business decisions (50 percent). Identifying the right solution is a challenge, with 83 percent saying that there are already too many AI tools available, causing confusion and overlap for employees.

IT teams are overwhelmed, making simplicity and user-friendly tools more important than ever. The need to consolidate is being driven by stretched IT teams who are facing a rapid increase in the number of apps to manage. More than two-thirds (68 percent) report that they don’t have enough staff to train employees on new apps, including safe and proper use. 44 percent say their teams spend more than half of their time educating employees about new technologies, leaving less time for planning, innovation and other business-critical work.

Integrating AI is high on the agenda. Nearly all CIOs (90 percent) strongly agree that AI tools can dramatically improve both their role and their employees’ experience, but cite integrating AI (41 percent), access to IT talent (39 percent), and data security (25 percent) as the most common challenges. Most seem ready to leverage the technology, with three-quarters (75 percent) saying they have firm guardrails in place to ensure safe and responsible use.