Reshaping Business With Artificial Intelligence – 2017 AI Report from MIT Sloan & BCG

MIT Sloan Management Review Research Report
In collaboration with BCG – Boston Consulting Group

By Sam Ransbotham, David Kiron, Philipp Gerbert, and Martin Reeves

Findings from the 2017 Artificial Intelligence Global Executive Study and Research Project

Closing the Gap Between Ambition and Action

Executive Summary

Expectations for artificial intelligence (AI) are sky-high, but what are businesses actually doing now? 

The goal of this report is to present a realistic baseline that allows companies to compare their AI ambitions and efforts.

Building on data rather than conjecture, the research is based on

  • a global survey of more than 3,000 executives, managers, and analysts across industries and
  • in-depth interviews with more than 30 technology experts and executives.

The gap between ambition and execution is large at most companies.

  • Three-quarters of executives believe AI will enable their companies to move into new businesses. 
  • Almost 85% believe AI will allow their companies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage. 
  • But only about one in five companies has incorporated AI in some offerings or
  • Only one in 20 companies has extensively incorporated AI in offerings or processes.
  • Less than 39% of all companies have an AI strategy in place. The largest companies — those with at least 100,000 employees — are the most likely to have an AI strategy, but only half have one.

Our research reveals large gaps between today’s leaders — companies that already understand and have adopted AI — and laggards.

  • One sizeable difference is their approach to data.
    AI algorithms are not natively “intelligent.” They learn inductively by analyzing data.
    While most leaders are investing in AI talent and have built robust information infrastructures, other companies lack analytics expertise and easy access to their data.
  • Our research surfaced several misunderstandings about the resources needed to train AI.
    The leaders not only have a much deeper appreciation about what’s required to produce AI than laggards, they are also more likely to have senior leadership support and have developed a business case for AI initiatives.

About the research:

To understand the challenges and opportunities associated with the use of artificial intelligence, MIT Sloan Management Review, in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group, conducted its inaugural annual survey of more than 3,000 business executives, managers, and analysts from organizations around the world.

The survey, conducted in the spring of 2017, captured insights from individuals in 112 countries and 21 industries, from organizations of various sizes. More than two-thirds of the respondents were from outside of the United States. The sample was drawn from a number of sources, including MIT Sloan Management Review readers, and other interested parties.

In addition to our survey results, we interviewed business executives from a number of industries and academia to understand the practical issues facing organizations today. Their insights contributed to a richer understanding of the data.

For the purpose of our survey, we used the definition of artificial intelligence from the Oxford Dictionary: “AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” However, AI is evolving rapidly, as is the understanding and definition of the term. 

AI has implications for management and organizational practices. While there are already multiple models for organizing for AI, organizational flexibility is a centerpiece of all of them.

For large companies, the culture change required to implement AI will be daunting, according to several executives with whom we spoke.

Our survey respondents and interviewees are more sanguine than conventional wisdom on job loss. Most managers we surveyed do not expect that AI will lead to staff reductions at their organization within the next five years. Rather, they hope that AI will take over some of their more boring and unpleasant current tasks.

About the authors

SAM RANSBOTHAM is an associate professor in the information systems department at the Carroll School of Business at Boston College, as well as guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Artificial Intelligence Big Ideas Initiative. He can be reached on Twitter @ransbotham.

DAVID KIRON is the executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review, which brings ideas from the world of thinkers to the executives and managers who use them.

PHILIPP GERBERT is a senior partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group’s Munich, Germany, office. He is BCG’s global topic leader for digital strategy and a BCG Henderson Institute Fellow for the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Business. He can be reached at

MARTIN REEVES is a senior partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group and the director of the BCG Henderson Institute, which brings ideas and inspiration to forward-looking leaders.


Sebastian Steinhäuser, principal and member of the AI core team, BCG

Patrick Ruwolt, consultant and member of the AI core team, BCG

Allison Ryder, senior project editor, MIT Sloan Management Review

The research and analysis for this report was conducted under the direction of the authors as part of an MIT Sloan Management Review research initiative in collaboration with and sponsored by The Boston Consulting Group.

To cite this report, please use:

  1. Ransbotham, D. Kiron, P. Gerbert, and M. Reeves, “Reshaping Business With Artificial Intelligence,” MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group, September 2017.

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