Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the pace in which organizations had to rethink and map their strategies overnight, gave a glimpse of how dynamically charged times we are living in. This further demanded an agile business model that could sustain in a cut-throat competitive world. Demonstrating digital reinventions, streamlining innovative measures to strengthen customer experience, enabling tech initiatives and piloting them at an unprecedented speed has been quite an eye-opener for decision-makers and employees alike.Amidst the major disruption that was COVID-19, the swift deployment of technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) across sectors has set the pace for a new work culture. But how eagerly organizations are willing to adopt AI-powered applications, given the rapidly changing economic landscape remains to be seen. In a study conducted by NTT DATA, a digital business and IT services leader, along with Oxford Economics, found that organizations raised the stakes for digital reinvention and the new ways of work it enables. Uneven AI Adoption In the research, 1,000 executive and non-executive employees in North America were surveyed in 2020, who worked in media and telecom, insurance, retail, healthcare, automotive, finance, manufacturing and public sector industries. About half of the executives working in media and telecom said that a crisis can potentially accelerate their pace to adopt new technologies at work, closely followed by those working in the retail sector. Employees in healthcare, finance, automotive industries, insurance and manufacturing sectors were also likely to consider AI applications at work, albeit at a slower rate. Only 12% of the public sector workforce could agree that their organization is fast enough to deploy automated processes and adjust to new ways of working. “Adapting to new technologies has put pressure on various sectors, especially amidst a massive disruption such as COVID-19.,” said Eric Clark, Chief Digital Officer, NTT DATA Services. “Our study outlines how businesses can take full advantage of emerging technologies and accelerate transformation, while taking necessary precautions on the path to responsible and secure adoption of artificial intelligence”. The study seemingly finds AI leaders include retail, media and telecom - whose respondents are among the “most likely to have fully implemented AI in at least one business area or across business, at scale.” A deeper understanding of the study showed that AI implementation at work boosted employee productivity, surged repeat business and managed to attract skilled workers. Other sectors like insurance, manufacturing and automotive industries are not far behind in taking a bold step to match the pace. With about 40-45% of the employees from these sectors undergoing workforce transformation per “improved employee accuracy and increased innovation,” validates that AI lives up to the hype. The COVID-19 crisis took a huge toll on healthcare providers and compelled organizations to ratify advanced technologies for immediate implementation. However, based on the NTT DATA study, 33% of employees in healthcare described the speed of technology adoption at their company as “slow or stagnant” and 27% said they’ve seen an AI application suggest taking an illegal measure due to efficiency. This indicates that part of the challenge is AI cannot be implemented the same way it was imagined, despite processes in place to monitor AI performance. As derived from the survey report, “It may take a long time to develop and fully implement AI systems, and there are few if any shortcuts to the necessary steps,” wrote Vikram Mahidhar and Thomas H. Davenport in an article for the Harvard Business Review in 2018. Two years later, many executives remain unprepared to follow the implementation roadmap, even as they aim to accelerate their investments and ROI.