Research: Businesses Ramp Up AI Investment, Adopt New IT Architecture

Schneider Electric
  • Over 500 small and medium businesses (SMBs) surveyed to provide a comprehensive overview of the current AI landscape across Australia and New Zealand.
  • AI adoption is booming among SMBs in Australia and New Zealand, with nearly half of surveyed businesses significantly increasing AI investment.
  • Businesses are leveraging AI to drive growth, improve customer experience, and manage costs.

Companies are significantly boosting their investments in artificial intelligence (AI), identifying it as a key driver of growth and innovation, according to a new survey of 500 small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Australia and New Zealand commissioned by Schneider Electric, a leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation.

Significantly, two-thirds of respondents increased their IT budgets this year, and nearly half predicted further substantial increases in funding AI over the next five years. Forty-three per cent of respondents said dealing with embedded AI would be their top focus this year.

The research, 'The essential guide to understanding AI for SMB and Mid Market leaders in Australia and New Zealand', explores AI's growing landscape and its potential to drive significant growth and innovation for SMBs. The research delves into potential use cases for AI across industries with crucial considerations for AI investments, covering infrastructure, data management, security, personnel, processes, goal-setting, and the role of partners' services – from edge computing to core solutions such as colocation, private data centres, or cloud services.

Key insights include:

  • AI presents widespread opportunities and businesses are backing it. 48% of Australian organisations said they would take a company-wide approach to AI with significant levels of investment. A further 43% report that dealing with embedded AI will be the top focus this year.

  • Investment in AI is expected to rise significantly in the next five years. Nearly half of respondents (46%) anticipate a substantial increase in AI spending.

  • SMBs are prioritising growth, customers, and cost management. The survey revealed that growth is the top business priority in Australia. Cost management remains a key concern.

  • Security and data are the biggest hurdles to AI adoption. Over 42% of respondents identified security and data as the biggest hurdles to AI adoption this year.

  • A hybrid approach to AI infrastructure is likely to eventuate. The research suggests a combination of edge computing, cloud computing, and on-premises environments will be most prevalent for AI projects.

  • A majority (80%) of SMBs agree they must include edge environments with AI solutions. They also stated that their edge needs upgrading, and edge computing is expected to be included in up to 10% of AI projects.

The research revealed the number one investment priority in Australia is CX technology, while modernisation is the top IT management issue, followed by security. Nearly half of those surveyed said AI-generated film and video would have the highest and most urgent impact on their organisations.

"These findings paint a clear picture: AI is no longer just for big businesses, and organisations of all sizes and sectors are looking to leverage the technology to meet their growth, efficiency, and customer satisfaction targets," said Joe Craparotta, Vice President of Secure Power from Schneider Electric.

"AI is already built into many platforms businesses use, but now there is an opportunity to unlock its capabilities to improve business outcomes," he added.

"We know that AI also has enormous potential to help organisations make more intelligent decisions in the areas that are part of the solution to energy dilemma – operational efficiency, electrification, and digitisation," he said. "We hope that this research will help SMBs leverage AI to drive more sustainability – in addition to operational efficiency – across their business."

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