Australian companies are either embracing intelligent machines within the workplace or are ready to embrace them, according to a new survey by professional service company Cognizant.

68 per cent of executives expect their workforce to be prepared to work with intelligent machines in the next five years as the technology becomes the main business disruptor, according to the research.

The survey defined an intelligent machine as one that combines hardware with data and “software that mimics human actions”. 

The Cognizant report, Humans & Intelligent Machines: Mastering the Future of Work Economy in Asia Pacific, polled key leaders from the C-suite in 100 Australian large companies that had more than 2000 employees. It found these business leaders are expecting to spend an average of 12.5 per cent of revenues on building capabilities for intelligent machines.

The report shows 88 per cent of respondents cited intelligent machines as the number one driver of business change in the next five years.

The executives might acknowledge the AI technology as a driver of business but only 23 per cent of the respondents feel fully prepared to handle working with intelligent machines and 38 per cent are confident about their ability to integrate intelligent machines with existing business processes, suggesting they need more direction to achieve this.

According to UBS, AI will produce economic value in Asia-Pacific of between US$1.8 trillion to US$3 trillion a year by 2030.

Businesses in the APAC region are confident in their investments in intelligent machines – which will reach 13.5 per cent of revenues in five years, according to Cognizant research.

The survey said business leaders expect intelligent machines to account for 12 per cent revenue growth and 7.4 per cent lower costs in the next five years, in addition to a double-digit boost to workforce productivity.

The report author, Manish Bahl, noted, “The transition to the intelligent machine age won’t happen without an acute focus on the relationship between humans and machines, how the two will collaborate, and how the current workforce and the business itself will adapt to A.I.”

Australian businesses mentioned three challenges which could hinder them in implementing human-machine collaboration in the workplace. Firstly, 72 per cent of respondents said they were struggling to find candidates with relevant skills in the AI space. The same amount of respondents mentioned a lack of training available to enable employees to work effectively with machines as another roadblock. Lastly, 70 per cent had a misalignment of workforce strategy with business goals.

According to the report, in the future intelligent machines are likely to replace repetitive human tasks, challenging workers to focus on new skills and adjust to rapid changes in core skill sets.

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