Artificial Intelligence (AI) is redefining the IT landscape, enhancing productivity, and streamlining processes for businesses operating in the Channel. AI has already proved its worth, with its ability to reduce administrative burdens and its steep adoption in the workplace with 60% of people now using AI-assisted tools at work. With 82% of respondents pinpointing AI as a priority, it’s clear this technology has quickly become an essential component for future success. 

Statista has also reported that the UK has paved the way for AI adoption in professional workspaces, with a further 78% of employers adopting AI and consulting workers on the use of new technologies in the workplace. This shift indicates a growing trend towards an increased reliance on AI for streamlining monotonous tasks and processes, allowing companies to redirect valuable resources towards more pertinent areas of their business.

Whilst its benefits are clear, the rise of AI and its integration across the IT sector has resulted in industry-wide skepticism, with over 30% of workers fearing AI will take over or replace their jobs. Forbes also reports that AI’s potential use far exceeds the readiness levels of today’s modern businesses and the hype that surrounds it. With growing distrust of AI’s potential implications on job security, the duality of the sentiment — embracing AI for certain functions while simultaneously harboring distrust — highlights the nuanced relationship between AI and the workforce. With that in mind, there is an increasing need for Channel businesses to address concerns, build trust, and bridge the gap between workforces and AI technologies.

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Elevating the Channel through AI 

There has always been a nervousness around ‘Artificial Intelligence’, with the fear that robots will take over, everyone will be out of a job and computers will run the world. In the background, AI has been developing but being delivered to consumers using different languages – predictive analytics and assisted helpdesk – are just a few examples.

Then Chat GPT came along and showed the potential of generative AI to the masses and suddenly the popularity of AI exploded. The shift in perception of AI has gone from people being fearful to suddenly wanting to adopt AI in as many ways as possible. The sentiment is suddenly that AI can save us a great deal of time and money.

Of course, there is an element of truth in that and a strong focus should be placed upon the benefits AI welcomes. With AI’s ability to introduce efficiencies, provide insights, and unlock new capabilities, it can deliver a unique outlook on business performance, customer preferences, and market trends. By leveraging AI, Channel companies can find new ways to boost operational efficiency. AI’s ability to analyse vast amounts of data allows businesses to effectively allocate resources towards key areas such as staff training and development. This is crucial, as Statista reports indicate that 20% of employees feel they need upskilling in AI best practices.  

AI can also help reduce the risk of human error by allowing workforces to scale back on repetitive tasks, thereby easing pressure on more critical parts of the business. It also allows Channel businesses to boost productivity by leveraging data to produce detailed business insights. AI algorithms can detect patterns, analyse competitor activities, predict customer preferences, and generate quality leads, helping to expand an organisation’s customer base and identify new sales and marketing opportunities. By utilising AI’s extensive data analysis capabilities, IT vendors in the Channel can analyse key data points and uncover meaningful insights about their performance, preferences, and behaviour.

AI can also play a crucial role in ensuring Channel businesses remain compliant with regulatory bodies by analysing data and detecting anomalies or non-compliant activities. This enables IT businesses to proactively address compliance issues and mitigate risk.

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However, despite the increasing integration of AI technology in the Channel, a significant AI Trust Gap exists within organisations of all sizes. We recently surveyed our employees to understand what factors businesses should consider when integrating AI technology into their organisations. Data quality and integration with existing systems topped the list, closely followed by understanding how AI would address business needs and its longer-term strategy. Compliance with ethical guidelines was also raised.

The disruptions and uncertainties caused as a result of integrating AI across daily operations can be a key cause for concern with workforces. There isn’t full confidence that AI can be fully trusted and a human element will still be required to sanity check the output. The impact of AI on business operations and processes can also lead to employee issues like job insecurity and lack of confidence in the transparency and accountability of AI decisions.

Unlocking AI in the Channel through education

Whether Channel businesses are specialising in AI services as a go-to-market strategy or are adopting AI tools within their organisations to improve operational efficiency, employees must be prepared and supported. By establishing clear communication channels, addressing employee concerns, offering training programmes, and developing awareness initiatives, Channel businesses can take effective steps toward bridging this confidence gap. Comprehensive education programmes can help educate employees on the benefits, key uses, and limitations of AI technologies ensuring employees at all levels understand AI’s role within the organisation. Through continuous learning opportunities, Channel leaders can equip their workforce with the necessary skills to leverage AI effectively to support key operations and processes. 

Furthermore, businesses can use awareness campaigns highlighting success stories where AI has positively impacted the organisation, emphasising the technology’s role in enhancing, rather than replacing human capabilities. By fostering a culture that values both human and AI contributions, Channel organisations can ease fears of job displacement and encourage collaboration between AI and employees.

Communication is so often the answer, and when it comes to AI, establishing open lines of communication is key. This should be with all stakeholders – partners, customers, and especially employees.  A culture that considers the implications of AI and takes a measured approach to effectively implement the technology will create a more collaborative workforce, capable of leveraging AI’s full potential to ensure business success.

A staggeringly low number of organisations have formal policies regarding their workers’ use of AI in place – with only 10% having this implemented currently. Therefore the overwhelming need for the gap to be bridged is through education and training, extending beyond just its uses, instead considering how employees and the industry use AI-powered tools in an ethical, fair, and consistent manner. Developing a clear and critical code of conduct for employees to work against helps to bridge this technology’s gap – painting it as a tool for best practice, rather than one used by employees to cut corners or reduce workloads. Still, with 68% of employees surveyed saying they don’t disclose their use of AI to their employer, a paradigm shift must be considered when looking at the tools used by employees daily and how these tools can transparently be used across the Channel.

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