A Tech Research Asia survey has revealed that a majority of Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) organisations plan to look to partners for help with AI, with sustainability cited as a top IT priority for many.

The report is based on a survey of 500 ANZ small to medium businesses and enterprises in industries including retail, telecommunications, media, manufacturing and professional services.

Seven in 10 organisations said they will turn to tech partners of all types to help with AI ideas generation, implementation and management.

“Industry specialists” were cited as the most preferred AI partner followed by systems integrators or managed service providers. 

Speaking at Schneider Electric’s 2024 Innovation Day: APC Channel Partners in Sydney today, Tech Research Asia’s director and principal analyst Michael Barnes said ANZ businesses are seeking help in three main areas.

“One, help identifying opportunities; where can we leverage AI from a business standpoint?” he said.

“…organisations need help linking the potential to clear business value. You can help them in that area.”

“Two…help me build solutions; most likely, help me leverage off the shelf and then train those models the way we want. And then third, help me manage it. [Partners] want help in all three areas.”

Through Tech Research Asia’s engagements with channel partners, Barnes said the company is “seeing about one in 10 AI projects, particularly AI proof of concepts or pilots, make it through to production.”

“There’s tonnes of opportunity to increase that percent and it starts with, again, understanding business context, finding the right opportunity,” he said.

Sustainability on the agenda

Tech Research Asia also revealed modernising technology and applications was the top IT management priority for ANZ businesses in the next 12 months, followed by improving security, governance, risk and compliance abilities.

Implementing measures to improve environmental sustainability was the third biggest priority. 

“That’s huge. That’s the first time in any study we’ve done that sustainability has entered the top three from a priority standpoint,” Barnes said.

Meanwhile, customer experience technology was reported as the number one IT investment priority in Australia, followed by security and IT platforms.

AI impediments and service opportunities 

The survey also revealed that 42.4 percent of ANZ businesses heavily agree that security and data are the biggest impediments to AI adoption in 2024.

Meanwhile, 46-47 percent said they will use off-the-shelf AI solutions but train them for their specific needs.

Thirty-eight percent in Australia and 42 percent in NZ will use AI solutions embedded into business applications.

“Within your organisation’s, the data is clear; AI is being embedded in existing applications, built into applications, Barnes told Schneider partners at the event.

“So if you’re supporting Microsoft Office 365, you need to support Copilot. It’s as simple as that; you don’t make a distinction. If you’re supporting robotic process automation solutions now, you need to be able to apply AI to those projects; there isn’t a distinction.”

He noted that with AI adoption “many of the traditional technology challenges remain, in fact get amplified.”

“Things like data management and optimisation is a huge challenge for organisations,” Barnes said.

“Networking support, clearly cybersecurity…integration and project management, employee education and training and ultimately, of course, managed services are all part of this.”

“AI doesn’t change that; it doesn’t fundamentally disrupt a lot of traditional spending that organisations do. If anything, it should accelerate that because…the majority of organisations are planning new spending in these areas.”