Microsoft study reveals opportunity for Irish organisations to become generative AI leaders

Microsoft Ireland joins forces with Trinity College Dublin’s Business School to assess the uptake, sentiment, and future trends of generative AI

Kieran McCorry, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Ireland

Interest in the possibilities unlocked by artificial intelligence (AI) is growing around the world, and Ireland is no different.

Rapid advancements in generative AI are bringing about changes in how organisations do business. These advancements have the power to revolutionise many types of work, provide substantive productivity gains, and increase employee satisfaction.

Generative AI is a technology that can create new content, like text, imagery, audio, and more, using natural language prompts. It uses data to build Large Language Models that recognise patterns in the data to produce new original content.

With the IDC predicting that generative AI will increase global GDP by almost $10trn in the next decade, the impact of AI on increasing competitiveness is clear and at a time of heightened global competition, harnessing the potential of AI will be essential to the future success of businesses across Ireland.

Kieran McCorry, national technology officer, Microsoft Ireland said: “AI is a defining technology of our time, comparable to the advent of the light bulb or the printing press, and will transform and augment how we work, create, and collaborate.

“While we’re still at the early stages of the generative AI evolution, we wanted to understand how Irish organisations are currently positioned, which is why we teamed up with Trinity College Dublin’s Business School to conduct a nationwide cross-industry assessment of readiness for AI transformation.”

Embracing the AI era

The ‘Generative AI in Ireland 2024’ report launched recently by Microsoft Ireland and Trinity College Dublin, points to rising adoption rates of generative AI solutions within Irish workplaces – with 49% highlighting generative AI being used in some form within their organisation.

Despite organisations in Ireland taking their first steps on their generative AI journey, the study reveals that multinationals in Ireland are embracing generative AI, using 30% more than their indigenous counterparts.

The research also indicates sectors like technology, science, and media are already reaping the benefits with the highest planned adoption rates. 47% of industry leaders see technology enhancing productivity, compared to 17% with opposing views.

Unlocking opportunities of generative AI

One organisation who is at the forefront of the generative AI revolution in the last few months has been ESB. Working closely with Microsoft and supported by Accenture, ESB became one of the first businesses in Europe to deploy Copilot for Microsoft 365 to empower its approximately 9,000 employees.

Since Copilot for Microsoft 365 launched last November, ESB has deployed this new generative AI technology to approximately 300 employees. These employees are already seeing the benefits, such as enabling them to focus on high-value activity and improving knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Commenting on the collaboration with Microsoft, Mary O’Connor, chief information officer at ESB said: “Leveraging this emerging technology alongside our existing Microsoft products is showing strong potential, helping us to improve employee experience, support greater collaboration and ultimately, drive digital adoption.

Shadow AI Culture on the rise

Interestingly, despite the widespread adoption of generative AI in organisations, the report also reveals a shadow culture emerging within workplaces.

Despite significant trust in the technology (50%), notwithstanding its current infancy, the report reveals a lack of formal AI policy adoption in the workplace. A quarter of leaders say they are aware that some employees within their organisations are using publicly available generative AI tools, and 27% admit to doing so themselves, rather than using enterprise-grade solutions with in-built content safety controls and data protection.

Just 2% of firms indicate there is an organisation-wide AI-first policy in place, meaning they have a company-wide approach to generative AI. This trend could contribute to a shadow generative AI culture, with employees seeking workarounds and using publicly available tools that are not aligned to company policy and that don’t have privacy, security, and data protection controls.

Meanwhile, 42% of senior managers highlight they would prefer to have the option of using enterprise-grade AI solutions compared to publicly available tools (17% disagreeing).

Taking the lead

It’s evident from Microsoft’s report that organisations that are at the forefront of generative AI adoption, and that are embracing an AI-first policy, are seeing many more benefits and productivity increases (71%) compared to firms that prohibit generative AI (42%). These organisations are seeing increased productivity, innovation potential, and enhanced training.

McCorry concludes: “While the research indicates that indigenous organisations might be falling behind, this is only the start, there’s still time to be early adopters and harness the innovative potential of AI.

At Microsoft Ireland, we’re dedicated to enabling individuals and organisations across Ireland with the technology and skills needed to thrive in the AI era.”

To learn more about the findings of the ‘Generative AI in Ireland 2024’ report, click here