Businesses of all sizes are experiencing exceptional disruption and change as they grapple with strategies to stabilize and return to growth. In this new environment, human ingenuity, innovation and adaptability will be critically important.

As a result of COVID-19, businesses’ digital transformation is accelerating more rapidly than ever before. As Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, recently observed during our earnings announcement, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

However, as people move to distributed working and companies move essential workloads to the cloud, what isn’t instantly apparent is the growing role artificial intelligence (AI) is playing at the heart of digital transformation. For some organizations, its use had already accelerated. Others are looking at bringing forward the benefits AI can deliver.

AI is helping us discover, learn, ideate and make decisions. It’s making business operations more efficient, enhancing product and service development, and enabling new customer experiences. In industries like health care, it’s helping improve patient outcomes and save lives.

Before the pandemic, most of our customers were addressing a similar challenge: How do they ensure their people have the right skills and mindset to thrive in a world where AI is driving real business impact?

Co-workers at Mott MacDonald
Mott MacDonald personal assistant Laura Smith talks with civil apprentice Shey Sewell.

To learn more, Microsoft carried out a major international research project* focusing on AI and skills, and discovered the most successful organizations are as focused on developing the skills of their people as they are with deploying new AI-powered technology.

The business environment has changed significantly over the past few months, but the insights we gathered from our research, and the roadmap they provide, still hold true.

The core finding: “In this new environment, companies will need ingenuity to help restart their businesses,” says Azeem Azhar, AI industry expert and founder of the Exponential View. “In the context of new rules for engaging with customers, partners and stakeholders, innovative and adaptable organizations will do better. This research identifies that AI-leading firms are better positioned because they are investing more in a wide range of skills and are more focused on how new technology can augment their workers.”