AI vendors, meeting, board, checkmarks

As the Rolling Stones traverse the country with their signature anthems, another group of high rollers – in this case, AI vendors – are emphatically voicing their lack of satisfaction.

Nearly half of some 1,000 enterprise buyers and influencers of AI products intend to change or add new vendors this year, based on a study last year by The Futurum Group.

“Anyone who says they know what they’re doing with AI is lying. We are in the early stages of evaluating and choosing generative-AI vendors,” said Keith Kirkpatrick, research director, enterprise applications, at The Futurum Group.

In their haste to deploy AI across operations, enterprises are careening from one vendor to another to make the most of their pilot programs, resulting in a work-in-progress approach, according to Kirkpatrick, who conducted the research.

“They are still trying to figure out AI strategies and vendors that can deliver,” Kirkpatrick said in an interview. Participants in the study were from the U.S., UK, Canada, France and Germany, he added.

Decision makers in the U.S. and Canada have the highest rates of outsourcing their AI tools, software and services at a combined 57%; Europe is generally lower, with Germany the lowest at 48%.

A handful of vendors — many of whose products are already embedded within major enterprises — are primary sources for outsourcing.

End-to-end AI applications have been dominated by Microsoft (29%) in the U.S., Inc.’s AWS (24%) in Germany, France and Canada, and IBM Corp. (22%) strong in the UK.

Microsoft (28%) was the most popular provider of SaaS/embedded applications in the U.S., while Alphabet Inc.’s Google (21%) is the leader in the UK and France.

This leaves plenty of room for other vendors to grab a slice of the multibillion-dollar AI market, in which decision makers have placed a premium on expertise and experience with AI (40%) over pricing and contract terms (31%). On the flip side, the No. 1 deal breaker for IT buyers is a lack of implementation speed and timeline (23%).

For now, consultants retain a vice-like grip on enterprises because of their expertise and ties to cloud vendors. When all was said and done, Accenture (26%) was the most-trusted AI consultant and systems integrator across the geographic markets surveyed.

Conversely, when asked who they would move or add in 2024, those who outsourced ranked Accenture tops, at 29%, followed by Deloitte (21%), BCG (20%), Atos (19%), and CGI (18%), according to Futurum Group data.

“Every six months, it seems the board changes,” Jordan Zaslav, chief operating officer at Axios HQ, said in an interview. “It’s almost as if AI is everywhere and nowhere. How do you package such a superpower?”

The daunting task of assembling an AI strategy amid app and consulting “fits and starts,” as Zaslav puts it, can be overwhelming, IT decision makers lament. Internal legal governance, costs and skills ranked among their most-pressing concerns.

“There has been such a resounding response to ChatGPT, every CTO, CDAO, and CIO is being asked by someone in the organization to quickly come up with an implementation,” Matt Forrest, chief technology officer at CARTO, said in an interview. “A year ago, this knee-jerk response is more about practical integration, and people are still feeling their way in search of better data analysis and interacting with images.”

Forrest believes a number of specialized tools are being based on a handful of trusted vendors like Google and OpenAI, as well as fledgling services from Anthropic, Salesforce Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc.