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Generative AI is quickly infiltrating organizations, McKinsey reports


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McKinsey and Company is no stranger to generative artificial intelligence (gen AI): around half of the global consulting giant’s employees were said to be using the technology as of earlier this summer.

But it’s not the only org to see a rapid uptake of gen AI. Indeed, a new annual report by McKinsey’s AI arm QuantumBlack finds that “use of gen AI is already widespread.”

McKinsey reached this conclusion by conducting an online survey of 1,684 participants across various regions, industries and company sizes between April 11 and 21, 2023. The majority (79%) of respondents reported “at least some exposure to gen AI, either for work or outside of work,” while 22% said they were using it regularly for their work.

Those findings echo VentureBeat’s own informal survey conducted ahead of our VB Transform conference in San Francisco last month, which found that more than 70% of companies are already experimenting with gen AI.

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Who is using gen AI and where?

Ok, so we know companies and individuals are getting their hands on gen AI, but who is using it the most, and for what? McKinsey’s new report provides some insights worth calling out.

So far, North America-based respondents lead the globe in terms of gen AI adoption for work, with 28% of them using the tech in their jobs and outside of work, compared to 24% of European respondents and 22% of Asia-Pacific respondents (Greater China was just 19%).

Credit: QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey “The state of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s breakout year”

This is perhaps expected, given the gen AI craze kicked off in the U.S. in November 2022 with OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT.

Similarly, the industries that have most rapidly embraced the technology for work and/or outside of work so far are “technology, media and telecom,” at 33%, followed by “financial services” and “business, legal and professional services,” at 24% and 23%, respectively.

Credit: QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey “The state of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s breakout year”

Again, this is not too surprising: The tech industry, which originated gen AI products, has been leading the adoption curve.

Interestingly, though, when it comes to which job titles use gen AI the most for work and/or outside of it, both C-suite and senior managers clocked in at 24% regular usage for work and outside of work, combined. Midlevel managers were close behind at 23%, although they were more likely to have had no exposure, as well (19%).

Credit: QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey “The state of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s breakout year”

What gen AI is being used for

The business functions most commonly harnessing these newer tools mirror those where AI use is most prevalent overall.

These include marketing and sales, product and service development and service operations such as customer care and back-office support.

In fact, the single largest category of functions where gen AI was being used as of April 2023 was marketing and sales, at 14%, followed by product/service development at 13%.

Very low on the list were supply chain management at 3% and manufacturing at just 2%.

While these areas may prove more challenging and time-consuming for AI adoption and have some physical constraints that make them more resistant to it, supply chain management in particular would seem to be a ripe area for new gen AI products and services to take hold — as a lot of it does involve planning, analyzing market conditions and providing insights based on vast volumes of data, all of which gen AI excels at.

In terms of what people are using gen AI to do, specifically, almost all of the capabilities so far revolve around creating, summarizing and analyzing documents. However, trend forecasting is a close second.

Credit: QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey “The state of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s breakout year”

More than a fleeting trend

The report also revealed that gen AI is not just a fleeting trend but a strategic focus for many organizations. Nearly half (40%) of those reporting AI adoption indicated that their companies plan to ramp up their overall AI investments, thanks to gen AI. Furthermore, the technology has already made its way onto the board’s agenda for 28% of these organizations.

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