Microsoft encourages Thai businesses to take AI into the core

 |   Thornthawat Thongnab

Executives in front of large screen
  • Only 26% of Thai organizations have adopted AI as core part of strategy
  • Highlight GC as an organization which adopted AI to increase the efficiency of their operations

Thailand, 12 March 2019 – A joint study by Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific – titled Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI[1] – has highlighted the need for Thai businesses to step up their efforts in embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and make a tangible difference in capacity for innovation and productivity. The study surveyed 101 business organizations across Thailand and found that only 26% of businesses had embraced AI as a core part of their strategies despite 85% of surveyed organizations acknowledging the positive impact that AI will have on their work.

The Microsoft-IDC study also revealed that Thai businesses expect AI to increase the rate of innovation by 66% and improve employee productivity by 32% by 2021, while competitiveness may increase by as much as 81%.

“Today, every company is a software company, and increasingly, every interaction is digital. To be successful in this new world, organizations need to be a fast adopter of best-in-class technology; and secondly, they need to build their own unique digital capabilities,” said Dhanawat Suthumpun, Managing Director of Microsoft Thailand. “AI is the defining technology of our time that significantly accelerates business transformation, enables innovation, boosts employee productivity, and ensures further growth.  Economies and businesses that have yet to embark on their AI journey run a real risk of missing out on the competitive benefits that are enjoyed by leaders.”

For the organizations that have implemented AI initiatives, the top five business drivers to adopt the technology were (in priority order): Better customer engagements (31% of respondent chose it as number one driver); higher competitiveness (22%); higher margins (22%); accelerated innovation (8%) as well as more productive employees (9%). Last year, organizations that have adopted AI saw tangible improvements in those areas in the range of 28% to 36%, and they forecast further improvements of at least 20% in the three-year horizon.”

Thailand needs to build on AI data and investments

The study evaluated six dimensions critical to ensuring the success of a nation’s AI journey. It uncovered that Thailand needs to focus on improving on all areas, particularly its data and investments in order to accelerate its AI journey.

“Thailand is not ready yet for AI. While many Thai businesses already exhibit a commitment to shift their corporate cultures to embrace this technology, there remains significant work to be done in developing a clear AI strategy, strong infrastructure and robust and accessible data systems – all of which will pave the way to improved AI capabilities and genuine business impact,” Michael Araneta, Associate Vice President of IDC Financial Insights, said. “They have to continuously invest in this transformative technology and build a sustainable culture of learning and agility in order to achieve long-term success, even if they have to forgo immediate returns in some cases.”

Business leaders who are adopting AI face three top challenges a lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI; lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programs and that data strategy and readiness are not seen as strategic priorities.

The study showed that to move ahead on their AI journeys businesses have to create the right organizational culture. A significant proportion of business leaders and workers surveyed believe that cultural traits that support AI journeys, such as risk-taking, proactive innovation, as well as cross-function partnerships among teams, are not pervasive today.

“Overall, workers in Thailand are more skeptical than business leaders about the cultural readiness of their organizations,” added Araneta. “Business leaders must now embrace a new culture, where innovation and continuous learning are core components of the organizational culture. It sets the stage for agility, adaptability and growth.”

Organizations need to address skills challenge for an AI-enabled workforce

The study found that Thai business leaders and workers hold positive viewpoints about the AI’s impact on the future of jobs. More than half (77% of business leaders and 58% of workers) believe that AI will either help to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.

“When it comes to creating or replacing jobs, 13% of business leaders believe that AI will create new jobs, while 5% also feel that the technology will replace workers. Overall, 90% of businesses and 77% of workers see the introduction of AI as either a pathway to new opportunities or a chance to get better at what they already do,” said Araneta.

The study also found that workers are more willing to reskill than business leaders believe they are. 36% of business leaders felt that workers have no interest to develop new skills, whereas only 18% of workers are not interested.

“Microsoft’s vision for AI is first and foremost about people. AI technology cannot progress without them. This means that millions will need to transform themselves into skilled workers as well as learners that an AI future needs,” said Dhanawat. “It is heartening to see that 81% of businesses prioritize skilling and reskilling of workers in the future. They plan to invest as much, or even more, in human capital than in new technology. Even so, 48% of business leaders have yet to implement plans to help their employees to acquire the right skills, which is worrying in today’s context. They must have the urgency to support the fundamental shift in training workers for the future.”

The top three future skills required by business leaders in Thailand include creativity, digital skills and analytical skills. The demand for these skills is higher than the existing supply for the first two identified skills. The study also uncovered that business leaders value soft skills more than workers expect. The biggest skills gaps identified were in project management, leadership and personnel management, and creativity.

GC ensures peace of mind in long-distance commuting with “AI for Road Safety”

While road travel undeniably is a central part of everyday life everywhere, there remains an inherent risk. On average, 66 people in Thailand lose their lives in road accidents each day – one of the highest rates in the world – with 60% of public transport accidents are caused by speeding and driver drowsiness. PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited (GC) is currently operating offices and factories in both Bangkok and the industrial hub province of Rayong. In each year, GC employees make a large number of trips between the two locations using the company’s in-house fleet of cars and vans.

As safety is GC’s first priority, the company has moved forward with a smart, AI-powered solution that mitigates the risk of road accidents with the power of AI. The “AI for Road Safety” program, jointly executed by GC and leading strategic and digital transformation consultancy FRONTIS using Microsoft AI technology, combines facial recognition AI with video and data analytics to monitor a driver’s behavior in real time.

Using cameras focused on the driver and a GPS unit, the system collects and transfers facial recognition and vehicle movement data to the cloud, where it is interpreted using machine learning. If signs of risks are detected, the driver receives an alarm and the fleet manager may get in touch or dispatch a relief driver if necessary. The management can also see the bigger, longer-term picture via a dashboard with data analytics using Microsoft Power BI, keeping them informed of driver performance, possible risk factors, and areas of improvement to focus on in driving training sessions.

“As a leading company in the petrochemical business, safety is our number one priority,” said Chatchawalit Dhammasaroj, Vice President – General Administration, PTT Global Chemical PCL. “Our ultimate goal is to have a zero-accident rate across our factories, offices, and plants. The impact of this goes beyond our company and extends to the families of our employees who at the end of the day just want their loved ones to return home safely. We believe this is achievable with the support of our people and artificial intelligence.”

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[1] About the study Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia’s Growth Potential Through AI

  • 1,605 business leaders and 1,585 workers participated in this study, including 101 business leaders and 101 workers in Thailand.
    • Business leaders: Business and IT leaders from organizations with more than 250 staff were polled. Respondents were decision makers involved in shaping their organization’s business and digital strategy.
    • Workers: Respondents screened have understanding of Artificial Intelligence today, and do not play a role in decision making process within their organization.
  • 15 Asia Pacific markets were involved: Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Industries polled included agriculture, automotive, education, financial services, government, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, services and telco/media.