Geopolitical upheavals and energy crises to the persistent societal and economic impacts of a global pandemic continue to test the resilience and adaptability of business leaders around the world, but optimism is on the rise, according to the 2024 HLB Survey of Business Leaders.

Our 2024 survey encompasses nearly 1,000 responses from leaders across more than 50 countries from a broad range of industry backgrounds, painting a nuanced picture of today’s business environment.

Concerns about geopolitical risks, cyber threats, and environmental challenges have escalated dramatically. For instance, apprehensions about cyber risks have escalated from 52 per cent in 2020 to 67 per cent today, and environmental concerns have risen from 29 per cent to 52 per cent.

However, amidst these challenges lies a silver lining of resilience and resurgence. We’ve witnessed a rebound in confidence among business leaders, with many expressing unprecedented optimism about revenue growth in 2024.

This resilience is a testament to the enduring spirit of leadership that adapts, innovates, and thrives even in the face of adversity. The accelerated adoption of new working models, more mobile and cloud-enabled, signifies a radical departure from the past decade’s norms. This transformation has been catalysed by the pandemic and facilitated by technological breakthroughs.

Our survey indicates a near doubling in the number of leaders planning to leverage new technologies for growth, with artificial intelligence (AI) taking the lead as the most crucial emerging technology. Which brings us to the theme of this year’s report: How are business leaders embracing AI technologies to unlock competitive advantage? We have researched leaders’ sentiment towards AI and analysed how different attitudes towards the adoption of AI for business transformation leads to varying actions and strategic tactics leaders are making in the next 12 months.

We have explored barriers to adoption, use cases for AI and AI maturity across a range of stages in one’s AI adoption journey. As a result, we’ve been able to segment leaders into three categories: the Conservatives, the Explorers and the Innovators. The findings of this report explore how each segment is approaching AI and digital transformation in their businesses.

Businesses are on a continuous journey, adapting their businesses to new realities and using technology to remain competitive. It isn’t a sprint to adopt multiple plug-and-play AI products, but rather a marathon that demands research, evaluation, and experimentation to determine the role of AI in your operations.

We have identified 10 steps to help plan businesses progress their AI journey, regardless of where they currently sit on the maturity curve. Exploring some essential questions will help business leaders along each step and embrace AI in their organisations.

These steps are summarised as follows:

  • Step 1: identify objectives & challenges
  • Step 2: understand AI capabilities
  • Step 3: data collection & management
  • Step 4: evaluate & select the right ai solutions
  • Step 5: integration & implementation
  • Step 6: compliance & ethics
  • Step 7: training & change management
  • Step 8: monitor & evaluate
  • Step 9: scale and evolve
  • Step 10: strategic partnerships & collaborations