Artificial Intelligence is the next key game changer for business, but Irish companies are not as prepared for AI as global business, a new survey has revealed.

Almost half of Irish chief executives believe AI will have a bigger impact on the world than the internet revolution, yet half of them are planning AI initiatives in their companies, compared to 77% of chief executives globally.

This was one of the key findings of PwC's 2019 Irish CEO survey.

"If you look at the global survey, a lot of that awareness or that belief that AI will significantly change how we do business is coming from the US," Feargal O'Rourke, Managing Partner with PwC Ireland, explained.

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"They are probably just getting an earlier line of sight of the impact of AI, but I think Irish CEOs are certainly waking up to it. Almost two thirds of CEOs believe that it will significantly change how they do business in the next five years, but yet only half of them have plans in place to address this, so there is a bit of a gap there," Mr O'Rourke said.

Mr O'Rourke said it may prove a barrier to growth for some companies if they do not prepare for AI, such as robotics and automation, and they will find themselves behind the curve when it comes to competition.

The survey also highlights that Irish CEOs don't have the data they need to make decisions about the long term success of their businesses.

"They have the data, in fact, they have exponentially more data than they have ever had before, but despite the fact that they are drowning in data, despite the fact that they have invested in IT, they are not successfully able to extract the information they need to help them shape the business decisions that they are making," he said.

The uncertainty that surrounds Brexit emerges as a growing concern for chief executives in Ireland, in the survey.  

Since 2016, the PwC Ireland view has been to expect a no-deal Brexit as the most likely probability. Mr O'Rourke said the good news that can be taken from the survey regarding a no-deal Brexit, is that most companies have now put their planning in place for that eventuality.

The survey also finds that hiring people is more difficult in Ireland than around the world, and Irish CEOs are concerned about a shortage of skills. Their concern over hiring staff is at the highest it has ever been since the survey began.

The shortage of people is not just specific to areas like technology or cyber security or data analytics, it is across the board, from construction to finance. "More and more CEOs are saying they just can't get enough people and they just can't get the right people. It's beginning to have an impact on the economy," according to Mr O'Rourke.

Irish companies are looking abroad for staff, and are reaching outside traditional markets, he added.