The current generation of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and models could help companies speed up 20% of worker tasks without loss in quality, according to a survey by Bain & Company.

89% of software companies are already using AI to differentiate their products—15 percentage points higher than other sectors, Bain's fourth annual Global Technology Report shows.

The ease of access to large language model (LLM) application programming interfaces (APIs) has made it relatively easy to demonstrate new AI-powered products, the survey finds.

Early adopters of AI are already seeing results and productivity gains as companies explore new ways to use AI for their businesses, the report says.

75% of the more than 570 executives recently surveyed by Bain & Company say AI has already met or exceeded their expectations.

"Innovation is happening quickly, and we are still in early days," says David Crawford, global head of Bain's Technology practice. "Three out of four software companies we surveyed believe that early movers will have a sustained advantage that will not level off. Software leaders expect the technology to generate significant opportunities to increase topline growth and customer retention. Our research shows that, in this fast-moving environment, companies that take a wait-and-see approach in terms of AI are at risk of being left behind."

Software companies also need to address how the adoption of generative AI by their customers and competitors can impact their core business, the report says.

As customers introduce AI into their own processes, job roles are expected to change. Engineering and sales and marketing are among the functions most likely to benefit from AI over the next 18 months, the survey finds.

"Generative AI will change the way companies market and sell their products and services as it enables significant automation across every step of the customer life cycle. In particular, demand and lead generation, digital self-service sales, customer success, and other support activities all have the potential to benefit from the types of automation that generative AI enables," it says.

When it comes to investor appetite, Bain's report showed that most investors agree that AI will have a significant effect on the tech sector.

This comes weeks after Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said AI will empower people with little or no skills to perform higher-level jobs. India's top IT companies - Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro - have announced investments in generative AI. Tech industry lobby Nasscom too has released guidelines for those engaged in research, developing, and using generative AI technologies.

Earlier this month, NVIDIA and Reliance Industries announced a collaboration to develop India's own language model trained on the nation's diverse languages and tailored for generative AI applications.

In June, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the Centre has allocated $200 million to build an AI programme in order to solve governance challenges. "Artificial intelligence can solve India's governance problems in India... Just like UPI was built to solve a government problem and has created one of the vibrant fintech ecosystems in the world, we believe AI can solve governance problems," he said.

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