Sixty-five per cent of New Zealand organisations believe they have at most a year to implement AI strategies before they experience negative impacts.
However, new data from Cisco also showed New Zealand organisations have a lot of work to do before they can make the most of AI.
The research looked at readiness across strategy, infrastructure, data, governance, talent and culture and New Zealand organisations trailed on most measures.
Overall, only 9 per cent of NZ organisations were categorised as AI pace-setters compared with 14 per cent globally. Twenty-nine per cent were categorised as chasers compared with 34 per cent globally.
The balance were categorised either as either followers or laggards.
While relatively close to global averages in terms of strategy and governance, local organisations struggled particularly in terms of talent and data readiness and also had work to do to prepare their infrastructure and culture.
Only 7 per cent of local respondents were categorised as pacesetters in terms of talent, for instance, compared with 17 per cent globally. However, 85 per cent reported they were investing in training for employees in this area.
Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) were categorised as laggards when it came to data readiness compared with 17 per cent globally.
Just 11 per cent were categorised as infrastructure pace-setters compared with 17 per cent globally.
Globally, 97 per cent reported the urgency to deploy AI-powered technologies had increased in their company within the past six months. Locally, that number was lower but a still resounding 93 per cent.
"While this pressure is coming from almost every stakeholder group, the greatest pressure is being felt from the top, with over half saying this urgency is being driven by their CEO and leadership team, followed by their board of directors," the report said.
As a result, 84 per cent believed AI would have a significant impact on their business operations in the future.
At the same time, while grappling with commercial pressures, the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner is urging organisations to "pause and reflect" before adopting new technologies such as AI.
"Just because this is an evolving technology doesn't mean existing privacy laws don’t apply to it. They do," Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster warned in June.
"Our own law in New Zealand is technology neutral, which means our Act adapts to developments in technology. AI users and developers need to make sure they are compliant with privacy law."
One of the key criteria under the research's strategy pillar differentiating pacesetters from the rest was their willingness to invest in AI.
With only 25 per cent of local respondents reporting AI deployment has been given the highest priority for budget allocation and incremental funding, organisations needed to think about how they plan to fund AI deployments over the long run.
“With an overwhelming majority of companies in New Zealand saying they are not fully ready to leverage AI, coupled with their deep sense of urgency to deploy AI in the coming months, the time to invest in infrastructure with the scalability and flexibility to support AI workloads is now," said Carl Solder, chief technology officer at Cisco A/NZ.
The survey found that as well as IT infrastructure, cyber security was also a leading target for supporting AI deployments.
Cisco's index is based on a double-blind survey of 8,161 senior global business leaders in organisations with more than 500 staff. There were 161 respondents from New Zealand.