How can the CIO role adapt to advances in AI?

How can the CIO role adapt to advances in AI?

Petar Bielovich, Director – Data and Analytics, Atturra

Petar Bielovich, Director – Data and Analytics, Atturra

With the AI ‘hype cycle’ currently in full swing, the CIO’s first task is to ensure their organisation keeps expectations in perspective. There is likely to be a significant amount of excitement in the technology and how it can be applied – however the CIO needs to be a pragmatist.

While Generative AI in particular is capturing the attention of many, CIOs need to understand how it might add value to their organisation and help further business objectives. While deploying new tools may be tempting, rushing in before their ability to add real value has been assessed is likely to be a mistake.

In their role as a pragmatist, CIOs also need to understand that generative AI is only a part of the evolving technology mix. Other flavours of AI, together with advances in areas such as Machine Learning and computational science, are also likely to have a significant impact in the months and years ahead.

Another way in which the CIO’s role will evolve will occur in the area of education. Increasingly they will be expected to explain to all staff just how AI will affect day-to-day operations and the direction of the organisation in the longer term.

Part of this education role will be to allay fears that AI will result in wholesale job cuts. As with any technology revolution, the nature of jobs will change. Staff however, need to explore how these tools are more likely to aid their productivity than replace them.

CIOs will also need to work to educate senior managers on the impact the technology is likely to have. They need to be guided to look beyond the hype and understand what the tools will mean from a business perspective.

The role of the CIO will also have to include being a ‘portfolio manager’. It’s highly unlikely that just one AI tool or platform will be deployed within their organisation, so they will have to spend time assessing those on the market as well as others still in the development timeline.

As a portfolio manager, the CIO will need to formulate the most appropriate mix of tools that match organisational requirements and goals. As the tools develop over time, so the portfolio mix will need to be altered. 

The CIO’s role will also increasingly need to include working closely with their organisation’s Chief Data Officer (CDO) and Chief Analytics Officer (CAO). AI tools and platforms require large volumes of data for training and operation and ensuring this is readily available will be vital.

This CIO / CDO / CAO relationship will be important in light of the alarming number of data-related projects that have failed or been unable to deliver expected business benefits. By regularly assessing data requirements and providing efficient access, the risk of future challenges can be minimised.

With usage of AI poised to increase sharply during the next few years, CIOs will be in the Driving seat with their role vital for successful deployments and operation.

Andrew Winlaw, Vice President and General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Amelia

Andrew Winlaw, Vice President and General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Amelia

The role of the CIO is one that is constantly evolving. Advances in technology and changes in business conditions mean strategies and approaches that might have been appropriate in the past may no longer match operational requirements.

Rapid developments in AI and especially Generative AI are cranking up this evolutionary process even further. It’s becoming clear that organizations that do not keep up with the pace of change risk losing out to others that adopt these new technologies.  

Faced with an increasing pace of development in the AI space, the CIO’s role must include being an educator. They will need to explain the technology’s benefits – and threats – to other senior executives and the management board. These groups need to understand the impact AI will have across the business and the decisions that will need to be taken.

The CIO will also have to be an educator for their organisation’s wider staff. Many will be excited by the advantages AI tools offer and looking forward to their deployment. However, others may be hesitant and concerned about the longer-term implications AI might have for their own roles.

For these reasons, it will be important for CIOs to clearly communicate the ways in which AI is likely to be deployed within their organisation and the impact this will have on day-to-day operations. Every CIO will need to allocate increased amounts of time for two-way communication.

Additionally, CIOs will have to assume the role of being an AI ‘realist’. There is currently significant hype and excitement about Generative AI in the market and this needs to be carefully managed. Given the vast amounts of training data needed to create these models, this technology brings with it the risk of bias and hallucinations – a scenario in which Generative AI models confidently generate entirely false responses.

CIOs therefore must weigh the ethical and legal considerations of Generative AI against the business benefits.

CIOs will also have to expand their role as strategic planners. They will need to assess the various AI tools being developed and understand how and where they can be put to use within their organisation.

They will need to consider how different AI tools and platforms can be combined to Drive additional business value. For example, large-language models (LLMs) could be integrated with automation tools to streamline business processes and reduce operational costs.

AI tools could also be used to analyse data and support existing decision-making methods.

Finally, the CIO’s role will become that of an ‘explorer’. Constant curiosity will be needed to determine how the power of evolving AI tools and platforms can add value in new and interesting ways.  

They should try things out, learn about prompt engineering best practices as well as Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG), launch proof-of-concept projects, and carefully assess the results. Alternatively, they can take the strategy of rolling out AI tools in one business department before deploying more widely.

Just as AI will continue to evolve, so too will the role of the CIO.

 Rafi Katanasho, APAC Chief Technology Officer, Dynatrace

Rafi Katanasho, APAC Chief Technology Officer, Dynatrace

AI has been on the radar screens of many organisations for years, but it wasn’t until the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022 that the technology really hurtled into the mainstream.

ChatGPT gave many people their first glimpse of what AI could achieve and how it might reshape many areas of life.

For CIOs, the rapid evolution of such large language model-based AI tools needs to be considered in two ways.

On one hand they offer the prospect of improved productivity, while on the other they could result in significant changes to the roles of many staff.

For these reasons, the role of the CIO is also going to need to evolve in coming years. They must act as a guide for fellow staff while also ensuring their organisation can extract as much value as possible from the introduction of AI-powered tools and platforms.

CIOs will also need to focus on finding ways to scale business growth while at the same time optimising capital investments. This is precisely where AI will deliver significant value.

Increasingly, CIOs will find their role becomes that of a communicator. This will be particularly important if staff become concerned about the security of their positions when more sophisticated tools are deployed.

It will be up to the CIO to explain how AI is able to automate menial tasks, thereby freeing staff up to work on more complex and fulfilling projects. Rather than taking their jobs, AI tools will become powerful partners that can significantly boost productivity. This, in turn, will help to increase employee satisfaction and boost overall organisational morale.

Aside from being a corporate communicator, CIOs will also need to increase their focus on security. AI tools and platforms will be integrated with existing applications, potentially opening up new attack vectors for cybercriminals.

The pace of evolution of AI tools may also result in security challenges that need to be adDressed. Security measures that are proving effective today may no longer afford the required level of protection in the future.

Part of the CIO’s role will also be focused on ensuring only high-quality data is being used by AI tools. The axiom ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is just a relevant when it comes to AI as to many other areas of computing. When the output of AI powered tools is being relied on to guide business decision processes, data quality is critical.

Finally, the CIO’s role will also involve being constantly focused on their organisation’s business outcomes. It will not be a case of deploying AI tools and then figuring out how they can be best put to work.

Rather, the CIO must determine what the business needs to support growth and then match the appropriate tools to those needs. By taking this approach, the CIO can ensure their organisation achieves the most benefit from what will continue to be a very powerful and exciting technology.

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