With artificial intelligence (AI) projects all the rage, organizations must make a strategic determination to create a new CxO role at least at a functional level if not at a title level.. This decision should not be made lightly, however. Although the chief AI officer (CAIO) role is critical to an organization’s success, the level of collaboration across business, IT, finance and operations, HR, and legal risk and compliance requires an unprecedented level of cooperation and orchestration. Boards will also want to consider AI at the same level as CyberSecurity.
After speaking with two dozen CAIOs, Constellation expects the role to be different across organizations and ultimately infused into all aspects of the business by 2026. As the AI field accelerates, organizations that fail to create the CAIO role will be left behind.
Enter the CAIO
The case for a CAIO is simple. AI is still immature; hasn’t been proven in most enterprise settings; and needs many surrounding acts such as security, privacy, governance, provenance, ethicality, and truthfulness before it can offer real value to enterprises. With great power comes great liability: Such is the case with AI. There is a lot of liability in using external tools as well as using decisions proposed by AI with full confidence in real-world applications. A single point of responsibility and accountability will ensure the right orchestration and collaboration across the organization.
Furthermore, organizations need a champion for AI, just as they did for digital transformation. In fact, the C-suite often is not fully aware of the complete AI capabilities, yet they are mesmerized by the possibilities. While improving operational efficiencies—whether in IT, customer support, help desk, incident management, or even bringing in additional revenues by launching innovative offerings—they are sold on the idea that their enterprise can be unique and can be the first. The viral popularization of ChatGPT makes them think AI is so easy that anyone can implement any solution in a matter of days, without realizing the liabilities and consequences to their organization.
A CAIO will balance the opportunities with the risks. For example, AI projects need standardized security, privacy, governance, auditing, legal, and risk management. There also needs to be a center of excellence that can coach the project participants to conduct the AI projects in the fastest and most efficient manner. In addition, a CAIO should be responsible for oversight, strategy, and vision.
Thus, there is a need for a CAIO that in some cases might report directly to the CEO but who will work closely with the technical as well as legal, corporate governance, board, finance, human resources, and other senior-level executives in the organization. These multitudes of requirements need to be under one umbrella and managed by a single responsible executive who will build the case for business necessity, create relevant use cases, assess outcomes, and determine ROI.
Consequently, every organization will need a CAIO to start the process, and eventually the CAIO role will be infused within the organization across business and technology units (see Figure 1)
Figure 1. CAIO Must Find Balance
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