With hype around artificial intelligence (AI) at an all-time high, Gartner says many CIOs are understandably cautious about promoting its potential value to their business.
But a new report from Gartner calls on CIOs to start investing now on AI.
Digital business pressure combined with the rapid pace of innovation make it a great time for CIOs to aggressively learn how AI might influence the business strategy over the next two to four years, according to the authors of the report, Gartner analysts Janelle B. Hill, Bern Elliot and Jamie Popkin.
They say CIOs can get involved at the front end of business strategy development, and educating their CEO and the board about recent developments in AI.
In these discussions, CIOs can promote AI’s massive potential to disrupt markets and remake existing business models, not just as an output that further automates existing capabilities.
Should we look for opportunities to redeploy staff into higher value-add activities?
When they frame discussions this way, they say CIOs can influence the two-to four-year strategic plan, rather than just be informed afterward and expected to support the executive team's decision.
They recommend CIOs start small experiments with particular AI technologies and solutions for pure learning purposes, not ROI.
CIOs can do this by setting up an innovation space using low cost commercial AI products such as Alexa, Cortana, a drone and wearable devices.
“Encourage business and IT professionals to come and play with these cool toys. The goal is to get comfortable with these technologies and learn their capabilities and limitations.
“Do not expect ROI; this is innovation for learning first, although experimentation will help gather data that might be used in ROI estimates,” they state.
CIOs can also ask AI technology providers for free access to cloud demo environments.
The report notes a number of industries are already deploying AI.
In utility companies, these are through the use of drones, predictive and prescriptive smart grid management.
Property, casualty, life insurance businesses use AI to improve customer service, fraud investigations, roll out robo advisors, smart home and health monitoring.
Governments use AI for public safety through facial recognition product simulation and fraud detection and prevention.
In consumer and the packaged foods industry, food and beverage markets, AI is used for research/scenario forecasting prior to new product launch, brand management and customer purchase analysis.
An area where CIOs can work with is establishing with the board the ‘absolute boundaries’ that can not be violated as the organisation deploys AI.
These include questions such as ‘How far would we consider reducing headcount via AI-based automation? Should we look for opportunities to redeploy staff into higher value-add activities? Do we want to be on the leading edge of advanced technology usage or are we more comfortable being a fast follower?’
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