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We’ve reached an artificial intelligence (AI) tipping point. Due to the sheer volume of data being created on a daily basis, organizations must make AI a reality now or risk falling behind.

To organize the explosion of data, investment in AI and deep learning capabilities is growing at a substantial rate. According to IDC, global spending on AI is slated to grow from $24 billion last year to more than $77 billion in 2022.

Further, in Gartner’s CIO survey of 3,000 CIOs across 89 countries, AI took the top spot among respondents as the technology with the highest potential to disrupt current business models. And, 37% said they have already deployed AI or will do so in the short term.

This is all to say — we’re at a critical moment when it comes to AI adoption and businesses must move quickly. AI doesn’t just present opportunities to improve existing operations, but it also opens up entirely new revenue streams for businesses.

CIOs must rise to the challenge of priming their organizations to deploy AI and lead AI initiatives.

On the Front Lines of AI Implementation 

With any cutting-edge technology there are going to be challenges, particularly for the leader tasked with implementation. In this case, the CIO. CIOs — traditionally in charge of running IT infrastructure — will need to step up to not only oversee the technology but become translators between the technology and the business. In other words, they will need to communicate the path forward for AI and the business value that will be realized as a result. CIOs need to consider how to be a digital business enabler, not just a technology provider.

One of the primary challenges with AI implementation is navigating the skills gap that’s created by automated technologies. Organizations will need to hire developers, data scientists, solution architects and retrain existing employees. While this can quickly become a drain on company resources, there are strategies — like engaging with startups or academic institutions — that enterprises can use to lessen the burden.

Another challenge that CIOs face when implementing AI is data silos. To derive value from AI, enterprises are dependent on existing data. However, due to years of using disconnected tools, many organizations have to overcome disparate frameworks that delay projects and ultimately interfere with the iterative nature of AI. To combat this, organizations must consolidate all data into a single data management platform, modernize IT infrastructure and create a more collaborative workplace culture where different departments communicate regularly.

Lastly, CIOs will be challenged by new risks associated with data privacy and ethics. AI’s self-learning capabilities and ability to make sense of large data sets is a huge asset to businesses. However, the flip side is overautomation in a way that exploits personal data. To ensure ethical standards, enterprises must have controls in place that safeguard consumers.

Related Article: 8 Skills Every Digital Leader Needs

The Opportunities Outweigh the Challenges

Once the challenges have been addressed, CIOs will be poised to build out AI capabilities and truly start to transform operations. AI presents a massive opportunity for CIOs to reinvent their role within an organization.  

Because of their deep technical background and knowledge, CIOs should take charge of the company’s AI strategy from start to finish. This includes developing a plan to integrate AI across the entire enterprise, ensuring all lines of business are seeing value from the technology and smoothing out kinks that come with adoption.

CIOs must also focus on continuous internal communication. They should be up to speed on all current technology operations/transformations and ensure resources are deployed where needed. 

And, as part of this, CIOs should advocate for future technology investments and ensure that AI transformation is an ongoing priority. Emerging technologies are constantly evolving and organizations must keep up with the technology needed to support new initiatives. 

The CIO as the Change Catalyst

The workforce of the future will look different — and not just in terms of machines and humans working alongside each other. The future CIO will lead change and shape growth within an enterprise.

In the digital age, CIOs are expected to use their personal and professional skills to drive agility across the enterprise, arguably the most critical quality and predictor of success for businesses today.

Today’s CIOs have the chance to redefine the future of the enterprise, and it begins with welcoming change.