We’re very high on the hype curve right now for AI. Most companies are going to be using AI in the service of some business process. That means efficiency or innovation, making a business process more efficient—faster or cheaper than before—and making possible things that couldn’t be done before, which is innovation. That’s the ultimate promise of AI.
For example, earlier this year MIT announced that some of their researchers are using AI techniques to discover molecules that will create better antibiotics to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and diseases. That’s an example of using AI for meaningful innovation.
From an IT standpoint, the CIO must understand how to select, acquire, and test AI or AI-backed tools. What kinds of proofs of concepts make sense? What’s the most strategic approach to using AI to move beyond efficiency into innovation? It’s easier to think about improving a process to become more efficient. It’s much harder to think, “How can this change our business?”
The CIO needs to keep his or her ear to the ground about what kinds of technologies are coming up that can support business strategy and goals. But there’s another important piece to this: The CIO should have a respected voice when it comes to innovation beyond efficiency. Improving efficiency, reducing costs, things like that are table stakes. But the real value of innovation happens when we use technology to change our business model, to improve processes and products, to do things that we couldn’t do before.
For the CIO to gain the confidence of senior management requires developing a high level of trust and credibility. I used the term “relevance” earlier. Part of the reason that the CIO needs to focus on having this strategic viewpoint is to develop that credibility. When the CIO sees technologies that can make a strategic difference or an innovation difference like AI, and they bring those ideas to the management team, the management team will listen.