Introducing The Chief AI Officer

Artificial intelligence (AI) has moved from the theoretical periphery to the practical corporate world. Seventy-three percent of US companies have already adopted AI in at least some areas of their business, and 54% of companies surveyed have implemented generative AI in some areas, according to consultant PwC’s recent AI Business Predictions Report.

The shift is global. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), 80% of chief information officers will leverage organizational changes to harness AI, automation and analytics by 2028 in the Asia-Pacific region.

This new reality is forcing organizations to develop AI leadership skills in-house and coordinate AI implementation across multiple parts of the company while strengthening their AI strategy and goals.

More and more companies, consequently, are creating a chief AI officer role to coordinate AI applications internally and better utilize AI in dealing with stakeholders such as suppliers and customers. Foundry Report revealed that 11% of midsize-to-large organizations have already appointed a chief AI officer and an additional 21% of large organizations are searching for one.

The appointments cross sectors and are appearing in both public and private organizations. In the US, President Biden is requiring all governmental agencies to appoint a chief AI officer. On the private side, leading technology companies such as software powerhouse SAP, older industrial leaders such as Japan’s Hitachi, and others ranging from midsize to large companies are rushing to find and hire one. Smaller companies are still addressing the need via other internal tech groups.

The advent of the chief AI officer fits into a wider trend to create more specialized roles within organizations. In the past, compliance, risk, and innovation roles, for example, were under other corporate functions; now, they have their own leadership structure. The chief AI officer role, like the chief risk officer, is designed to consolidate capabilities and project the significance of the role to the organization. The new role has faced some backlash recently, however, including in the AI space, as some scholars and industry leaders have argued that all employees should have a hand in this strategically important area.