How can CIOs, CTOs and CDOs accelerate AI adoption?

Leaders debate AI use cases and accountability

The explosion of generative AI has prompted CIOs, CTOs and CDOs to accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Now their attention turns to building the foundations for safe AI deployment through reliable data, robust governance and change management processes, as well as a sustained focus on team upskilling.

 

Contents:

  1. Infinite Intelligence
  2. AI definitions and hype cycles
  3. AI use cases vary by industry
  4. Do you need a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer?
  5. The CIO’s guide to AI adoption
  6. Join the Infinite Intelligence community

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Launching the Infinite Intelligence community

Since the public release of ChatGPT, AI has become an intense topic of conversation from the boardroom down.

 

CEOs have quizzed CIOs and CTOs on the potential of generative AI technologies, CFOs have seized the opportunity for AI adoption to drive early efficiency gains, while workers at every levels of the organisation have experimented with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard to write emails, blog posts, analyse data and even improve the quality of code in software development.

 

Despite this, CIOs, CTOs and Chief Data Officers face numerous challenges to safe and responsible AI adoption, from a lack of clarity around C-suite accountability through to changing global legislation, unreliable or sensitive data and an increasingly turbulent software ecosystem.

 

Infinite Intelligence launch event speakers

The following speakers discussed this and more at the Infinite Intelligence launch event, from HotTopics in partnership with Box, at the Churchill War Rooms in London in late January 2024: 

 

Ben Kus

Ben Kus, Chief Technology Officer, Box: Ben is responsible for developing Box’s technology vision and strategy, and ensuring that technological resources are aligned with the company's business needs. Ben has held various leadership positions, including the role of Chief Architect for IBM, and Senior Director of Technology for BigFix, Inc. Ben studied Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dianna Kennedy
Diana Kennedy, Chief Technology Officer, Bupa: Highly experienced, energetic, executive-level CTO, Chief Architect and technology strategist, with extensive experience of leading global teams in large organisations. Strong leadership and delivery with extensive experience of driving large, global transformation programmes. 
Mike Hill
Mike Hill, Chief Digital Information Officer, Cabinet Office: An empathetic digital leader, passionate about diversity and inclusivity. Enabling a strong focus on people and empowerment to create and shape high performing organisations; capable of delivering exemplary digital, data and technology products and services for our user communities.
Nick Wright
Nick Wright, Chief Information Officer, Bonnier Books UK: Nick is a business and people-focused technologist, leading the transformation of IT and data capabilities at Bonnier Books UK to enable ambitious growth across the business. He also chairs Bonnier’s AI working group in the UK and sits on the global AI steering group, setting the direction and agreeing the approach for the safe and ethical exploration of opportunities for AI within the publishing value chain.
Eileen Jennings-Brown

Eileen Jennings-Brown, CIO of Exscientia: Eileen brings more than 25 years experience. Starting as an IT engineer, Eileen carved a successful career holding a breadth of IT roles across Europe including setting up her own IT business and working as a consultant at the Chartered Institute for IT. Most recently, she headed Technology for the Wellcome Trust. Eileen is a speaker who advocates for women in STEM, and in 2020 she was voted into the top 50 most influential women in UK technology.


 

AI definitions and hype cycles

 

AI definitions go as far back as 1955 and, as such, vary widely; from one such version that AI is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, to a modern-day variation that AI represents a suite of technologies able to carry out human-like tasks with minimal human programming or intervention. For the Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers and Chief Data Officers tasked with safely and responsibly implementing these technologies, AI’s definition can vary by industry, use cases and their organisation’s own technological maturity.

 

“The standard definition is an algorithm-based pattern recognition system that mimics human cognitive functions,” said Nick Wright, CIO at Bonnier Books, during the launch of the Infinite Intelligence community, from HotTopics, in partnership with Box. “But it's so broad now, isn't it? With the rise of generative AI, and the publicity around it, all the other things that were established, like machine learning and other technologies, come under the umbrella of AI.”

 

For others, the definition of AI is less about standalone technologies, and more about the impact they are starting to have on business models and wider industries. Eileen Jennings-Brown, the CIO at AI pharmatech company Exscientia, reveals that the biotech firm is now using AI to expedite the drug discovery process. Typically, it would take over a decade and $15 billion to create new drugs, and yet Exscientia has created six drugs in partnership with pharmaceuticals through advances in AI in recent years.

 

“We are driven by AI so it means something different to me – which is that it is our business, said Jennings-Brown. “AI means being empowered and augmented to do my job better.”

 

The economic and business impact of AI adoption is forecast to grow substantially in the coming years - consultants at McKinsey have estimated that generative AI alone could add the equivalent of $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion annually to the global economy, outstripping the GDP of established nations, like the United Kingdom. The firm has separately reported that 60 percent of organisations with reported AI adoption are already using generative AI. Despite this, technology executives dispute to what extent the AI hype cycle is about to burst, much like other fledgling technologies have before.

 

“I don't think we've ridden the crest of the hype cycle yet,” said Mike Hill, Chief Digital and Information Officer at the UK’s Cabinet Office. “I think there is a significant opportunity for AI to have a profound impact on government, industry and the world as a human community.”

 

“I do think you need to take it very seriously as not just a new technology…but rather a new thing that is now possible,” added Ben Kus, CTO of Box. There is an element that…some people are so enamoured with the technology, they're saying ‘I need to use it, even though I'm not quite sure what to use it for’. And I think that happens when some of these big shifts come in.”

 

For Diana Kennedy, the CTO at Bupa, generative AI has caught the public’s attention, but may slow-down in the coming years.

 

“That is the first time since the smartphone that you've got a technology that is both being spoken about at our kitchen tables with our families, and around the board table,” she said. “But actually, AI has plateaued. It's been at that 50% of corporate adoption for five to six years. And the prediction is that, possibly, gen AI will be the same.”

 

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AI use cases vary by industry

 

In keeping with the myriad of different definitions for artificial intelligence, AI use cases are similarly varied.

 

Today, organisations have adopted AI technologies for augmenting and supporting the human workforce, through to personalising employee and customer experiences, enhancing or expediting new products and services—even reinventing go-to-market strategies and business operating models.

 

While Exscientia has reduced the time it takes to bring new drugs to market, Bonnier Books – operating in an industry increasingly at odds with the big technology companies behind the mainstream Large Language Models (LLMs) – sees AI as an opportunity to improve the quality of books, and how it distributes and promotes these to the wider market.

 

Bupa, meanwhile, has launched BluaU, an AI-powered mental health service in its Spanish business, using data and AI to provide personalised suggestions on how patients can manage their mental health based on the characteristics of the data they’ve shared. Separately, the healthcare firm has launched a global hackathon, B Disruptive, which aims to upskill up to 80,000 employees on the potential of generative AI.

 

Despite this, there remains more than the hint of a suggestion that AI pilot projects remain in their early infancy, and yet to have a broader, organisation-wide impact.

 

“So saying that we've got [Microsoft’s] CoPilot embedded into our organisation isn't the same as actually we're fully utilising the AI capabilities,” added Hill, part of a UK government which has just launched HMG’s GenAI framework.

 

 

Do you need a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer?

 

The rise of artificial intelligence has also introduced the awkward question of accountability; who truly is accountable for a set of AI technologies that will likely impact every function from technology, digital and data through to HR, operations and finance? For some organisations, hiring their first Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer has been the right move, for others simply expanding the responsibilities of incumbent Chief Information Officers or Chief Data Officers.

 

“That's a tricky one”, admitted Jennings-Brown, when asked the question of who holds accountability for AI in the boardroom. “Everybody wants to own it. But also nobody wants to be accountable for it when it goes wrong.”

 

Kennedy believes it must be a shared responsibility, much in the same way as cybersecurity has evolved at the boardroom level in recent years.

 

“Whilst I have a specific responsibility for AI strategy and technology strategy, and also governance and managing that governance environment, the collective accountability sits across both business-enabling functions, and risk and compliance,” said Kennedy. “I think it's starting to create new business models, new organisational structures that are more federated and more distributed, both to enable progress and delivery, but also recognising the infusion of these technologies and capabilities across all parts of the organisation,” she said.

 

“It has to be shared accountability,” added Wright, part of the AI steering committee at Bonnier Books, continuing that CIOs and CTOs can act as the change agent to drive strategy and governance adherence. “In terms of actually managing that change and being accountable for the success or failure, and different use cases, that absolutely has to be embedded across the organisation….but ultimately goes up to board accountability.”

 

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The CIO’s guide to AI adoption


CIOs, CTO and Chief Data Officers must make a concentrated effort to get the foundations in place if they are to successfully adopt AI technologies. 


Speakers at the Infinite Intelligence launch event, at the Churchill War Rooms in London, said that technology leaders must follow the below steps to safely take advantage of these emerging technologies:


  • Bupa’s Diana Kennedy said leaders must prioritise strong enterprise architecture and rigour around standards, policies and reference models

  • Build processes and governance which keep the human ‘in the loop’, particularly to remove bias - “You don't want to use AI to be the final arbiter,” stressed Box’s CTO Ben Kus.

  • Keep vendor options open with model-agnostic providers, but be prepared to walk away if there’s no clear use case, business outcome or if you’re facing rapidly-escalating costs. “We talk of keeping your options open, and not going too much all into one area – especially as it evolves rapidly,” said Kus.

  • Focus on change management processes; be clear about the strategy and vision, communicate what your intent is, and allow people to be empowered as part of the solution and new ways of working.

  • Balance the potential dichotomy between enabling productivity and risk management, not falling “too far on one side, or the other”.

  • Be more informed than your executive team and their peer group, thereby better enabling you to manage expectations

  • Build champions across the organisation that own AI use cases, and will act as advocates for sustained adoption

  • With 40% of jobs reportedly to be affected by AI, and inequality to worsen, take a clear, proactive and sustainable approach to digital upskilling and AI literacy.

  • Recognise the impact these technologies, and their use cases, can have on your organisation’s brand and reputation. Be cautious on experimentation in these areas, and more adventurous in others with reduced risk.

  • Be open to exploring the true potential of AI – it's no longer the technology that's holding business back, but rather the imagination and mindset to take calculated risks.

 

Join the Infinite Intelligence community


Infinite Intelligence, within the spectrum of AI evolution from narrow to general applications, envisions a future of almost-limitless knowledge, adaptability, and problem-solving capabilities. 


Comprising editorial content, events and masterclass episodes delivered by thought leaders, the Infinite Intelligence community, brought to you by HotTopics in partnership with Box, is your pathway forward to the fusion of man and machine, and a future of intelligent efficiency and transformation. 


Join the Infinite Intelligence community today to network and learn from inspirational business leaders and experts, build meaningful connections and set the agenda for AI innovation and best practice.

 

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