CIOs need to help leaders understand how AI will really impact their spaces and take steps to using AI to help achieve long-term business objectives.

Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary

August 23, 2017

4 Min Read
Hossein Rahnama

Artificial intelligence has become a buzzword in boardrooms and C-suite meetings in companies large and small, across all industries. The purported advantages of AI and related technology have led CIOs and other decision makers to engage in a virtual arms race in which no one wants to be left holding legacy technology.

While it makes good business sense to invest in new, more powerful tools, there’s a downside to diving headfirst into asset collection without a plan. Leaders who quickly decide to invest in an AI platform will eventually find themselves locked into just one type of AI, which could potentially inhibit future growth and innovation.

Put AI into your big-picture plans

As relates to AI, prudent CIOs will focus on an adoption strategy that allows them to implement and test technologies without locking their company into a long-term commitment. Here’s how to do it:

1. Prioritize long-term training. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a technology skills gap exists that our schools and universities simply can’t close on their own. The missing skills are those required by the growing category of “new collar jobs,” with titles like cybersecurity analyst or cloud infrastructure engineer. These skills don’t necessarily require a four-year degree to attain, but they are critical to the performance of companies that rely on technology — which is basically all companies these days.

Though reports paint millennial workers as a transient bunch who switch jobs or even careers every two years, your company needs to adopt a long-term outlook. You’ll want to hire people with some knowledge of AI and related technology and then help them grow.

Install a training program that incentivizes new hires and helps them develop in-demand technical skills while collecting a paycheck. This approach should provide freedom and flexibility, but also requires them to keep up with the evolution of the technology they’re learning.

2. Develop partnerships and focus on startups. Right now, AI is a $2.4 billion market that could experience a 3,000 percent spike by 2025. Today, most of the buying activity is coming from the tech sector and companies like IBM, Salesforce, and SAP.

However, that doesn’t mean other industries aren’t taking notice. Big agricultural conglomerates, financial institutions, and others are establishing their own incubators and accelerators to support startup founders working with AI technology and driving innovation within their industries.

Partnering with startups and giving them a way to act as early adopters and pilot their technology lets established companies test out new tools and get better ideas of where the technology is going.

Joining up with a young company gives each entity a partner to lean on and grow with over the years. Through these partnerships, you’re not just procuring technology; you’re gaining access to talent, consulting services, new ideas, and more.


3. See AI as an enabler rather than a threat. The rise of the robots, not surprisingly, also comes with a healthy dose of fear. Speculation is widespread that automation will make jobs disappear by the hundreds, thousands, or even millions. In response, CEOs are scrambling to figure out how AI will influence supply chains, workforces, revenue, and in some cases, entire business models.

An overwhelming sense of urgency can lead companies to throw money at the first platform they encounter. Rather than succumbing to pressure, CIOs need to help leaders understand how AI will really impact their spaces and how it can assist in achieving long-term business objectives.

Automation is bringing massive change and placing immense pressure on decision makers. But CIOs must manage the expectations of the CEO and other company leaders and strive to maintain a long-term focus.

Those that hastily adopt AI simply because everyone else is doing it will find that change and progress are two different things. Myopia is, in fact, a bigger threat than any technology.

Hossein Rahnama is a recognized figure in ubiquitous computing and is the founder and chief executive officer of Flybits, a cloud-based, context-as-a-service solution with offices in Toronto, Redwood City, and London. Rahnama is currently serving on the board of Canadian Science Publishing (CSP), was a council member of The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and is a visiting scholar at the Human Dynamics Group at MIT Media Lab.

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Guest Commentary

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