A Question For the C-Suite: What Are Your AI “Ambitions”?

Gartner: There are two major AI “shifts” that execs need to know about.

A technology as massive as artificial intelligence doesn’t encourage the practice of assessing the technology in small manageable bites, although as a practical matter that’s a good way to go for executives.

Technology industry analysts aren’t exactly against taking on AI initiatives on a step-by-step basis, where risks and potential mistakes may be better managed. Still, major industry observers want C-level execs to take a “big picture” outlook on AI to help them better understand AI’s risks and rewards.

Take Gartner, the digital services and business growth titan.

At the company’s recent Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2023, technology experts emphasized the importance of understanding the power of AI as a “larger shift in how humans and machines” interact. More importantly. That shift involves a pair of key “focus areas” for executives as AI becomes an enterprise initiative, not just an IT initiative.

“GenAI is not just a technology or just a business trend. It is a profound shift in how humans and machines interact,” said Mary Mesaglio, distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner. “We are moving from what machines can do for us to what machines can be for us. Machines are evolving from being our tools to becoming our teammates. Gartner predicts that by 2025, GenAI will be a workforce partner for 90% of companies worldwide.”

At the symposium, company analysts encouraged senior executives to define their “AI ambition” and become “AI-ready” before they can unleash the technology’s potential.

Basically, there are two AI “ambition definers”, Mesaglio says.

Everyday AI is focused on productivity. The machine is a productivity partner. It enables workers to do what they already do faster and more efficiently. Currently, 77% of CIOs and technology leaders worldwide are focused on the opportunities of everyday AI. “It’s important to note that everyday AI will go from dazzling to ordinary with outrageous speed,” said Mesaglio. “Everyone will have access to the same tools, and it will not provide a sustainable competitive advantage. Everyday AI is the new table stakes.”

Game-changing AI is focused primarily on creativity. “It doesn’t just make us faster or better. Either it creates new results, via AI-enabled products and services; or it creates new ways to create new results, such as with AI-enabled new core capabilities. With game-changing AI, machines will disrupt business models and entire industries,” said Mesaglio.

Three Key Initiatives

Most CEOs are counting on the CIO office to manage its AI implementations and strategies, but every member of the C-suite has a role to play in defining and executing company AI plans.

“More and more AI will be jointly delivered by IT and the wider enterprise,” said Don Scheibenreif, VP analyst at Gartner. “To succeed, the whole executive team must be engaged. This provides a tremendous opportunity for CIOs to make a difference.”

One major roadblock comes from a June, 2023 Gartner study showing only 9% of US companies have “established lighthouse principles or even a clear vision for AI.” To gain that vision and to establish swift and safe adoption of generative AI in the next year, senior executives must unite on three key initiatives.

Establish AI-ready principles: Lighthouse principles must align with the values of the organization. “The organization’s values must be the guiding light for navigating the unknowns of how humans and machines will interact,” Gartner states.

Make data AI-ready: For data to be AI-ready, it must meet five criteria. “It (should) be secure, enriched, fair, accurate, and is governed by the lighthouse principles,” the company notes.

Implement AI-ready security. For every positive use of AI, someone is putting that same technology to negative use. “This is the dark side of AI,” Gartner says. “CIOs should prepare for new attack vectors and work with the executive team to create an acceptable use policy for public generative AI solutions.”

“The era of AI-powered business will lead to unintended consequences without advance planning. (Executives) need a way to light the way forward, even when everything seems new or murky,” said Scheibenreif. “To safely harness this disruption, CIOs must work with executive leaders to define their ambitions for using everyday AI and game-changing AI, and to establish AI-ready principles, data and security.”

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