Top Five CIO Trends For 2019

Gartner believes that Artificial Intelligence in 2019 will be defined by a small clique of “wizards” whose talents won’t scale in the organisation

Infosys Consulting begs to differ: 2019 will be the age of the Rockstar CIO who orchestrates AI across the organisation and manages to capture substantial business value.

As AI becomes ever-more central to strategic and operational success, CIOs will have to relinquish their backroom roles and take centre stage – whether they like it or not. So, what do they need to be aware of to ensure that they can lead their organisation’s AI-powered digital transformation in 2019?.

Here is Infosys Consulting guide to the top trends that CIOs need to know:

  1. From wizards to (older) workers 

    – We’ve long known that machines need humans to be effective, but Gartner is right – too often, AI is concentrated in the hands of a few ‘wizards’. When it comes to AI we’ve been slow to recognise the importance of the human factor. In the next 12 months, the organisations that will be successful with AI will be the ones that bring AI out of the lab and empower users across every business department to apply the technology to solve day-to-day problems. This will require a significant investment in training and resources, and much of this money being spent on retraining older workers to become data scientists and solution architects.

With technical skills so scarce, no real skills pyramid and little in the way of a recognised career path, we’ll see many of these “new” experts being aged 40 and above, bringing their considerable experience and existing skillsets into their new role.

  1. Playtime is over

    – By the end of 2019, it will be too late to treat AI and automation (AI&A) as toys for the technicians to play around within the lab. It’s time to move these technologies out of the lab and into production environments, where they should be delivering quantifiable benefits to justify the time and money spend on developing them. Businesses can’t afford to talk about ‘potential’ any more – not when their competitors are achieving major efficiencies with their own AI&A projects.

Businesses should be worried if they don’t start seeing a return on their investment in AI&A. And it’s not enough to Introduce these technologies piecemeal – they must be applied across the organisation. AI only works when it can gather data from across the different arms of an organisation. This requires the creation of an interdependent, interconnected and integrated platform for AI. With many businesses still relying on legacy infrastructure and fragmented, siloed systems, solving this integration problem will be critical to the success of their AI initiatives.

  1. The only way is ethics 

    – “Don’t be evil” is good advice for people and businesses alike. But what happens when an organisation hands responsibility for decision-making to an amoral machine? Without human oversight, AI can go spectacularly wrong. Just think of Microsoft’s racist chatbot Tay, the ethical difficulties facing autonomous car manufacturers, or problems with algorithmic bias.

2018 was the year when concern about organisations’ cavalier approach to data became ubiquitous. CIOs need to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated in 2019 and implement “ethics by design” within their AI initiatives. They need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of giving too much autonomy to machines and consider appointing an ethics committee to oversee projects and avoid straying into morality minefields.

  1. Seizing control of the skills conversation

    – Remember when coding was the thing that was supposed to prepare the next generation for the high-tech jobs of the future? Luckily, the conversation around skills has grown more nuanced, but it still focuses almost exclusively on technical abilities.

    Yet you wouldn’t want a workforce comprised of technologists any more than you’d want one made up of history graduates. In fact, the rise of AI means that we need creative, human-centred thinkers – people who excel at those much-derided ‘soft skills’ – more than ever. AI doesn’t provide answers on its own; it requires people to ask the right questions, interpret the results, and apply the insights in the most intelligent, strategic way.

    The CIO has an increasingly influential voice at the boardroom table, not least on the subject of skills. They must ensure that they make the right call on this question and argue for a workforce that isn’t solely comprised of coders, but actually includes creative, strategic, innovative employees – in other words, people whose expertise is in humans, not machines. Going forward CIOs will need to become the translators between business and technology, the link that brings the two sides together and creates substantial leverage within an organization

  2. Prepare to be accountable 

    Businesses are jealously protective of their in-house technological developments, and with good reason. These projects can be the ‘secret sauce’ that catapults them to the forefront of their industry, enabling them to deliver revolutionary, market-leading products and services. This is especially true of AI-inspired projects; however, organisations should not presume that their innovations will – or should – remain secret.

AI typically depends on huge data sets, often collated from consumers, to be successful. Given the dramatically-changed climate around personal information, thanks in part to the data-based scandals of 2018, CIOs can expect much more scrutiny from government, regulators and customers themselves on how they acquire, use and protect this data.

CIOs must therefore expect to be held publicly accountable for the AI applications that they develop, and they should prepare for this eventuality when planning and designing their projects. This is not to be feared – in fact, sunlight is an excellent disinfectant. Knowing that they will be held accountable will ensure that CIOs give privacy, safeguarding and other best practices the priority they deserve when developing AI projects.

About the Author

John Gikopoulos is Global Head for automation and artificial intelligence (AI), Infosys Consulting. Infosys Consulting is a management consulting, IT consulting practice within the larger Infosys organization which works in strategy, IT transformation, change management and business analytics. Infosys Consulting operates globally and currently has offices in 18 countries across the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe.

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