CDOs and CIOs Must Work in Tandem for Successful AI Integration

By: Esther Shein - Leave a comment


When the time comes to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) integration in a particular business unit, you’d think the chief information officer (CIO) would be the obvious go-to person — but it’s the chief data officer (CDO) who should be on your radar. AI activity often falls under the care of the CDO because it involves using data, technology and analytics to make informed research and product decisions.

Rising Popularity of the CDO

There has been steady growth in CDO appointments in the past two years, and the role is coming of age in 2017, according to a recent Forrester report. In 2015, the global average of organizations with a CDO was 45 percent, and increased to 47 percent in 2016, the firm reports. Meanwhile, Gartner estimates by 2019, 90 percent of large organizations will have a CDO.

Perhaps ominously, IDC has suggested that CDOs will supplant as many as 60 percent of CIOs in global organizations by 2020 when it comes to delivering IT products and digital services, according to Forbes.

But others insist that this doesn’t mean the CIO should be left out. When it comes to digital transformation, firms ultimately should assign data responsibilities to CIOs, chief marketing officers and even CEOs if they are to become insight-driven, the Forrester report asserts.

CDOs and CIOs Must Place Nice

Both the CDO and the CIO are integral to effective AI integration. The CDO contributes valuable insights by overseeing analytics initiatives and the flow of data through the organization, while the CIO deploys the technology needed to make that mission happen. The two can and should work in tandem when it comes to AI usage.

In fact, James Rhodes, CDO at investment research firm Morningstar, told Forbes that different aspects of AI are used by their data, technology and analytics teams. While Rhodes oversees the analytics group, other parts of the company are working on developing AI and machine learning products for internal and external use.

Daniel Pitchford, director of AI business portal AI Business, recently told a group at Big Data Analytics Tokyo that decision-making on AI usage is ultimately spread across multiple roles, including the CIO, CTO, head of data and analytics and business unit leads.

Build Trust to Ensure Successful AI Integration

Traditionally, AI projects start with the CIO, Pitchford said, but as applications become more widespread, AI integration is now relevant to the entire board — especially the CEO. He also said that while there is confusion over who within the organization should be responsible for leading AI projects, the CDO is the up-and-coming role.

CDOs regularly worked with the CIO without conflict in 62 percent of the firms Gartner surveyed last year. Among the 56 percent that cited challenges, the top issues included complaints about not being involved in decision-making, an unbalanced power structure, project funding and staffing.

As the role will be new in most organizations, and most CDOs will be learning on the job, Gartner estimates that only half of the appointed CDOs will be successful by the end of 2019. Consequently, the CDO needs to build relationships and trust with stakeholders, especially the CIO, Gartner advises.

Successful CDOs are those working in tandem with the CIO to lead change and overcome resistance, Gartner notes. In the meantime, one thing remains certain: AI integration is becoming a business imperative when it comes to investing in new technologies over the next three to five years.

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About The Author

Esther Shein

Freelance Writer

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, business and education. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including Inc., Computerworld, NetworkComputing, InformationWeek, BYTE, CIO, and The Boston Globe. She has written thought leadership whitepapers, customer case studies and marketing materials in addition to news and feature articles.... Read More