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The Bold AI Leader: How CIOs Can Drive Growth and Performance with AI

CIOs should select enterprise AI vendors that prioritize business outcomes rather than licensing their technologies.

Amidst the buzz around ChatGPT and generative AI, chief information officers everywhere are asking themselves the same question: How do we put AI to work?

At the same time, vendors are bombarding CIOs with AI-driven tools that claim to generate insight and action. To operate, however, many of these tools require experts who are constantly ingesting data, tuning insights, and acting on outcomes. Deciding to devote critical capital to these types of tools requires serious forethought before a pilot.

CIOs considering which AI-powered tools to deploy should first note whether the vendor is more interested in licensing its technology or signing up for the business outcomes that the CIO seeks. The latter is what is most important.

No Expert Overhead Required

Vendors that empower CIOs’ business outcomes offer the most innovative AI SaaS applications. These applications tackle problems without the expert overhead, putting the power of AI in the hands of the everyday worker – creating AI-augmented workers and more capacity by shifting how work is done.

The changes are coming at exactly the right time. Businesses have moved to the cloud over the last decade, resulting in significant productivity gains. In recent years, however, these gains have stalled for many enterprises because their core workflows have fundamentally remained the same no matter how many as-a-service capabilities they’ve consumed or professionals they’ve hired to run them.

Deploying new AI applications, in contrast, unlocks latent productivity in core operations without the new expert teams. AI-augmented workers can use these applications to efficiently leverage expertise from throughout their enterprises, ensure quick access to rapidly evolving best practices, and attain real-time improvement in the quarter.

The benefits deliver more than buzz. Enterprise AI SaaS applications transform businesses and people's lives and careers, delivering material changes and driving companies forward in industries ranging from IT service management (ITSM) to consumer packaged goods, industrial manufacturing, media, and financial services – letting employees devote time to more creative work and strategic growth.

CIOs as Civic Leaders of AI

Reflecting on my time building IT disciplines from the ground up at small and medium-sized enterprises and overseeing IT at multinational corporations, I believe CIOs should think of themselves as civic leaders of AI, focusing on bold policy and aligning their business through fast execution to accomplish great outcomes.

AI applications are the road to this empowerment. Since the basis of strategy is choosing what not to do, understanding the metrics to judge success and avoid the wrong approaches is essential to CIOs who want to integrate AI into their companies.

There are two outcomes that CIOs must consider when investing in AI:

1. AI must lead to improved customer experiences and growth: The technology should inform customers, delight them, help them make more effective choices, or radically improve their experience immediately. This superior engagement leads to top-line growth.

2. AI must yield improved EBITDA: Properly executed, AI-based applications create employee capacity and company performance. An intuitive digital agent acting like a copilot, for example, brings know-how to the worker, drives a process, and solves the issue before it impedes an outcome.

Finding Success

Two industries – retail/consumer product goods and IT – illustrate how AI can enhance customer experiences, grow businesses, and boost performance.

Some of the largest retailers in the world use AI to offer their customers material and financial benefits in the form of product suggestions based on the customers’ needs and preferences. Steering a customer to what might interest or better satisfy them optimizes engagement, fostering better experiences, more purchases, top-line growth, and higher margins.

Smarter ITSM providers have significantly advanced their operations by deploying AI-based enterprise applications to become more efficient. These applications can include limitless out-of-the-box offerings to solve common problems in the industry that bring fast and concrete value to our users.

Digital assistants, for example, can automatically answer common questions and find fixes for end users’ most frequent difficulties. The IT department can scale support by having intuitive AI handle these repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Users love it because they get what they need when they need it without having to search and ask for help. Support organizations love it because they don’t have to deal with issues that have already been asked and addressed many times in the past. We’ve all seen and used chatbots, but generative AI in digital assistant applications is the game-changer occurring now.

CIOs thinking like bold AI leaders don’t reach their desired outcomes by expending resources on tools and specialists. Instead, they replace the work of the business with AI and completely redeploy the experts. Better enterprises, more interesting careers, and productivity gains follow.

About the Author

Bill Bragg is chief information officer at SymphonyAI.

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