Does your company need a chief AI officer?

If you want your company’s AI adoption to go smoothly, maybe you should put it in a corner office.

Driving the news: Companies across sectors have been hiring chief AI officers (CAIOs), from Accenture and GE HealthCare to eBay and Ashley.

In Canada: Scotiabank promoted its analytics and machine learning lead to CAIO last year. In September, University Health Network became the first Canadian hospital to hire a CAIO. Two days later, Western University became the first Canadian university to do the same.

Why it matters: Companies aren’t just adding someone who is really good at AI to the C-suite for the buzz — they want dedicated leadership for their entire AI strategy, including implementation, ethics policies, and navigating new legislation.

  • With many companies using third-party services from the likes of Google and OpenAI anyway, having someone who can build AI is less valuable than someone who knows what’s already available — and how to integrate it into an organization.
  • Other companies, like Sony Music and Hinge, have opted for AI VPs that report to someone in the C-suite. The right approach depends on whether a company sees AI being a tool to be used in select situations, or transformative to their entire business.

Yes, but: A good CAIO is hard to find, thanks to the rare mix of business transformation experience and knowledge of a field that’s still relatively new to the corporate world.

What’s next: If this sounds like the kind of role that will fade away over time…well, it is. Remember the chief cloud officer that was prevalent 10 years ago? If the CAIO does their job, AI could follow a similar path from something that transforms how a company works to a tool that’s fully integrated with the rest of its technology, and a CAIO’s responsibilities can be brought under a CTO’s or a CIO’s domain.