Recent news that Facebook has hired IBM Watson developer Jérôme Pesenti to head up its Artificial Intelligence department, has sparked debate in corporate boardrooms nationwide as to when’s the appropriate time to onboard an Artificial Intelligence (AI) officer. The thinking goes, every major corporation needs a C-level officer to develop and implement an AI strategy – if for no other reason than to relieve the ominous threat of falling behind in the marketplace without one. To me, this is hiring for hiring’s sake and to avoid a costly mistake, I think the first task any business needs to undertake, whether internally or with the aid of an outside resource, is to determine just exactly how AI will be used to move the business forward.
Mr. Pesenti’s hiring, and similar new positions popping up at Google and Amazon, herald that, like the Internet decades ago, AI is here and growing rapidly. That said, an enterprise-wide assessment ultimately needs to be conducted to see if your business needs can embrace AI as a core product or if you plan to use it, rather, to boost staff productivity or as a tool to better secure customer acquisition and sales. For those whom AI will be a science heavily employed to manipulate large data sets to produce marketable analysis as a product, or who are developing AI tools, sure, go ahead, hire an Senior AI Executive.
But my advice for the majority of businesses looking to adopt and deploy AI functionality in order to deliver their larger strategies and goals, there is no need to hire a pricey chief officer quite yet. Your first task should be to identify the ways current AI solutions can be leveraged to move the company forward. This can be done using your existing technical staff, but better still, in partnership with outside resource, like Moonshot Innovation Outpost, one of the few companies that has made it their core competency to understand AI applications that will aid customer-facing enterprises like yours.
Another issue companies are facing is where their AI departments, in whatever capacity, should be housed on the org chart. Because some marketing departments have been early adopters of AI tools, the resources already exist there. Other businesses may have seen AI component rise within their data or IT departments. The question becomes, is this where these resources should continue to evolve, or does the focus of your business require AI as a business tool develop somewhere else within the company or even autonomously. Again, areas that should be addressed by senior management before pulling in an AI lead, who, often, see it as their goal to just solve everything using AI – which might not be the best approach for your enterprise.
At least for the time being, for enterprises where a technical focus in which the development of algorithms and AI functionality is at the heart of what you do, yes, it’s high time pull in the talent that can unify and lead your AI initiatives, a position worthy of C-Suite status. For others, who need to identify and deploy ready-made AI-based business solutions to assist them in achieving their core business goals, your mission is to develop internal resources, probably available within your existing IT infrastructure, augmented by consulting firms that can help you discover and evaluate AI tools that will help your enterprise stay competitive and offer your customers the frictionless experience they have come to expect.