The Virtual Chief AI Officer: A Critical Advisor to the C-Suite

AI’s rapid surge in value-add has left companies struggling to adopt this highly complex technology. Executives struggle to understand it. At a basic level, the terminology is confusing — machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, computational statistics, cognitive computing, natural language/speech processing, robotic process automation (RPA), AI, etc. The business use cases are unclear, and the experts are mostly in academia, have their own startups, or are at top tech companies such as the FANG (Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Google). But with AI deployment in the corporate world coming to a crucial inflection point, many companies are still struggling to get their AI projects out of the proof of concept (POC)stage (meaning it is still a science lab experiment at many organizations).

The adoption of using big data over the past half-decade has increased the need for a “translation between Data Science teams and business stakeholders,” according to Tim Gordon, a partner at Best Practice AI, in an article on  Disruption Hub. Mr. Gordon suggests that corporations should consider appointing a Chief AI Officer (CAIO). He also suggests that partnering with an outsourced or Virtual Chief AI Officer could assist teams to “set strategy, support technology choices, and drive roll-out.”

Recently on CNBC’s “Halftime Report,” Mark Cuban spoke with Scott Wapner and said: “You know what’s interesting about AI? There are probably fewer than 10 companies on the market today that truly invest in and know how to purposely use artificial intelligence.” He went on to further say:

“We really have evolved into an [environment of] AI haves and have-nots, and part of the challenge/problem with all of this, is that small and up-and-coming companies are trying to use AI, but it’s challenging. Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and IBM can invest billions of dollars and afford to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Most companies cannot. The hardest part of AI is getting to a point where you know whether the results are valid or not.”

Mr. Cuban also mentioned:

“Netflix will keep on becoming smarter, and Amazon, when it comes to using data and selling products and services, where they use that data to know what to sell and how to sell it, it also helps guide them in business decisions. They won’t always be successful in every attempt, but the knowledge they have gained with artificial intelligence gives them a unique advantage. All the FANGS have an AI advantage in the AI haves and have-nots universe that people are not understanding.”

According to theWall Street Journal, artificial intelligence has the potential to be transformative for businesses, but a recent study showed that only 25 percent of companies have an AI strategy beyond the IT department.

Some have made the argument that companies do not need to hire their first Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer. Kristian J. Hammond, a professor of computer science at Northwestern University, feels that the effective deployment of AI in the enterprise requires a focus on achieving business goals. He wrote in a Harvard Business Review article:

“Rushing towards an AI strategy and hiring someone with technical skills in AI to lead the charge might seem in tune with the current trends, but it ignores the reality that innovation initiatives only succeed when there is a solid understanding of actual business problems and goals. For AI to work in the enterprise, the goals of the enterprise must be the driving force.”

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