Should you hire a Chief Robotics or AI Officer?

Across the world, boardrooms are navigating a sea of new, complex and unfamiliar variables. As if the deck is not already full, now executives have to deal with another critical decision: who should be responsible for defining and running the strategy for, and with, robotics and artificial intelligence?

“Should you hire a Chief Robotics or AI Officer? Opiniestuk geschreven door @aseemprakash uit Canada @nrclive”
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If robotics and artificial intelligence are the new tools of automation and productivity improvement, should they not go automatically to CIO (Chief Information Officer)? Or, if you have a CDO (Chief Digital Officer), should s/he not manage robots like the other ‘digital’ technologies in your organization? But, marketing faces the biggest disruption and can potentially also create most value, so, does it not make sense to make CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) the next ‘Chief Machine Officer’? What about your CEO (Chief Executive Officer)? If robotics and artificial intelligence are changing the game, should the CEO not make them his / her ‘strategic priority’? Or, should you bring another ‘C-Level’ person to the executive suite as a Chief Robotics or AI Officer? What should you do?

Before you can properly decide, take a couple of steps backwards. Technology is a two-speed function in most firms. First, there is ‘Traditional IT’, sitting at the core of an organization. You cannot run the operation without it. You have a CIO to manage this function. Then, over the years, different functions, particularly marketing and to some extent, HR, have added technologies of their own (online platforms, mobile apps, performance dashboards, etc).

Technology is a two-speed function in most firms

Since marketing is responsible for many things including content management, social media, advertising, e-commerce and customer experience, it has developed a huge footprint in technology. Except, marketing (or HR) and IT could not fully agree on the common goals. So, to manage it all, organizations added a CDO (Chief Digital Officer).

While CIO remained the main ‘IT Manager’, CDO became the ‘Go-To-Person’ for functional areas like marketing. CIO wants to move slow and steady. CDO wants to act fast and furious. CIO is driven by transactions. CDO is driven by transformation.

These dual captains of technology – with different approaches and agendas – is what has made technology move at two different speeds in organizations. Even if there is no CDO at your organization, the challenge is not much different. Technology is still a mess in most organizations. Applications do not talk. Systems function as silos. Data is kept everywhere. Every department is an island of technology.

Technology is still a mess in most organizations

Against this backdrop, where should you put robotics and artificial intelligence inside your organization? Instead of focusing on ‘who’ should be responsible, a good place to begin is ‘what’: what will or could your organization become with robotics and artificial intelligence? What will robotics and artificial intelligence do for your organization? What is the new map of the future in 2022 (and beyond) and your place in it?

What will or could your organization become with robotics and artificial intelligence

Once you have answered ‘what’ and have defined a new vision, a different blueprint will emerge. Because, unlike the traditional IT systems or so-called digital technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence are changing everything: team structures, decision-making, strategic assumptions, job profiles, business models, customer experiences and value innovation, to name a few. Which means that you will not only end up redefining what you do but also your organizational footprint. For example, why are marketing, sales, customer support and research & development not under a single unit called ‘revenue’? You can make the shift with robotics and artificial intelligence.

The next logical step after ‘what’ is ‘how’, of course. As ‘what’ and ‘how’ are answered, ‘who’ will become easy. Why? You cannot turn your vision into reality by introducing robotics and artificial intelligence as the ‘third speed’ of technology or maintaining disparate islands of technology or letting your C-team argue with one another. While you are sorting it all out, two 20-year old entrepreneurs somewhere are also tapping an artificial intelligence platform  and are getting ready to eat your lunch (if they have not already started doing so).

So, as you begin your journey with robotics and artificial intelligence, focus on ‘what’ and not on ‘who’.


Aseem is wereldwijd actief als AI Business Strategist, waarbij hij o.a. werkt in het Center for Innovating The Future (Toronto, Canada). Hij is gespecialiseerd in innovatie op basis van kunstmatige intelligentie en de samenwerking tussen mensen en robots. Aseem heeft gewerkt aan tal van projecten in 16 verschillende landen in Azië, Europa en Noord-Amerika.


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