AI

Chief AI officers could play a big role in future C-suites, survey finds

A big wave of retirements could trigger a shuffling of exec jobs.
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3 min read

The chief AI officer could soon be taking over the chief transformation officer’s old desk.

A recent survey from consulting firm West Monroe asked 1,000 younger business leaders which C-suite roles they expect to see phased in and out over the next five years. Around 40% said they expect to see more AI chiefs, while 29% said the vague title of chief transformation officer is likely headed for the chopping block.

Chief information/data officer came in second on the list of up-and-coming roles, with 11% of respondents anticipating its rise, while 13% of those surveyed named chief diversity officer as another role likely to be cut. The report’s authors attributed this latter result to DE&I values becoming more embedded organization-wide.

Interestingly, chief digital officers garnered around 9% of responses on both sides, which the authors said could have to do with the varying stages of digital maturity of a given company.

Retirement party: A record number of Americans will turn 65 this year, with even more reaching the milestone over the next couple years in what experts are calling a “silver tsunami” or “peak 65.” West Monroe said the wave of retirements this triggers could lead to a lot of reshuffling in C-suites, which is why the study focused on director-, VP-, and SVP-level workers between the ages of 25 and 45.

That reordering will come at a time when the chief AI officer position is growing in popularity. Some organizations see it as a valuable way to prioritize AI adoption as a new generation of language models has triggered an onslaught of hype in the business world.

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“Right now, organizations are appointing chief AI officers as AI is a new and rapidly evolving technology, and many companies are uncertain about how to begin its implementation,” West Monroe Chief Commercial Officer Casey Foss told us in an email. “This role appointment signals to both the market and the organization that leadership is prioritizing AI and is committed to significant investment in its potential.”

A temporary slot? But like one of the CAIOs we recently profiled (who has since left that role), Foss doesn’t believe that these new AI chiefs will be around forever.

“Over time, these responsibilities may be integrated into other executive roles or shift toward the next emerging technology as AI becomes more embedded within the organization,” Foss said. “I believe the role of the chief data officer is likely here to stay for the long haul as companies will only have more of it and regulation will increase.”

Not everyone agrees on the necessity of a dedicated exec position to oversee AI, however. Oliver Shaw, CEO of the workforce planning platform Orgvue, said appointing a CAIO could lead to an AI island within the company.

“AI should boost efficiency across all departments, not be isolated,” Shaw said in an email. “Instead of relying on a single C-suite leader, like a CAIO, organizations could benefit more from creating a dedicated focus group to ensure successful AI adoption throughout the company. Without exposure and buy-in from the company’s workforce, a CAIO might find it challenging to achieve this level of engagement and comprehensive insight top down.”

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.