Will Chief AI Officer (CAIO) Be the New C-Suite Kid on the Block?

Scaling AI Florian Douetteau

In most organizations today, having someone with a title like “Head of AI” (much less CAIO) would be a running joke. Mostly because, well… there aren’t a lot of companies out there yet who are really doing AI. But also because in theory, AI is something that should be distributed and pervasive across a business, not confined to a certain department or role.

conference room desk and chairs

Yet here we are: there are already people on LinkedIn with the title “Head of AI” (I won’t name names, but go ahead and search — you’ll see). To be fair, some of these people are working at startups or tech companies that are building AI as their core product, in which case the distinction makes more sense.

But what about your average company? Will we soon see the rise of Head of AI or CAIO roles (as we’ve seen the rise of the CDO)?

I don’t claim to have the definitive answer to this question, but what I’d like to do in this short blog post is make a leap of faith and imagine for a moment what a Head of AI or CAIO might look like in an organization if it does come to fruition.

Possible Directions of the Theoretical CAIO Role

Again, because AI in the future enterprise would be ubiquitous across roles and departments, it’s not immediately clear what exactly a CAIO would ultimately own or be responsible for day-to-day. But here are some theories:

  • AI / HR: Perhaps the primary role of the early CAIO would be to create a hiring plan to grow a workforce (as well as education plan for current employees) suited to an AI-future company. That means honing existing business knowledge with some AI skill, finding the optimal balance of technical- and non-technical profiles within the organization, but it also means hiring for hyper-specialized roles specific to the industry or type of work the company is doing. For example, in banking, it might be about finding the right specialist in the latest fraud detection technologies that will move the company forward.
  • AI / Legal: Given today’s regulatory environment, it is entirely possible that a future CAIO would be the owner of the company’s governance and data privacy standards, making sure that they are enforced at all levels of the company while also looking out for new risks. As the AI troops throughout the organization start to work with data in a self-service platform, ensuring proper governance policies would be no small feat, even for one CAIO. Topics like machine learning interpretability, trust, and ethics would also fall under this umbrella.

code of ethical behaviorWill the CAIO of the future be the primary owner of the company's governance and data privacy standards, including policies surrounding interpretability and ethics?

  • AI / Operations: In this scenario, the CAIO would be most responsible for the execution and coordination of efficient project delivery. That means a big focus on production and operationalization. One can reasonably imagine that in the enterprise of the future where it’s not just about one, two, or even three models, but 1,000 (or 10,000) models running at the same time, managing delivery could be the critical task for a c-level position.
  • AI / IT: If the data landscape continues to evolve and grow like it is today, where new platforms and technologies seemingly pop up every day, a future CAIO may mostly be responsible for making sure that everyone in the organization has all of the tools they need to actually enable AI.
  • AI / Product: Imagine an organization that is completely centered around building efficiency and cutting costs with AI. What does that leave for the CAIO? Invention. This version of the CAIO would be at the cusp of innovation, exploring potential new paths or uses for AI technologies that are maybe outside of the scope of the company’s otherwise day-to-day operations.

There you have it — the potential CAIO of the future. What do you think? Is this something we will see a few years (or 10) down the line, or something that will never come to realization due to different shifts in the enterprise of the future?