As organizations dive headfirst into AI and Generative AI technologies, the rise of a new title is hard to miss: chief artificial intelligence officer (CAIO). LinkedIn recently reported a threefold increase in companies with dedicated AI leadership roles globally over the last five years! [1]

Exciting stuff, right? But before you hurry off on a quest to find your organization’s head of AI, here are 5 common pitfalls to watch out for.

1. Not understanding the role of the CAIO

First, don’t rush to hire a CAIO without understanding the role’s purpose. While the function of the CAIO is varied, at a big picture level, know that they are responsible for:

  • Crafting effective AI strategies
  • Spearheading AI research and development initiatives
  • Orchestrating the adoption and advancement of AI technologies
  • Supervising and mitigating potential risks associated with AI implementation
  • Establishing credibility both internally and externally in the realm of AI
  • Tracking performance metrics and ROI to showcase value and optimize results continually
  • Keeping abreast of the ever-evolving AI landscape

CAIOs shouldn’t be confused with data scientists. They don’t necessarily have to be technical experts either. Rather, they should possess a blend of AI/tech acumen, strategic thinking, leadership experience, industry knowledge and a solid business understanding – all needed to achieve successful deployment of AI across the organization.

2. No business goals in place

Similar to mistake number one, avoid appointing a CAIO without a clear roadmap. It is crucial for organizations to establish concrete business objectives and fully comprehend the challenges they are up against. Understanding the potential benefits, capabilities and relevance of technology to your business provides a strategic edge. With the rapid advancements in this ever-evolving field, it’s also important for the executive team to stay informed. Failing to grasp the technology landscape today will hinder the alignment of leadership towards setting and achieving realistic goals and milestones.

3. Ignoring the type of AI pro that fits with the business

Not every organization may be ready to onboard a full-time CAIO. For those still navigating the early stages of digital transformation and data management or facing resource constraints, a full-time CAIO may not be the ideal solution.

However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other options to explore. Because, let’s face it, organizations that fail to adapt will find themselves falling behind. This is where a fractional AI officer can step in. Fractional leadership is a modern workforce trend: experienced executives with specialized expertise working with multiple clients at once, offering their skills to rapidly growing companies in need of their specific talents but unable to commit full-time.

Another option is bringing in on an AI officer at the senior vice president or vice president level. A VP or SVP of AI could be a great fit for many companies, likely reporting to the CIO or CTO, as these are the professionals aware of the latest developments in the field. (Of course, both types of AI positions have its pros and its cons.)

4. Believing that AI only belongs to the CAIO

Unfortunately, many organizations overlook the fact that AI initiatives span across various business facets and have economic, social, ethical, and technological implications. With AI impacting so many parts of an organization, a holistic approach to its deployment is crucial. Simply put, AI can’t just rest on the shoulders of the CAIO. It takes a village, a collaborative effort, to embrace AI effectively.

Think about other team members that are needed for successful AI integration. Perhaps hire AI catalysts, individuals bringing a fresh take on AI, or set up pilot teams to support AI-driven leadership in testing out new ideas and methods. The CAIO will also have to partner with other employees and leaders including those from tech and HR departments.

Remember, implementing AI in a business is a significant organizational transformation – and it can be harder than most people think. It’s not something that can be done in a silo. Without the entire organization backing it up, any efforts to change might just hit a dead end.

5. Overlooking the critical role HR (particularly the CHRO) plays in AI deployment

Whether you’re thinking about bringing on CAIO or a whole crew of AI-tech experts, the HR team should be involved.

HR plays a crucial role in managing AI in the workplace because their primary role is to support and safeguard the workforce. AI comes with risks such as bias, but HR possesses the knowledge and expertise to tackle bias, and continuously stay update on employment laws to prevent workplace discrimination. On top of that, registered HR professionals are bound by HRPA’s code of conduct, which means they are mandated to practice HR ethically to ensure a psychologically safe and harmonious work environment.

And let’s not forget the CHROs. These visionaries not only help identify necessary employee skills for effective AI integration but can also leverage AI data for workforce planning, talent development and performance management. By championing ethical AI adoption from the top, these leaders play a crucial role in ensuring that organizations implement AI in a way that keeps their workforce thriving.

[1] LEADERSHIP | The strategic Evolution of the CHRO in the Age of AI

1. Don’t Rush to Appoint a Chief AI Officer
2. Are Fractional AI Officers the Next Big Hiring Trend?
3. Don’t Hire A Chief AI Officer. Do This Instead
4. Please Don’t Hire a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer
5. What is a chief AI officer — and do you need one?