- Companies that allocate funding for AI projects at the C-suite level are twice as likely to achieve high levels of AI maturity, according to Whit Andrews, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner, speaking at a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas session last week.
- C-suite budget ownership of AI projects can help align the company's data strategy to its business, hiring and sourcing strategy, adding a governance role capable of articulating to technologists what the organization needs from AI, Andrews said.
- Stewards of AI among company leadership can "have a voice, maybe as far up as the operating committee," to explain the value AI has throughout the organization, said Andrews.
Without commitment from top management, AI projects fail to realize their full value and impact on the organization.
Boards of directors and CEOs see AI as potentially game-changing technology for organizations, according to Gartner data.
"The current crisis hasn't changed their opinions about that," Andrews said. "If anything, it's strengthened them."
Business has caught on to the advantages of more holistic AI strategies that involve top leadership. C-suite responsibility of AI projects jumped to 71% in 2020, up from just 40% in 2019, according to Appen's the State of AI and Machine Learning report.
As tech leaders contend with shrinking IT budgets, C-suite commitment to projects in AI will prove to be more relevant. Emerging technologies are slipping in 2021 IT spending priorities, with companies focusing more closely on core technologies.
There is also difference in which C-suite officer oversees AI. CEOs are more likely to lead AI projects with business impact than their CIO counterparts, according to data from the Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review. The data points to higher success rates when AI is seen as part of the broader business strategy.
"When you assign budget high in the corporate hierarchy, you're increasing the probability that you'll be able to develop your maturity," said Andrews.
C-suite dwellers can play an outsized role in the external communication of AI strategies. Lack of AI skills is among the top challenges around leading successful AI projects, but a leadership team that's capable of articulating why AI is a priority will be more effective at attracting in-demand talent.