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  • Writer's pictureRon Salazar

Chief Information Officer in the Era of Artificial Intelligence

We are living in peculiar times. Computing power is racing toward a future that brings marginal improvements, even though such capabilities outstrip our ability to appreciate it. The modern smartphone is a shining symbol of this achievement. We now have semi-thinking machines with Artificial Intelligence that can tell us more about our world than our brains could ever store and provide meaningful human conversations that appear to be authentic. Just try Google Gemini and you’ll know what I mean.

In the context of these technological miracles, tougher questions confront us as leaders in technology. What is the purpose and scope of Chief Information Officer? What is the uniquely human value that a CIO brings to the corporation when data and devices are simply commodities trading at the lowest possible value? How does a CIO trump the powers that AI brings into the hands of the pedestrian business executive? What is the hallmark of a CIO in this new age of technological disruption and innovation?

CIOs are responsible for IT Strategy and Leadership, but what does that really mean? The traditional idea was to be the overall program manager of multiple projects and the allocation of resources, budgets, and priorities. This was done in the backdrop of understanding how the business in the past generated revenue. It’s clear, this methodology is antiquated and is not suitable for the next generation CIO. AI now excels at managing programs and projects without the use of a human. Based on this information AI can then extract revenue data directly from core systems to evaluate performance. This is the so-called CAPEX side of the budget. So where do you as CIO add value?


The plan is no plan. It seems counterintuitive; however, this is the moment where the next generation CIO will shine. No AI can replace human intuition that anticipates what is around the corner. Better yet, not only what is around the corner, but the pitfalls and opportunities that arrive from the law of unintended consequences. Take for example a digital transformation journey. The best laid plans never end as expected. Why? While the technical outcomes remain persistently predictable, the people required, and the acceptance of disruptive change for the entire business is not. This adaptation, this awareness, this emotional intelligence, is the stuff that uniquely makes the next generation CIO essential, and impossible for AI to replicate.

Now let’s shift to the next domain that a traditional CIO must consider: IT Operations and Management. Once upon a time the CIO was responsible for making sure the legacy systems that turn a profit continue to run smoothly without interruption. But systems don’t run by themselves and there is a whole universe of managing people, performance, and developing a relationship with human resources. All of this does not come for free and is part of the CIO’s OPEX budget. But if this sounds familiar and comfortable to you, then you need to be concerned whether you will make it as a next generation CIO.

Here is why. There is an unwritten rule about performance that is both obvious yet incredibly obscure. Humans gravitate to the familiar and revel in the comfort of routine. This is why it is predictable for staff that support legacy systems to always earn a 3 out 5 in the performance review cycle and why their knowledge is used as extortion toward the CIO to maintain their jobs. Weaker CIOs will simply maintain the status quo because of the revenue produced by the system and a cancerous culture of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” metastasizes throughout the entire organization. Remember what happened in the war between Blockbuster Video and Netflix? Enough said.


So, what makes the next generation CIO avoid such outcomes? This CIO seizes the opportunity to use AI enriched OPEX tools to thoroughly understand the money losing proposition of maintaining legacy systems, just because it produces revenue. This CIO exploits AI enriched IT maintenance tools to clearly understand how deep the hole is and embraces the depth of the bottom. Because you can’t fill a hole without knowing the bottom and you can’t fill a bottomless hole. This CIO rejects the entire idea of IT Operations and Management because it is only a side show to the only thing that matters Business Alignment and Innovation. In other words, Business Alignment and Innovation creates the wake for operations to follow, not the other way around.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This isn’t so hard if you accept it for what it is. This is reality, not some theoretical think tank consultancy telling you what they think is reality. And the choice is yours. Are you a traditional CIO? Do you enjoy outcomes being told to you? Do you accept simply keeping the lights on as the standard of success? Do you like babysitting staff? Do you enjoy budgeting? Do you like managing projects? If you said yes to most of these questions, you are replaceable with an AI program that will outclass your human capabilities every time. Knowing this, what can you do?

Becoming a next generation CIO is about amplifying uniquely human capabilities you possess: Leverage imagination to break out innovative and new revenue streams for the business using technology. Expecting the unexpected is the reason humans have evolved overwhelming survival skills across a millennia. This innate ability translates into tremendous value as a CIO who can adapt to unexpected changes to the plan. And remember to trust your gut instincts when a decision is made among competing but equally effective solutions. This isn’t something AI does at all and can’t do very well right now. That is how a CIO survives in the era of Artificial Intelligence.

Contributed by Andy Kim, vCISO at MR2 Solutions

I'm a member of the Board of Technology Advisors at MR2 Solutions, Inc. 

In this role, I provide valuable cybersecurity insights to top-level executives and board members, helping them make informed decisions about technology.

My mission is clear: to create a smarter, more secure, and resilient digital world for everyone. I'm passionate about using artificial intelligence, strategic planning, and my technical expertise to drive business growth and protect against cyber threats. Cybersecurity is not just a job for me; it's a calling.

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