FRI JAN 15 2021

How AI Will Guide Corporations [Part 1: Redefining Roles]

by Amit Pande

Industries dramatically change every decade or so. Consider this—only about 50 companies, or roughly 10%, have remained on the Fortune 500 list since 1955. As we start moving into the early 2020s, we’re on the cusp of another major change, one that will be guided by artificial intelligence (AI). As revenues rise and fall, and companies adjust to new economic, political and social landscapes, the internal workings of companies change as well—specifically, executive roles, processes and technology. For the first article in my three-part series, I’ll walk you through how, guided by AI, executive roles within companies will change in the 2020s. Companies have long assigned new responsibilities to some executive roles, and have carved out new executive roles, too. For instance, these days, it’s not surprising to see a company with a chief revenue officer (CRO) either operating alongside or in place of a chief marketing officer (CMO). It’s also becoming increasingly commonplace for chief information officers (CIOs) to work more closely with chief human resources officers (CHROs) to improve the employee experience.

Why AI Will Reshape Go-To-Market Executive Roles The Most

In the 2020s, changes to executive roles in go-to-market departments—finance, marketing, customer success, sales, product development and human resources—will be guided by AI. This is a crucial development in the evolution of the corporation because it will also inform how practitioner and staff roles evolve in the 2020s. Roles in these go-to-market departments have the most potential to be redefined by AI because they naturally rely on a lot of data and shifting variables. These roles are marked by conditions of VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. People have to make decisions in these roles that are, on some level, predictive. While each unique role will be redefined and retooled through automation and augmentation via AI in different ways, broadly, AI can guide executives and other employees in these departments by showing them what’s going on across the business (the big picture view), by presenting them with different scenarios and associated consequences and by suggesting fresh ideas. For instance, CMOs traditionally make marketing decisions based on past campaign data, such as lead conversion rates. AI could give them another layer of guidance to show them different scenarios and options and the good and bad that could result from each decision, such as selecting a new segment, targeting a new geographical market or starting a new brand campaign. AI could even show CMOs novel ideas they might not have brainstormed on their own. We’ll also see chief customer officer (CCO) and chief experience officer (CXO) roles be drastically redefined, if not enabled, by AI. People in these roles interface with customers at various stages of the customer journey. AI will augment their decision-making to streamline and improve those customer interactions. We are living in a buying era where 67% of the buyer’s journey happens digitally. Unlike the classic funnel of awareness-consideration-purchase, buyers are acting non-linearly. They ask LinkedIn connections for recommendations, research competitors, use free trials and more. Using AI to collect data points along the customer journey, CCOs and CXOs can engage customers at the right time, on the right channel, with the right message.

How AI Will Reshape Roles Outside Of Go-To-Market Executive Roles

Outside of the executive suite, one example of AI retooling these go-to-market departments that we’re already seeing is in the news industry. Using algorithms and live data, Reuters writes text-based summaries of some sports games. Reuters also introduced a prototype for a fully automated presenter-led sports news summary system earlier in 2020. This ties into something important I think will happen. It’s not that AI will necessarily replace many jobs (although it will replace some); it’s more so that AI will enhance the more “chore-like” aspects of these roles, freeing up people to produce more and use more of their energy to create and innovate. Apart from the go-to-market departments, roles in development, IT and other technical areas may also be augmented by AI. Consider this—in the past, data scientists spent a huge percentage of their time on model selection, or identifying the right machine learning models for problems. Now, with auto machine learning via platforms like AWS and Microsoft, AI can choose the right models with minimal data scientist involvement.

The Possibility Of A Chief AI Officer At Every Company

In short, executive roles in go-to-market departments will reap many benefits from AI, as will their teams. With these data-driven predictions at their fingertips, they’ll be able to make more nuanced, educated decisions and spend less time reaching those decisions, gaining a competitive advantage in the process. Going a step further, we’re already starting to see people in chief AI officer (CAIO) roles. Maybe every company in the future will have a CAIO who oversees the role of AI in the organization. Or, maybe chief digital officer (CDO) roles will incorporate more AI responsibilities, developing ethical frameworks for how their companies use AI internally and externally. Perhaps companies will even have an AI robot or two on their board of directors, something a Hong Kong-based VC firm has already done. When it comes to reshaping jobs, AI won’t be the be-all, end-all. It’ll be more like a team member “hired” to help people in different roles. Think about all the administrative, repetitive parts of your job that you’d love for an AI assistant to take care of! AI won’t stop at transforming roles, either. In my next two articles, I’ll explain how AI will guide changes in the processes and technologies companies use.