Considerations for CIOs Looking to Harness the Unprecedented Potential of AI


Discover how artificial intelligence revolutionises work environments, from boosting productivity to managing complexity. Learn about the benefits, concerns, and best practices for adopting AI in your organisation.

Through 2023, it would appear more difficult to provide an example of what companies and individuals believe artificial intelligence CAN’T do rather than what it can. It is being touted as the answer to multiple complex problems – societal, economic, medical, business, safety, you name it. Business leaders are told it can cut costs, simplify complexities like regulatory compliance, market trend analysis, and cybersecurity, take important but humdrum tasks off the plates of employees, make them happier and more productive, and the list goes on. 

AI’s selling points resonate especially strongly in a global fog of uncertainty. Organisations looking to address climate emissions have used it. Businesses looking to combat fraud and money laundering have used it. It has been leveraged to bolster cybersecurity or to alleviate work burdens in beleaguered teams. 

A recent global Freshworks survey among 2,000 IT professionals revealed that nearly all (95%) see generative AI (ChatGPT and similar products) as potentially beneficial for work environments. Generative AI can play the role of a digital intern who does the mundane (yet business-critical) tasks that have the potential to demoralise humans. Our study found that 86% of organisations already use AI, and more than half (51%) actively encourage using AI in the workplace.

AI to counter complexity

AI benefits are not exclusively relevant to end users. IT, through AIOps platforms, gains access to a range of AI tools. The survey shows us that 71% of IT workers already use such tools to boost their productivity. And 39% cited the classic benefit – AI gave them more time to focus on higher-level tasks. Let’s consider one of the greatest challenges of IT today – complexity and sprawl. IT staff spend their days trying to manage increasingly large and complex environments. AI is the perfect candidate to manage and control the sprawl of programs and services that have the potential to drag on productivity, budgets, and the employee experience.

Our survey also provided some measurements of this IT sprawl and of the attempts to address it. It is estimated that the number of apps installed for the exclusive use of IT teams has increased by 71% since 2022, yet less than a third of them are being used. So, they represent a significant waste of budget and human resources (they took time to install and would still require maintenance). AI is seen as the obvious solution. 

IT professionals worldwide told our researchers they could save an estimated five hours or more per week by using AI to undertake mundane tasks. Based on an average salary of AED 6,000 for a Dubai-based sysadmin worker and a typical 48-hour work week, this is about US$2,000 of annual wastage per worker in the network admin role alone. 

Cause for Concern?

But while the directive to adopt AI seems like a no-brainer, savvy business leaders will tread more carefully. The survey shows that among technologists, the caveats are well known. Some 87% expressed concerns with their colleagues using generative AI, for example. And 73% flagged potential privacy impacts – a crucial consideration in a nation with strong local consumer data protections. 

59% said they were concerned about inappropriate or inaccurate results being conveyed to employees or customers. The notes of caution continue. More than a third (34%) of the respondents stated they wanted to avoid AI to help them complete their work, despite 45% estimating that half of their work was eligible for automation.

Slow and Steady

The figures paint a helpful picture for CIOs who have concluded that AI is an inevitability. They must address all the concerns that have emerged from the survey as well as the desire to adopt coming from inside and outside their team. Industry best practice calls for a gradual approach, but CIOs must also consider that threat actors and fraudsters will have no such guardrails when using AI. Their onslaught must be countered. We can be assured that security vendors will soon “solve for X” in the generative AI arena. But in the meantime, employee awareness will be an invaluable weapon in the fight against AI-fuelled spamming, scamming, and phishing. 

Staying a Step Ahead

We must never forget that any human innovation can be used by any human – even bad actors. Stethoscopes can be used by doctors but also by safe crackers. So, we should be cautious. While we embark upon our new relationship with generative and other forms of AI, we must never forget that our adversaries are also pressing these tools into service. As long as we can do that, we can use AI to transform the work environment for the better – better customer experiences, better employee experiences, better use of budgets, better execution, better revenue growth, and better balance sheets.

AI is unquestioningly here to stay. How we adapt to that reality will be the deciding factor in whether we prosper or falter.