Automation is Turning C-SuITe Leaders into Techies

The tsunami that is AI has been building for years, and while some may think—given all the media attention around ChatGPT— it has arrived, I would argue we are only witnessing a few of the early waves cresting.  AI will fundamentally transform every business, of every scale, in every sector, around the world.  And so, in the near future, every successful C-Suite leader will be, at least in part, a techie. 

As McKinsey notes, “The most successful companies we see have a CEO who lays the groundwork for support up front. Such leaders take time to explore and share examples of AI-enabled companies inside and outside their industry and hire AI-experienced senior talent to fill the leadership positions required to help drive the change if the talent doesn’t already exist in the organization. They also reduce hierarchy, prioritize AI education, and consistently communicate at every level the strategic nature of these changes.”


I largely agree with Strategy+Business (PWC)’s assessment of how each traditional C-Suite role will transform:

  • Chief Executive Officers. CEOs must provide their company’s vision and leadership and guide the company through its digital transformation. They must  foster a culture in which humans and robots coexist with trust, respect, and dignity—and in doing so, demonstrate personal commitment, hold themselves and others accountable, and make sure the board of directors has the expertise to oversee proper governance and guide decision-making. 
  • Chief Financial Officers. CFOs will need to embrace this change and keep their eye on whether the investment in automating finance-related tasks — and tasks in other departments as well — is paying off. CFOs in the robotics age will need to understand both physical and digital relationships and ensure people are able to build the automation, interpret results, and maintain control.
  • Chief Operating Officers. COOs will play a key role in managing the transformation to a human–robot hybrid workforce. Automation should not be done for its own sake. Investments in automation must have a clear role in reshaping the manufacturing footprint and streamlining the supply chain.
  • Chief Human Resources Officers. HR leaders must address a number of cultural issues, including how best to manage robots and train people to do the same. HR leaders also need to assess their employees' current capabilities with an eye toward upskilling and re-skilling. CHROs need to help employees understand how they’ll benefit from automation in the long run while also developing the leadership capabilities of managers so they can effectively guide employees through the changes ahead. 
  • Chief Marketing Officers. In this environment, marketing will be seen as less of a cost center and more of a source of revenue generation. This has critical implications for the CMO, whose role will become increasingly driven by data analytics, a transformation we’ve seen in brand management. Advanced analytics and Big Data — performed mostly by robots — will give executives more time to plan product road maps and set strategy.
  • Chief Information officers, chief technology officers, and chief digital officers. Tech leaders will have a lot on their plate: cybersecurity, data management, and analytics, and the myriad ways that automation technologies will impact all parts of the business. They will need to shift their focus from managing costs to laying the groundwork to accelerate revenue generation. And they have to collaborate more with tech, robotics, and AI players to enhance infrastructure and up-skill IT capabilities.


Likewise, I am largely in agreement with WorkLife and Strategy+Business (PWC)’s assessment—condensed below and with my notes in italics—of the new C-Suite roles that will emerge as a direct result of AI and automation:    

  • Chief Metaverse Officer (the other CMO). CMOs will be responsible for bringing a technical understanding of enabling technologies and tools, focus on business and strategy, and will — importantly — be in sync with younger generations’ more sophisticated grasp of new tech and how they interact with platforms like the metaverse. The metaverse has advanced potential for collaborative workspaces, consumer-facing integrated marketing, and gamification for communities.
  • Chief Automation Officer.  CAOs will be responsible for automation-first strategies, which ensure automation is embedded where necessary across new products, processes and customer services or other areas of organizations’ operations — right from the get-go. This role sits at the intersection of Business Process Lead, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Operating Officer, allowing for the prioritization of strategic initiatives and resource allocation.
  • Chief Robotic Officer/Chief Integration Officer. CRO and CIOs will work closely with finance executives as they navigate a new landscape of risk and compliance.  Not only is this person establishing connections between technology tools, but they're also breaking down silos between departments, similar to the Chief Collaborative Officer of the future.

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