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Global CIOs geared up to scale AI but organizations aren’t as ready

CIOs are tabling non-traditional responsibilities to sharpen their focus on core IT functions. Slightly more than half (51%) of CIOs feel AI/ML is an urgent priority to address, matched only by cybersecurity.

AI is the CIO’s top priority, according to findings of Lenovo’s third annual global CIO report. Inside the Tornado: How AI is Reshaping Corporate IT Today, reveals that while CIOs need to adopt and scale AI urgently, their ambitions are threatened by speed, security, and other organizational functions lagging in AI readiness.

In a stark contrast to previous years, CIOs are tabling non-traditional responsibilities to sharpen their focus on core IT functions. Slightly more than half (51%) of CIOs feel AI/ML is an urgent priority to address, matched only by cybersecurity. This urgency is directly correlated to the pressure that CIOs are under to drive business impact, rather than operational maintenance and preservation. 84% of CIOs revealed they are being evaluated on business outcome metrics more than ever before.

“Today’s CIOs are working in a tornado of innovation. After years of IT expanding into non-traditional responsibilities, we’re now seeing how AI is forcing CIOs back to their core mandate,” said Ken Wong, President of Lenovo’s Solutions and Services Group. “This is driven by the clear promise of AI adoption combined with the pressure that IT leaders face to prove the value of these investments and deliver measurable business outcomes.”

CIOs are optimistic about AI’s impact—80% feel that breakthroughs and developments in AI will have a significant impact on their business. At the same time, CIOs see speed to adoption and security as the most significant barriers to scale AI. Large swathes of their organizations are not AI-ready, which is directly affecting IT’s ability to scale AI quickly. In particular, they called out: new product lines (78%), corporate policy / ethical use (76%), supply chain (74%), IT’s technical skills (51%).

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What has remained consistent with previous years is IT’s ongoing challenge to measure impact. Sixty-one percent of CIOs said they find it very or extremely challenging to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) with tech investments. While 96% of CIOs anticipate increased investment over the next 12 months, 42% of respondents admit they do not expect to see positive ROI from AI investments for at least two to three years.

AI as a net-positive for sustainability

Sustainability remains a major component of the CIO role, but this is somewhat complicated by the fact that 38% of respondents admit that sustainability is being de-prioritized as a result of the resources being pulled toward AI adoption. Ultimately, CIOs see AI as a net-positive for sustainability—78% say that leveraging AI will make it easier to meet their organization’s IT sustainability goals.

Questions about human capital and financial resources remain

While CIOs share an optimistic account of IT’s own AI-readiness, continued AI investment could create additional human and financial resource gaps. 89% of CIOs warn that with the continued scaling of AI technologies, the role of human capital will become even more important. With expected budget constraints, increasing headcount to match these AI ambitions could prove challenging.

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Similarly, while 96% of CIOs say they expect increased AI investments over the coming year, only 20% expect overall IT budgets to grow by more than 10%. CIOs concede that AI exploration and adoption is pulling resources and attention away from other key IT areas including cloud adoption/digital transformation (48%), sustainability (38%), and employee compensation (38%).

“There’s a clear opportunity for us to help businesses make sense of AI, accelerate its scale, and advise on how the impact of these investments can be effectively measured,” added Wong. “Our customers are already leveraging AI to advance sustainability, security, and digital transformation efforts. We can help them deliver further outcomes by developing cohesive deployment strategies that address CIOs’ challenges.”

Explore the full Lenovo Global Study of CIOs.

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