Many CIOs I work with tell me that their companies are ‘playing’ with Generative AI but in an informal and distributed manner. A Talent Acquisition Specialist is using Generative AI to write a Job Description. A Marketing Manager is experimenting with Generative AI to build a campaign. A Finance Director is using Generative AI to create a draft of an IR press release.

The easy path for CIOs would be to sit back and let their business stakeholders experiment. Their plates are already full. No formal requests are being made of IT (yet). There are more pressing challenges that require attention. A passive approach to Generative AI, however, places both companies and personal careers at a real disadvantage.

Among many, there are two unanswered questions that give CIOs pause: What should my role be with Generative AI, and Where Should I Start? Here are three ideas to address both:

1) CIO as a Proactive Enabler. Companies generally don’t have ‘Generative AI departments’ (and shouldn’t), and most companies I see don’t yet have a cohesive strategy for Generative AI. Business leaders need scale to achieve real value with Generative AI and need technology to do it. These leaders will either lean on their CIOs or will pursue options on their own. CIOs should start having conversations about incremental vs. disruptive AI, and proactively position their departments to be their ‘Enabler’.

2) Build Use Cases. CIO can help business stakeholders articulate the problems they want to solve, through use cases, in a consistent and measurable way. Facilitating sessions to gather ideas allows the CIO to be a part of the conversation. And combining use cases within business functions helps stakeholders organize and mobilize. The CIO can act as both a facilitator for business stakeholders and an active participant in the IT function – addressing use cases from improving code quality, to automated code generation, to modernizing existing technology products.

3) Assess, Prioritize, and Plan. After facilitating the definition of the ‘what’ (problems to solve) and articulating the value of use cases, CIOs should take the lead in defining the ‘how’. How feasible is each use case? What’s Technology’s role in each use case? What does the organization need to do to be ready for Generative AI (from data to process to policy to organization)? Are we prepared as an organization for building and running the use case? What use cases have the most impact with the lowest effort and risk? CIOs can help prioritize these use cases and build an investment and delivery plan.

A great first step for CIOs is to facilitate sessions to generate use cases, assess the opportunities, prioritize them, and build investment theses.