CIOs Feel Heat From CEOs on Generative AI

CIOs Feel Heat From CEOs on Generative AI
CIOs Feel Heat From CEOs on Generative AI


The rise of generative AI within companies often starts at the top with chief executives, making it different from other business tech booms typically led by technologists.

The rise of generative AI within companies often starts at the top with chief executives, making it different from other business tech booms typically led by technologists.

Given the active role of CEOs, generative AI pilots stand to get ample resources, but the pressure to meet expectations creates a unique challenge, according to chief information officers, the executives who bridge business and technology leadership.

“I think we’re all looking for some proof of concept that we can go after fairly quickly to prove to ourselves that there is real impact. There is a certain degree of urgency because we don’t want to be left behind," said Warren Kudman, senior vice president and CIO of Turner Construction. “I think it still needs to be proven out, even with all the excitement around it."

“I hope this is where the technology leaders are, hopefully bringing some pragmatism to the opportunity, because we’re the ones that think about the risk and the economics of making it all work," Kudman added, speaking on the sidelines of The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network Summit in New York.

The event focused on the explosive interest in generative artificial intelligence that began last November with the release of ChatGPT, which made it easy to interact with OpenAI’s underlying technology by typing questions or prompts in everyday language. Similarly, OpenAI’s Dall-E 2 creates realistic-looking images.

Such models are trained on the internet as well as on more tailored data sets to find long-range patterns in sequences of data, enabling AI software to express a fitting next word or paragraph as it writes or creates.

Now, generative AI is making its way into longstanding software platforms and information technology departments of large companies.

Microsoft has invested in OpenAI and is embedding the company’s technology across its portfolio of products and services. Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta Platforms and other tech companies also are all-in on generative AI.

At Johnson & Johnson, scientists are using generative AI to stay abreast of research, said Jim Swanson, executive vice president and CIO.

“No matter how good our scientists are, how to keep pace with all that is really difficult. So you think about being able to use generative AI tools to mine the latest medical information," he said at the summit. “We’ve been doing some pretty neat things around pulling together that information, and then making that available to our scientists."

Compared with other recent technology advances like the metaverse, which hasn’t found its footing among enterprises, generative AI is “a cross solution and cross technology area," said Jeff Schwartz, vice president of North America engineering at cybersecurity software provider Check Point Software Technologies. “Generative AI is a technology space that will allow every organization to benefit."

Generative AI feels different compared with other recent tech booms because it is driven to a great extent by business leaders, not just technologists. “I think we can see from the appetite from our business users and from our CEO that this is something that they see value in much more," said David Glick, senior vice president of enterprise business services at Walmart.

CIOs feel responsible for ensuring companies don’t get swept away by enthusiasm for the technology, which is still in development and can produce incorrect content expressed in a confident way—a phenomenon known as a hallucination.

Abbott is creating pilot programs to test generative AI in areas such as productivity and marketing automation, according to Sabina Ewing, global CIO and vice president of business and technology services.

Instead of using the public version of ChatGPT available on the internet, Abbott uses an enterprise version from Microsoft in its own secure environment, Ewing said. “We have all the pilots going on, it’s a function of using our own private tenant [or partition] of GPT and not the public version," Ewing said. The company, she said, is exploring the use of generative AI with other cloud computing platforms.

As this work proceeds, Ewing said, “Security, data privacy, is paramount."

Most companies for now are seeing only incremental productivity gains from generative AI, said Cal Henderson, chief technology officer and co-founder of Slack.

“People are very excited about it, but I think the realistic impact that people are seeing so far is a lot smaller," he said. “People feel like they’re being more productive. The outputs haven’t necessarily really moved."

Belle Lin and Tom Loftus contributed to this article.

Write to Steven Rosenbush at

CIOs Feel Heat From CEOs on Generative AI
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CIOs Feel Heat From CEOs on Generative AI
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