We must ensure that AI governance doesn’t stifle innovation!

Rahul Sharma, CIO at Tata Projects, discussed the role of the CIO with AI, governance challenges, and leadership mantras.

Rahul Sharma
Tata Projects

Rahul Sharma, the CIO of Tata Projects, has extensive experience in various leadership roles within India’s infrastructure sector. In an interaction with Jatinder Singh, Executive Editor at CIO&Leader, Rahul shares his perspectives on AI governance and its impact on technological advancements. Excerpts.

CIO&Leader: How do you foresee the role of a CIO evolving with AI and automation capabilities taking center stage? What new challenges do you anticipate?

Rahul Sharma: In recent decades, the role of the CIO has transformed from being primarily an operator to that of a scientist and technologist. CIOs now play a crucial advisory role for organizational leaders, concentrating on enhancing processes and systems. The advancement of AI has expanded their responsibilities to include understanding business intricacies and using AI ethically. Looking ahead, AI will significantly disrupt the way processes are made intelligent and user behavior is predicted. Organizations need to prepare for AI adoption to stay relevant.

CIO&Leader: How have AI-fueled technological advancements impacted businesses today?

Rahul Sharma: AI has revolutionized businesses by elevating data discussions to boardroom levels and emphasizing the strategic importance of data. It’s no longer limited to operational use; now, it’s a critical asset for making predictive insights. AI isn’t just about reducing the workforce; it’s about upskilling people to focus on essential tasks. Both generative and precision AI are transforming industries, demanding early adaptation and significant effort from organizations.

CIO&Leader: Governance is now being discussed, with the EU passing laws and India considering AI regulation. Concerns exist that excessive governance might hinder progress, particularly for startups. What are your thoughts?

Rahul Sharma: Governance is essential, but it should also encourage awareness and responsible use of AI. While a robust governance model is necessary, promoting a culture of innovation and responsibility is equally important. We must ensure that governance doesn’t hinder innovation, especially for startups exploring new AI ideas. The emphasis should be on responsible innovation, similar to the approach in cybersecurity.

CIO&Leader: How crucial is cultural change in the context of AI governance?

Rahul Sharma: Cultural change is crucial. Effective governance should enforce rules and foster a culture where AI is used responsibly. Different perspectives and global dynamics present challenges, but prioritizing cultural change can help reduce risks such as cybersecurity. It’s about promoting responsibility in the use and development of AI technologies.

CIO&Leader: Are you leveraging AI and Generative AI at Tata Projects, and if so, how?

Rahul Sharma: At Tata Projects, we use AI and Generative AI experimentally and practically. In construction, AI-powered cameras ensure immediate compliance checks, monitor equipment, analyze performance, and automate grading. Generative AI streamlines the summarization of extensive tender documents, enhancing efficiency.

CIO&Leader: What are your thoughts on current software development and quality trends?

Rahul Sharma: As new tools and technologies emerge, there needs to be more concern over declining development quality. Today, a great deal of dependence on automated code-writing tools can undermine the deep understanding and logical analysis inherent in manual coding. This shift may impact the robustness and reliability of software solutions.

CIO&Leader: You have worked in multiple industries with Tata for quite some time. Who has been your role model, and why?

Rahul Sharma: Two people who inspired me are Steve Jobs and JRD Tata. Jobs taught me the importance of perfection and user experience. JRD Tata inspired me with his humility and focus on delivering. He built a humongous industry and talent in India.

CIO&Leader: What’s your recipe for successful team management and collaboration?

Rahul Sharma: I advocate three principles: Firstly, meticulous attention to detail is crucial—the devil lies in the details. Secondly, effective collaboration stems from being a good listener. Understanding others’ perspectives before proposing solutions is critical.

Thirdly, leadership through influence is vital in today’s flat organizational structures with overlapping roles. Creating a psychologically safe environment fosters innovation by encouraging open dialogue.

Image by freepik

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