Creating the ultimate AI strategy while avoiding app sprawl

Robot hand emerging from screen symbolizing Artificial intelligence
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AI promises a goldmine of workplace efficiencies, from task automation and data analysis to copyediting for typos. To sustain a competitive advantage in a turbulent economic climate, many companies are exploring the abundance of new AI apps offering to unlock these benefits.

However, this ‘AI gold rush’ has left CIOs feeling overwhelmed. According to Canva’s recent survey of more than 1,300 global CIOs, the majority (84%) believe there are too many apps on the market. Against a backdrop of choice overload, CIOs need to be strategic about their selection process and mindful of the impact on existing tech stacks. A successful AI rollout means balancing speed of adoption with safety, integration and cost considerations.

Duncan Clark

Duncan Clark is Canva's Head of Europe and the co-founder of data visualization platform Flourish, which is now part of the Canva family.

The fine line between AI adoption and AI over adoption

AI apps are becoming more sought after. Their promises to increase efficiency and scale content creation are just two of the reasons why we’re seeing increased adoption within organizations. CIOs are under pressure to capitalize on these benefits, delivering a robust tech stack that increases margins across the business, all while sticking to tight budgets.

While the promise of AI was to make our lives simpler, the abundance of apps and tools has introduced more complexity and confusion. CIOs report the pace of tools entering the market is rising globally, with the majority (71%) expecting to adopt 30–60 new apps in 2024.

Navigating multiple tools and platforms is overwhelming, time-consuming and costly. It's also a security risk since IT doesn’t always have visibility into the array of tools being used. CIOs need to explore integrating AI at a higher level where its capabilities transcend individual apps and features, and create new integrated workflows.

Compliance, dependence and AI hallucination

As AI becomes more widely incorporated into organizations, CIOs recognize the need to establish guardrails. This will ensure teams are protected against unintended consequences such as bias and ‘AI hallucination’ – where AI presents incorrect information as factual.

Canva's study also found that CIOs are concerned about employees not adhering to two areas in particular: directives around AI, including established IT procedures (41%); and ensuring secure deployment and risk management (40%). For example, when employees use large language models (LLMs) to generate content, many aren’t aware they are sharing information into a database which can be accessed by external sources. This may inadvertently put IP or customers at risk.

As a result, IT departments must not only work closely with legal teams, but with the entire business to implement the right policies and ensure proper training is actioned. This includes adequately educating staff about risks and potential outcomes before making AI tools available.

The 2024 AI agenda

This year and beyond, AI integration will remain top of mind for business leaders – Canva found that nearly all CIOs (90%) strongly agree that AI tools can dramatically improve both their role and their employees’ experience.

For the successful rollout of AI applications, however, a strategic approach is required, including selecting the right apps that improve workflows, and leaning on all-in-one platforms that provide teams with everything in one place, as well as introducing relevant policies to ensure safe and responsible AI use.

This will only become more true in the coming year, during which AI tools are likely to advance dramatically. A strategic and driven CIO who is well-versed in AI risks and benefits will prove more crucial to a company's success than ever before.

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Duncan Clark is Canva's Head of Europe and the co-founder of data visualization platform Flourish, which is now part of the Canva family.