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Strongest AI talent demand comes from non-IT departments

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For the past four years, the strongest demand for talent with artificial intelligence (AI) skills has not come from the IT department, but rather, from other business units in the organisation, according to Gartner.

Gartner Talent Neuron data shows that although the IT department’s need for AI talent has tripled between 2015 and 2019, the number of AI jobs posted by IT is still less than half of that stemming from other business units.

“High demand and tight labour markets have made candidates with AI skills highly competitive, but hiring techniques and strategies have not kept up,” says Peter Krensky, research director at Gartner.

“In the recent Gartner AI and Machine Learning Development Strategies Study, respondents ranked ‘skills of staff’ as the number one challenge or barrier to the adoption of AI and machine learning.”

The market analyst firm says departments recruiting AI talent in high volumes include marketing, sales, customer service, finance, and research and development.

These business units are using AI talent for customer churn modelling, customer profitability analysis, customer segmentation, cross-sell and up-sell recommendations, demand planning and risk management, it notes.

According to Gartner, a significant portion of AI use cases are reported from asset-centric industries supporting projects such as predictive maintenance, workflow and production optimisation, quality control and supply chain optimisation.

It points out that AI talent is often hired directly into these departments with clear use cases in mind so that data scientists and others can learn the intricacies of the specific business area and remain close to the deployment and consumption of their work.

“Given the complexity, novelty, multidisciplinary nature and potentially profound impact of AI, CIOs [chief information officers] are well-placed to help HR [human resources] in the hiring of AI talent in all business units,” says Krensky.

“Together, CIOs and HR leaders should rethink what skills are truly necessary for an AI-focused employee to have on day one and explore candidate criteria adjacent to hiring specifications. CIOs should also think creatively about IT’s role in governing and supporting diverse AI initiatives and the evolving teams driving this activity.”

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