'A real game-changer': McLaren's Chris Hicks on AI

Efficiency = engagement = low turnover

Tom Allen
clock • 2 min read
'A real game-changer': McLaren's Chris Hicks on AI

Finding and keeping skilled staff is a challenge for every IT leader, but McLaren CIO Chris Hicks thinks AI could hold the key.

Recruitment and retention are widely accepted as the fastest way to solve gaps in your workforce. If you don't have a certain role, you can recruit for it or train someone internally to fill that space.

Chris Hicks, CIO of McLaren, is a proponent of this approach, telling us that "investing in your people" is the best way to close the skills gap. However, if people simply don't have the time to do their job they could end up leaving regardless.

Chris Hicks
Chris Hicks, CIO of McLaren

That makes efficiency an important factor in addressing the talent shortage.

More efficient staff means more productive staff, but it can be difficult when so much time is taken up with just keeping the lights on.

"It's crucial that the people coming to work here have the time and space to innovate, and not spend their time having to do boring, manual, hand-cranking, non-value-add activities."

Challenges become solutions

Another challenge might hold the key to getting out of that situation, or avoiding it altogether.

Staying abreast of emerging technologies - which could be either or both threat and opportunity - is a constant niggling pressure for CIOs.

"You want to be brave enough to use new technologies like generative AI, for example. But you don't want to rush to let things out before they've been properly scoped and have the right governance protocols in place."

The balancing act of exploiting new tech without opening security holes is a difficult one. It means walking a tightrope "between being proactive and reactive to change," says Hicks.

Efficiency through AI

With these pressures on the IT leader role, and the explosion in generative AI since last year, Hicks sees a clear direction for the industry going forwards.

"I think it's definitely generative AI [that will define 2023], just because it's so new and everybody's falling over themselves to really start to work with it, whether it's ChatGPT or Microsoft Copilot."

CIOs - sometimes under pressure from business leaders - are rushing to investigate the possibilities of generative AI, although Hicks notes that, "It hasn't really been stress tested in the field yet... There are a lot of considerations around the use of AI, what it means for you."

Despite that, he sees it as a potential solution for the skills challenge - though admits there are concerns.

"Naturally, some people will be concerned about their own jobs - is it going to replace certain skills?

"I don't really see it that way... I see it as taking away those manual, repeatable, non-value-add tasks, and allowing people to spend their time doing that sort of thought leadership, innovative, real value-add activity.

"I think that's going to be a real game changer."

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