The CIO faces digital disruption to transform an IT department from a sluggish operational cost center to a nimble enabler of business. This means IT must shuffle off the mortal coil of outdated skills and tackle new ones that make sense in the digital age, such as artificial intelligence (AI). At least this is the key finding in a Brocade study of digital transformation skills for 2017.

There’s no question companies are in a race to digitally transform just about every facet of their business, from supply chain and operations to product development and the customer experience. By the end of this year, more than 70 percent of the Global 500 will have dedicated digital transformation and innovation teams, IDC predicts.

Who is going to lead digital transformation?

IDC doesn’t give CIOs much of a chance. Only 40 percent of CIO will lead digital transformation of the enterprise by 2018, IDC says. But the Brocade study suggests CIOs know what’s at stake and are attempting to grab the reins. A whopping nine out of 10 IT decision makers recognize that IT is very important or critical to enabling organizations to innovate and grow, Brocade says.

Related: 2017 Salary Guide: 16 Hottest Digital Transformation Skills

Before CIOs can lead, though, they must remake their IT departments by developing or recruiting people with the right technical skills. The Brocade study shows there are barriers to making this happen. Among them, limited time and budget and an noncommittal board. Meanwhile, half of respondents say a move towards digital transformation will also lead to a loss of fundamental IT systems knowledge.

Without the right skills, it really won’t matter who leads digital transformation. The Brocade study highlights three dire consequences for scenarios lacking talent: inability to implement new technologies efficiently, a decrease in employee satisfaction, and loss of market share to competitors.

CIOs leading digital transformation need IT workers with technical chops in AI, cloud computing and cyber security, as well as soft skills in team management. As it pertains to the future, the most important skill is AI.

Related: Zero One: Are You Ready for AI?

Nearly 40 percent of Brocade survey respondents say AI skills will become crucial in the next 10 years. Many believe AI will replace employees in desktop support, software testing and software upgrading. AI might also carve out a place in strategy planning. All of this echoes an IDC prediction that 40 percent of digital initiatives and 100 percent of Internet of Things initiatives will be supported by AI by 2019.

“The ability to work alongside AI could be crucial to job security, as more and more roles are altered through the appeal of AI,” the Brocade study says.

Based in Silicon Valley, Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is eager to hear how the search for digital transformation skills is impacting your business. You can reach him at tom.kaneshige@penton.com.