Do you need a Chief Digital Officer?

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Today introducing basic digital capabilities and creating some pilots for customer interaction are days of the past. The challenges of the new digital age makes the jumping on Digital Transformation inevitable and subsequently the need of executive like Chief Digital Officer is a no-brainer.
The recent times have seen the rise of the Chief Digital Officer, who sits next to CEO and is seen as instrumental to the future of the organization.

Traditionally, for the past several years digital was looked up as ownership of the marketing function, responsible for driving the organization’s online presence and connecting with customers, but now it is every department that has to contribute to digital enablement of customer journeys.
The spike in demand for Chief Digital Officers has been felt globally to drive digital across organization.
Some of the CDO responsibilities are as below but not limited to:
  • Define the digital strategy
  • Map the digital capabilities to business strategy
  • Leads digital transformation and customer centricity
  • Providing detailed analysis of industry trends and developments in technology and customer behavior, both inside and outside the business sector
  • Deliver analytics across customer touch points to enable better business decisions and enhance customer experience  
  • Use of all the digital transformation technologies like Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, Internet of Things, API, UX etc.
  • Responsible for strategy for digital consumers, identify and implement relevant Omni-channel solutions 
  • Embark on use of latest trends of Robotics, Drones, Artificial Intelligence, Beacons or NFC based payments, Blockchain etc

As digital is becoming norm, every CXO will have to integrate their business and benefit from the CDO’s efforts.
Over next decade the Chief Digial Officer will be very exciting and strategic role for going near to customers.
Some of the well-known brand’s CDOs who have steered their companies on digital are:
  •  Adam Brotman of Starbucks
  • Ganesh Bell of GE
  • Daniel Heaf of Burberry
  • Atif Rafiq of McDonalds
  • Lubomira Rochet of L’Oreal

The true measure of a CDO’s success is when the role becomes redundant, as a high-functioning digital company does not need a CDO.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I see an emerging need for a CDO for some organizations, but not for every one. If I were hiring a CDO today, I’d put ‘sharp elbows’ on the list of essential attributes. There’s quite a bit of overlap with what CIO’s and CMO’s do – or are supposed to do. If a company already has C-something-O functions in these areas, make sure everyone is “on board” before introducing the CDO to the executive team, so you don’t hear, “Hey! That’s my job!”

    The organizations where inserting a CDO makes the most sense have disparate media assets, such as a publishing, entertainment, or sports, and those companies need to convert the assets into digital, or to create new digital assets for revenue growth. Another force driving the need for the CDO role are industries (e.g. retail) where online buying is transforming the revenue model. In these cases, the CDO’s most important function is to direct a unified strategy and change management for all the company’s key processes.

    If the CDO performs his or her job well, the role should extinguish itself as digital processes get subsumed back into the everyday work of each department.

  2. This question (in my opinion) sits alongside many others – including:

    Do I need a CIO?
    Do I need a CCO?
    Do I need a CXO?

    I could go on – and as a result, agree with Andrew. The answer to the question lies in what the organisation needs – from a leadership and competency perspective. There is no right or wrong – there is just appropriate and relevant for the situation.

    My bigger concern is that too many businesses are seeing ‘digital’ as the answer to EVERYTHING – it is not – it may answer many things, but it is one way of enabling the customer journey to better deliver the customer experience – not the only way.

    Thanks for posing the question Sandeep.

  3. somewhat agree, Ian. But then we can see that more and more customers (am mainly talking b2c, but this is there for b2b, too) are using digital channels. So there is a need although ‘digital’ is not the answer to everything. The main problem is that there are too many silos and involved departments. Canonically the buck stops at the CEO with that but this cannot be, too. It is also not really an operations topic.

    However, it is probably a temporary role that moves back into one of the existing (standard?) roles.

    If the role is made part of an existing job description I would put it onto the CIO – as the CIO, anyways, needs to deliver value cross department. And I acknowledge that a CIO is probably not fully suited for this task, too.

  4. Great inputs from all. as people are doing all the efforts in silos, bringing them under one roof is important with authority. Hence CDO is required but not mandatory if business is very small.

  5. I love the concept that a CDO would eventually become redundant. Right now, digital activity cuts across every silo – and there would be great potential for internal conflict if the role isn’t clearly defined. There’s a good argument for the need for a CDO in some companies, but, as you pointed out, if they do their job right, they should be out of a job…

  6. yes, Shaun, many roles need to be established to be merged back into pre-existing roles. Else accountability suffers and additionally it just doesn’t scale to add bodies whenever a new need for a role comes up. So, this role right from the beginning might reside with one of the existing executives

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