The emergence of the  chief digital officer is shaking up the c-suite in more and more organisations throughout Australia, Europe and the US. Recent research suggests that 83 per cent of top digitally performing companies have an explicitly and formally appointed digital leader.

The CDO Club, the world’s largest network of CDOs, predicts that the number of CDOs will surpass 1500 by the end of this year. Digital is clearly driving business innovation and results, so understanding how the CDO fits into your organisation and its goals is imperative.

The CDO role evolved out of a need for focus and specific attention around digital assets. With overlapping interest in digital, there is tremendous opportunity — and need — for the CIO and CDO to collaborate around the business’s digital assets touching the consumer.

The CDO should be looking at consumer behaviour and conversation to identify needs, understand what consumers are looking for from your business, and draw conclusions based on digital behaviour. At the same time, the CIO should be working to identify new tools and technologies to capture better and more accurate data. While both roles are equally important, the impact of the CDO on the CIO role now and into the coming years can’t be denied.

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As a forward-thinking leader, you are in the unique position to foster a collaborative environment within the leadership team:

  • Make sure every person in organisation is very clear about their role, what they own, their purpose and expected outcomes. Friction often arises from ambiguity. Get the details down up front and make it clear that when questions come up, the door is always open to discussing them. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Give your CDO and CIO a unified vision. Here, we can take a lesson from the oft-cited contention between the chief marketing officer and CIO. With a clear picture of what success looks like at the outset, it will be easier for the business leaders to work together toward it.
  • Encourage your CIO to broaden his or her skill set beyond technical know-how and into the digital space. Strengthening this skill set will set them (and your organisation) up for greater long-term success. Some experts project that the role of CDO may evolve directly into extinction in the next five years — as such, a hybrid version of the CIO could be where this evolution reaches in the near future.
  • Encourage your CDO to expand their knowledgebase to include technical know-how. Being able to speak business and technology will be crucial to achieving his or her digital vision. In this case, tech-speak will be a real asset.
  • Allow room for conflict. Although the goal is for the CIO and CDO to come together as partners for the greater good of your digital efforts, some disagreement is good — and often productive — resulting in a better outcome for all.

Digital assets and technology, and their connection to the consumer, are the driving forces in business — and most definitely will continue to be for years to come. As you add another seat to the table, be sure to provide opportunity for collaboration between the CIO and CDO. You will in turn foster an environment of learning and innovation that will result in a stronger, more competitive digitally focused team.

1Apigee Institute, Three Keys to Digital Transformation

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