Today we see the trend of several businesses engaging Chief Digital Officers (CDOs). Aviva, Starbucks, McDonald's , BBC Worldwide, Amnesty International, L'Oreal and several others are among those who already have engaged CDOs to connect with experts, experiment based on factual data, speak multiple business / technology languages to earn organization wide commitment and last but not the least create digital business strategy.
Who is a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is one who helps an organization grow by converting traditional "analog" businesses into “digital” ones. CDO is expected to oversee operations in the rapidly changing digital sectors like mobile, social media and others.
Gartner predicts that some 25 percent of businesses will have a CDO by 2015. On the other hand Forrester predicted that by the end of 2015, only 1% of the companies will engage CDOs and also that CIOs/CMOs prove that the CDO role is unnecessary and make sure that CIOs are equipped to drive the digital agenda.
Unlike a CMO, who may be preoccupied revamping the company’s brand and rely primarily on traditional means of information management and marketing, a CDO is expected to fill gaps and deficiencies while simultaneously bridging conflicts between marketing and technology. CDO is supposed to adopt digital technologies across businesses, manage digital consumer experiences across all business touch points and drive complete end-to-end digital transformation.
Unlike a CIO, CDO will not make technology decisions or run the company’s infrastructure. It's more a transformative role to break up siloed functions within an organization. The CDO’s job is more about analysing the data to see how it relates to the business and customer experience. Driving the digital functional excellence and ensuring that we have the right competence and capabilities to support and leverage the business from a digital perspective falls under the purview of CDOs because they are technology change agents to advise the CEOs.
While CIO’s role has primary focus on ‘Back Office’ operations, CDO’s role is basically concerned about ‘Front Office’ operations because the digital delivery platform is fluid and shaped by what the client wants. It is the CDO who has to plan how to expose our products / services to our customers via digital channels. So the role of CIO and CDO are fairly complementary of each other. To be truly effective, a CDO is expected to evangelize the complete integration of data and consumer processes across every business unit of their organization because it is only the data and processes that inform everything about what an organization does.
Qualities of CDO
A CDO is expected to have expertise in online marketing, social media, e-commerce, digital transformative technology capabilities, digital strategies and handling cultural sensitivities. While there is an increase in demand for Chief Digital Officers globally, it is felt more in US and Europe as opposed to Asia. To summarise, CDO’s role can be looked at as combined role of CMO and CIO or in other words CDO is the next incarnation of CMO and CIO. CDO’s role may become superfluous once digital becomes the default culture of the business.
I invite your views and thoughts around this topic.