Chief Digital Officer, what is that? We don’t need that, we have a Chief Technical Officer and a Chief Marketing Officer. This is what you may hear when talking about this executive role new to our era. However, many companies are waking up to the fact that digital may not only be their future, but also their survival and having an executive concentrating on it 24/7 is the only way to succeed.
The Digital Road to….?
Imagine this like a road trip. Sure you do some planning, but you never know what the road has in store for you. Most companies start out their digital road trip thinking about marketing and that’s not a bad place to start, because marketing is “digital” we can touch, feel and understand pretty easily. However, once you start, you’ll see all kinds of pieces from marketing, to tech, to operations to finance, etc. threading together. Once that happens you need someone navigating or you’re end up on something like a spring break car ride with a driver bombing painkillers and tequila.
The digital road is curvy with different streets running into it and a seasoned digital driver needs to step in, because without them, the trip is going all to hell. Someone has to map it, navigate it and actually drive. That driver needs to understand the entire landscape and also has to understand what all the other drivers are doing, while also being creative enough to come up with new routes. They can’t be a first time driver, and they also shouldn’t drive like they’re in Nascar — with digital, rubbing is not racing, rubbing will kill your business.
All of this has brought on the rise of the Chief Digital Officer. A good CDO orchestrates between marketing, sales, technology, and can also understand how it all runs into operations. They’re also one of the leading drivers of digital transformation within the organization, and continued digital evolution. The CDO is constantly thinking about:
- How to drive more sales digitally
- How to help reduce costs digitally
- How to engage customers digitally
- How to keep employees efficient and engaged digitally
- How to stay ahead of the competition digitally
If it is happening digitally, the CDO is there. If it’ not happening digitally, the CDO is figuring out how to make it digital. If it sounds like this individual needs to be a jack of all trades, well, you’re starting to get it. They have to be well versed in the functional areas, while being a master of what is possible digitally.
There is a school of thought that the CDO is not necessary, and that the rest of the C-Level team have this covered. That school obviously hasn’t had C-level exposure and doesn’t understand that most C-levels are drinking from a firehose because there’s no time to focus on the digital possibilities of the business. Remember, digital is not just about surviving and getting ahead today, but also the constant evolution to stay relevant and competitive on an ongoing basis.
The CDO’s job is to assure that the company is constantly evolving digitally — not only how the company does business, but also what it’s business actually is. The CDO is constantly vetting the model against the realities of a pedal to the metal, jet engine strapped on the back, endless downhill road of a technology driven world. It’s fast, and pumping the brakes is not an option. Too many other competitors, too little time, too little focus and too much to know and accomplish. The Chief Digital Officer has arrived to transform and evolve businesses. It’s up to us to put them in the driver’s seat.