Every Company Needs A Chief Digital Officer

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In an increasingly digital world,
where everything from marketing to
R&D and customer service is
becoming digital, the Chief Digital
Officer (CDO) is more important
than ever in helping drive company
growth and a better connection
with customers.

Recently Gartner released its top
10 strategic technology trends for
2015 citing the impact of the
digital business shift as a driving
force behind these trends. With
that, the number of CDO jobs has
doubled since 2013 and continues
to grow.

The rise of the CDO comes at a
time of much industry debate
regarding the divide between
business and IT. Amid the
disconnect between CMOs and
CIOs , the CDO finally promises
some relief and reconciliation:
CDOs understand the digital
opportunities – as well as the
threats of cutting corners in the
interest of time-to-market – and
have a solid grasp on both the
technology choices and
corresponding trade-offs before
them.

Where the CMO may be
preoccupied revamping the
company’s brand by pursuing a
viral mobile app, IT may still be
struggling with bring-your-own-
device (BYOD). The CDO,
meanwhile, can think holistically
about how a company’s strategy is
executed across all digital channels
– such as mobile, the Internet of
Things (IoT) and an increasingly
important SaaS-based web – and
can provide insight and
recommendations on how to
reconcile the digital experience for
key target audiences.

Think of the last time you were at a
conference or big event, for
example…wouldn’t it be refreshing
if there was a consistent,
continuous experience as an
attendee? Yet surprisingly, it is
still all too common to have a
registration experience that seems
completely disconnected from the
on-site experience.

If there is a mobile app, it typically
doesn’t sync up with any pre-event
outreach (nor the post-event follow-
up) and is barely relevant to actual
on-site behavior and preferences.
Despite, or perhaps because of all
the different avenues through
which event organizers collect and
disseminate information,
personalization ends up falling
short, resulting in a lack of
engagement.

The tide is
beginning to
turn, however.
To stick with
our example,
more and more
event teams are
replacing
cookie-cutter
apps and siloed
systems,
fundamentally
rethinking the
way an
attendee
experiences a
conference.

Done right, a
seamless digital experience extends
beyond the conference for a
continued dialog with attendees on
topics relevant to them, long after
they have returned to their daily
lives. Great CDOs are masters of
facilitating this in a non-intrusive
manner.

It takes vision, discipline and a
thorough understanding of a broad
set of technologies to effect digital
change. In my experience,
technology is rarely the main issue.
Rather, it’s about finding the
organizational that allows a
business to be successful defining
and implementing its digital
strategy. In most companies, such
a will doesn’t come without formal
ownership.

A true CDO owns and drives digital
strategy across the entire
organization and helps it extract
value for the business.
Anecdotally,
this is where startups and smaller
companies have an edge, because
they typically have fewer traditional
(and fewer intuitive) boundaries.
From a technology perspective,
CDOs spend a lot of time dealing
with the continued impact of the
mobile revolution. However, they
also realize that companies need to
start thinking about every aspect of
their business and its digital
impact, from mobile application
development to managing
distribution channels for content
via new digital technologies.
How do you engage potential
customers and provide a consistent
experience across a mind-boggling
number of devices, each with their
own unique capabilities and
restrictions? How do you effectively
manage content across channels,
especially when they are supported
by widely varying technology
stacks? And with IoT expected to
gain traction over the next 12
months, CDOs have to formulate a
plan to embrace the next wave of
digital innovation.
Here, too, many startups have the
advantage of being born digital and
having embraced the latest digital
technology to build its internal IT
systems. Many startups we work
with run entirely on cloud services
such as Google Docs, Zoho and
Expensify and inherently treat
mobile and web channels as
equally important. Thinking digital
is in their DNA, which leads to an
intuitive understanding of digital
technology across every member of
the team.
LinkedIn already lists some 1,300
CDOs today, but many more digital
operating executives lurk right
beneath the SEO surface, especially
in larger corporations, with titles
such as “Chief Media Officer”,
“Head of Digital Strategy”, “VP
Digital Marketing” or simply “VP
Digital”. Look for many of these to
be updating and “upgrading” their
profiles over the next year.
Just as the CDO role is going
mainstream, peer-led events such
as the upcoming Chief Digital
Officer Global Forum are testaments
to a growing community of like-
minded professionals. They’re also
a great place to mingle with,
exchange best practices and, yes,
scout for CDO talent

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