By Mike Stiles on May 30, 2014
Apparently CDO no longer just stands for “Collateralized Debt Obligations.” It stands for Chief Digital Officer. And they’re the ones who are supposed to answer the bat signal CEO’s are throwing into the sky, swoop in and POW! drive the transition of the enterprise to integrated digital systems.
So imagine being a CMO or a CIO at such an enterprise and realizing it’s been determined that you are not the answer that’s needed. In fact, IntelligentHQ author Ashley Friedlein points out the very rise of the CDO is an admission of C-Suite failure to become savvy enough, quickly enough in modern technology.
Is that fair?
Despite the repeated drumbeat that CMO’s and CIO’s must enter a new era of cooperation and collaboration to enact the social-enabled enterprise, the verdict seems to be that if it’s happening at all, it’s not happening fast enough. Therefore, someone else is needed with the authority to make things happen.
So who is this relatively new beast? Gartner VP David Willis says, “The Chief Digital Officer plays in the place where the enterprise meets the customer, where the revenue is generated, and the mission accomplished.” In other words, where the rubber meets the road. They aren’t just another “C” heading up a unit. They’re the CEO’s personal SWAT team, able to call the shots necessary across all units to affect what has become job one…customer experience.
And what are the CMO’s and CIO’s doing while this is going on? Playing corporate games. Accenture reports 38% of CMOs say IT deliberately keeps them out of the loop, with 35% saying marketing’s needs aren’t a very high priority. 31% of CIOs say marketers don’t understand tech and regularly go around them for solutions. Fun!
Meanwhile the CEO feels the need to bring in a parental figure to pull it all together. Gartner thinks 25% of all orgs will have a CDO by 2015 as CMO’s and particularly CIO’s (Peter Hinssen points out many CDO’s are coming “from anywhere but IT”) let the opportunity to be the agent of change their company needs slip away.
Perhaps most interestingly, these CDO’s seem to be entering the picture already on the fast track. One consultancy counted 7 instances of a CDO moving into the CEO role, which, as this Wired article points out, is pretty astounding since nobody ever heard of the job a few years ago. And vendors are quickly figuring out that this is the person they need to be talking to inside the brand.
The position isn’t without its critics. Forrester’s Martin Gill says the reaction from executives at some traditional companies to someone being brought in to be in charge of digital might be to wash their own hands of responsibility for all things digital – a risky maneuver given the pervasiveness of digital in business.
They might not even be called Chief Digital Officers. They might be the Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer, etc. You can call them Twinkletoes if you want to, but essentially anyone who has the mandate direct from the CEO to enact modern technology changes not currently being championed by the CMO or CIO can be regarded as “boss.”