Do You Really Need Another "C" In The C-Suite?

Dec 2, 2015
6 Min Read

With digital transformation on the forefront of strategies to help companies sustain and grow in today's changing business environment, there's a lot of talk about the newest "C" on the block -- the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). But it's not necessarily a new title you need, it's a person who fits in the role of creating a strategic digital road map to move you forward and take your company where it needs to be to provide the best customer experience, improve inefficiencies and increase revenue.

There are differing schools of thought across the web about the CDO role talking about who should be filling this role, what skills are required, and whether the role is really necessary.

“The Chief Digital Officer will prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead, and IT leaders have the opportunity to be the leaders who will define it,” David Willis, Vice President and distinguished analyst at Gartner said in a 2012 statement. “The Chief Digital Officer plays in the place where the enterprise meets the customer, where the revenue is generated and the mission accomplished. They’re in charge of the digital business strategy. That’s a long way from running back office IT, and it’s full of opportunity.”

Dave Mathison, CEO at Chief Digital Officer Summit and CDO Club, looks at it a bit differently. “The CDO role is fulfilling a promise that CIOs and CTOs have often aspired to. While CIOs and CTOs often struggle to fit the idea of business leadership into their roles, the entire mission of a CDO is leadership. In my view, the next generation of CEOs will come from the CDO role.”

And Ashley Friedlein at Econsultancy feels strongly that the CDO role “is essentially an admission of failure. A failure of the rest of the C-suite to be themselves digital enough, or a failure to empower the digital teams properly within the organization, or a failure of the various business functions to work together to make digital happen.”

So what’s the right answer for your company?

You’ll have the most success moving your company along the digital transformation path if it’s driven from the C-Suite. That’s true with any broad scale organizational change.

If your company is small, naming a CDO may not be the right decision for you. In this case, the CEO can lead the effort and tap into other company resources like process leaders, business analysts, and change agents to push your agenda forward regardless of title or level within the company.

Either way, there are some key skills required of this role for success. Here are some competencies you should pay attention to.

  • Leadership – strong leadership skills with the ability to move others along the transformation path as you proceed
  • Strategic Thinker – capable of seeing the future possibilities and the willingness to shift quickly when new information is presented
  • Influencer – respected by others and strong at engendering trust through relationship building
  • Change Management – knows that change takes place through people and is willing to push the envelope on broad organizational change as needed
  • Tech Savvy – understands the digital landscape and the opportunities it presents
  • Business Skills – understanding of the entire business, both internal and external from a P&L (income statement) perspective

Whether you hire a CDO or not, it’s important that your company moves its digital transformation strategy forward or your business could easily be left behind. And if you have decided that bringing a CDO on board is the right thing for you to do, act quickly because demand is currently much greater than supply available.