Do you really need a chief digital officer?

Very often organizations are inclined to create a new C level role for a specific aspect of its operation which it deems needs special focus.

For instance, the rash of accounting scandals in the early 2000s and the emergence of industry regulations such as Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act and the United States’ Sarbanes-Oxley Act, gave rise to the CCO or chief compliance officer.

Just as the importance of business process in the 1990s lead to the creation of the chief process officer role, the growing “digitization” of collaborations spanning the enterprise and its contact with customers is leading many companies to appoint a chief digital officer, according to Mark McDonald, group VP and head of research in Gartner Executive programs.

“Given the attention around digital marketing, mobile, social and analytics, there is a hype that supports the desire to have a single person responsible or a single throat to choke should you fail to meet digital goals,” he said in his recent blog on “After all the logic goes ‘if it is important enough to have it, it is important enough to have a senior executive in charge.’”

If this situation applies to your company, he said, you should consider creating a formal CDO as your company would need a “single focal point to drive transformation.” An organization that does not have significant cross-operational and functional collaboration to create digital resources will need a CDO.

Other situations that might warrant a CDO include:-If the organization works strict and formal functional lines with responsibilities that do not overlap and things only get down when it is somebody’s assignment
-If the organization functions as a collection of individual operations or lines of business and is not able to make decisions or actions that benefit the whole
-If the organization has fragmented customer experience, products and channels and require4s better integration
-If the organization’s culture requires a single identifiable leader to champion transformation and integration, a digital czar can collaborate with other C-level executives

A chief digital officer is not for every organization, according to McDonald. Some organizations have chosen to have senior leaders work together to create integrated solutions rather than have it dictated from the centre.


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The “true nature” of solution will eventually work its way into the organization and possibly remove the need for a CDO, which is what happened to companies which found out they no longer need a chief process officer of chief e-commerce officer, he said.

“The (CDO) role can be a powerful catalyst that brings an organization together to create new digital capabilities,” according to McDonald. “But it is not the only way to build a digital business, nor may it be the best way to sustain digital gains.

Read the complete blog here

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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