Should Your CIO Be Chief Digital Officer?

George Westerman

George Westerman Research Scientist MIT Center for Digital Business

CAMBRIDGE MA, August 2, 2013 (Via Harvard Business Review blog) – “But there is another leadership role that has arisen in many organizations in recent years: the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). In many companies, “digital” is a cacophony of disconnected, inconsistent, and sometimes incompatible activities. One company had three simultaneous mobile marketing initiatives, conducted by different groups, using different tools and vendors. Other companies have multiple employee collaboration platforms with different rules and technologies. The problem is exacerbated as business units do their own things digitally, or as companies hire vendors who can only do things their own way. If your company has wildly different digital marketing activities for each brand or region, you know what I mean.

The CDO’s job is to turn the digital cacophony into a symphony. It’s OK to experiment with new businesses and tools, but experimentation must be coupled with building scalable, efficient capabilities. The CDO creates a unifying digital vision, energizes the company around digital possibilities, coordinates digital activities, helps to rethink products and processes for the digital age, and sometimes provides critical tools or resources. That’s why Starbucks — an early leader in all things digital — hired a CDO last year. And it’s why many other companies are naming CDOs before they get too far along the digital road.

The title CDO may or may not become permanent in your company. But the responsibilities of the CDO will be required. You may appoint a temporary CDO to get your house in order, or you may develop other ways to get the job done. Whatever approach you choose, you need to create appropriate levels of digital technology synergy, brand integration, investment coordination, skill development, vendor management, and innovation over the long term.”

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