Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The New Digital Officer

I guess the next stop for me personally is to understand the role of a person who leads and implements digital in the business world, the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). As I have found out that the CDO position has existed for quite some time as a standalone position or part of other C-level positions. But what is required from the CDOs in the new age has changed dramatically. The new CDOs are hired to be the ‘Transformer in Chief’ who can approach the complex root causes that must be dissected, understood and addressed before any substantive progress is made on digitization and the second is to create integrated transformation within its current construct. The job market has experienced a doubled CDO demand from 2013 to 2014 and is expected to double again in 2015.

There are five areas that the CDOS must get right themselves if their organizations are to successfully transition to digital:

Conquer the Personality:  a) Be Bold - CDOs should bring a bold vision and should be known to be courageous and ones who add value which could include starting new businesses, acquiring technologies or investing innovation. b) Develop Hard & Soft skills - CDOs role requires a combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills include the ability to articulate a strategic vision, take on problems, making tough decisions, and the managerial ability to lead and see programs through fruition. The soft skills include building relationships, patience to navigate complex problems, collaborate to get buy-in across functions, challenge the status quo, show leadership, charisma and be a hard-nosed negotiator. This requires someone who can also manage ruffled feathers, bruised egos and flaring tempers. c) Set specific goals - CDOs must also be specific about their goals whether it’s setting up revenue and profit targets or increasing digital channel sales.

Making digital integral to strategy: CDOs should ensure that digital is integrated into all aspects of business including channels, processes, data, culture and the operating model. For this to work the CDOs should be constantly working with the CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and the business leaders as an active participant and shaper of the strategy. In order for the CDOs to have a seat at the strategy table they should provide detailed analysis of market trends and development in technology and customer behavior, both inside and outside the sector.

Obsess over the customer: CDOs must make this a driving passion and core competency of the organization. Since technology and customer behaviors are rapidly changing, developing a deep and detailed view of customer behavior across all channels arms the CDO to challenge the status-quo to introduce the necessary changes. An equally important part of the CDO is to internally communicate the importance of being customer focused whether it is through visually compelling dashboards on customer journey, digitally enabled ‘war  rooms’ with real-time reporting or referencing them in meetings and when making decisions.

CDOs should also define the customer journey and should identify the requirements for developing and then supporting a dynamic system that is constantly learning and evolving. To do so CDOs must identify functions that are critical to this goal and then investing in automation capabilities, customer interactions, sophisticated reporting and analytics capabilities, innovative interfaces capturing customer data and delivering content and offers across all relevant channels.

Build agility, speed and data: CDOs should focus on creating the ‘spirit of digital’ throughout the organization by increasing the ‘metabolic rate’ of the organization. This starts with changing basic habits such as increasing the frequency of strategy meetings so that speed can be injected into the decisions and processes. This can also be achieved through setting up extremely aggressive goals or setting up ‘digital factories’ which are cross functional groups developing one product or process using a different technology or managerial methodology from the rest of the company.  

Extend Networks: Successful CDOs keenly build networks of people, technologies and ideas far outside of their companies, constantly scanning the small-business landscape for possible acquisitions or partners that can provide complementary capabilities. Many CDOs establish advisory boards of startup leaders or people with digital expertise to review corporate initiatives and strategies. Building an internal network is equally important as company systems and technologies need to be flexible to work with a broader ecosystem or providers.

CDOs are ultimately judged by their ability to lead different types of teams, guide projects, overcome hurdles, and deliver integrated change.


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