How the cloud is precipitating the reign of the CDO

David NicolsWinston Churchill once said: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” History has shown us that those who resist change do not survive – and a key trait for any successful business is a willingness to react positively to game-changing trends.

Sure enough, the advent of various digital technologies – the cloud, data, mobile and apps, social and so on – is forcing a change in the way companies manage computing and technology. To help them do so, many are now appointing a new executive position, the chief digital officer or CDO (not to be confused with a chief data officer). This blog post (and two others to follow) will explain what this role means for firms today, how it’s likely to evolve, and what the implications are for chief information officers (CIOs).

Changing the game

An undeniable sea change is occurring in how organizations are applying technology to drive innovation and gain competitive advantage. And whereas historically, everything that even looked or smelled like technology went through in-house structures under the direct remit of CIOs, today other business units are demanding more control over the application and implementation of new technology.

The upshot is that many businesses are now separating the handling of the traditional information technology (IT) function (dealing with data centers, major applications, connectivity and related aspects) and digital technologies. To tackle this, many firms are looking to appoint a CDO as someone who can oversee and facilitate this transformation, while retaining the CIO to focus on core IT.

The rise of cloud-based systems is a good illustration of this shift. Companies are turning to cloud systems to modernize their business processes and working methods. This is affecting functions ranging from finance and marketing, through to human resources and sales. At the same time, the cloud is being used as a platform to support new mobile apps, data analytics and other tools, which are enabling businesses to communicate with customers in new ways, monitor their buying behaviors, and revamp the customer experience.

Consumer-facing companies have been the first to embrace this trend and appoint CDOs, but the importance of implementing digital-first strategies means that the role is something that all sectors should consider. Firms are clearly waking up to the need for a leader who can manage their digital transformation and empower the wider business to use digital technology to innovate. Those that realize this too late will throw their future into jeopardy.


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