How the CDO’s remit will evolve

David NicolsLast week’s post explored the emergence of the chief digital officer (CDO) – the C-suite member responsible for overseeing an organization’s digital strategy. But even as this role finds its first posting within the corporate organization chart, it’s clear that it will be a position that evolves – as all executive functions do. The difference is that the evolution of the CDO’s role could be exceptionally rapid.

Why is this?

The CDO position is emerging in response to a growing need for organizations to overhaul their business models in order to become “digital first.” In practice, this means they need to find innovative ways to use new digital technologies – big data, analytics, social, mobile, cloud and more – to understand the best ways to reach their customers, tailor sales and marketing approaches, and deliver personalized experiences for consumers across all channels.

Amazon’s capability in this area is the envy of many. Although fortunate to be a wholly online business, Amazon dynamically customizes its users’ experiences based on their prior activity. This can be based on customers’ product searches, purchases or even how long they spend on particular web page elements. This personalization isn’t just online, but also across a growing number of digital channels – mobile apps, a dedicated Amazon smartphone, various tablets and e-readers, and so on.

For those seeking to play catch-up, CDOs will initially be working to refocus their firms’ approaches onto external customer propositions – the most obvious and visible area of change that digital brings. But this will just be the starting point.

Future role

While CDOs’ immediate attention will be held by taking companies digital first for customers, they will then find themselves tasked with making important changes to interactions across supply chains and broader ecosystems.

The strength of digital technologies as an innovation platform opens up myriad possibilities to improve these processes – from real-time inventory updates, to live tracking and updates across a fleet of drivers, as two simple examples. Over time, these technologies will set the platform for wholly new approaches to how firms interact and coordinate with their partners.

The CDO is also likely to be charged with modernizing the workforce. Technology trends are affecting the reality of where and how employees can work, as well as changing perceptions about working patterns. As this new reality emerges, organizations will need to facilitate these new ways of working – including enabling new means of interaction among employees – and CDOs will be needed to direct this.


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