What do Nike, Warner Bros. and The Hartford all have in common?
For one thing, they all have Chief Digital Officers (CDOs).
Since 2013, more enterprise companies have appointed someone to the post of CDO. In 2015, Deloitte produced an entire report devoted to “The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer.” That same year, McKinsey declared the CDO to be the “Transformer in Chief” in Corporate America. Gartner, meanwhile, went so far as to predict that 90 percent of all large companies will name a CDO by 2019.
Since then CDO media sites and conferences have sprung up and interest has grown.
The CDO’s job, of course, is to work across functional silos and stitch together a business strategy that creates new business value from existing corporate assets and digital innovations. The job involves getting disparate groups to work together, managing technology deployment and development, and innovating at a high level.
As with any trendy thing, the rise of the CDO has been questioned in some quarters. The role conflicts with the head of sales, some say. It overlaps with that of the CIO, and it's impossible to define. Naturally, some pushback has resulted.
First, Forrester analyst Martin Gill told business owners “not to rush out and hire a CDO.” Then Theo Priestley wrote in Forbes a year ago, “Say Goodbye To The Chief Digital Officer.”
Where are we today? Well, companies continue to appoint CDOs. This is especially true of those in consumer-related industries such as manufacturing, media, retail, etc. Where data and applications make an immediate difference, CDOs crop up.
But the likelihood that the majority of small or even mid-sized businesses will create the position of CDO is small. Which is where you come in.
We have seen the likes of Synoptek, ePlus, Essential IT Services and other channel companies build successful “virtual CIO practices;” now I’m beginning to see a few offer “virtual CDO” services. R&I ICT Consulting Services Pty Ltd of Australia does. The managed services provider’s owner, well-know security specialist Roger Smith, even made a video about it.
Several startups are coming to fore and aggressively promoting their virtual CDO capabilities. This includes Miami-based 3HUE Consulting, which helps customers pursue digital transformation so they can “remain competitive and avoid a digital disruption,” and London-based Cynozure Group Limited, which claims to have pioneered the development of the virtual CDO “to give advice, support, leadership and guidance on a part time basis to organizations wishing to accelerate their journey, build world class capability with data, implement great data solutions and elevate data and its value to board level. “
If you cannot imagine saying that to a customer, I get it. But do not write off the value of getting into virtual CDO services. One big benefit of offering CDO services is they will connect you with line of business leaders who account for a greater percent of tech spending with each passing year. They can also help you position your company as a business consultancy that is sought out more for its thought leadership than its labor. And they can help you help your traditional CIO customers transform their departments from cost centers into profit generators.
Before diving in, you’re going to have know a few things about the role of CDO. The job is basically to drive operational improvements within an organization, create new and improved customer experiences and help facilitate business model evolution. According to MIT, this could mean helping to automate operational processes, launch new products or expand into market adjacencies.
To do that you’re going to have to be able to lead digital transformation.
This will require developing expertise in the following areas:
- Vertical industries
- Supply chains
- Data analytics
- Business applications
- Virtual Reality
- Machine Learning
- DevOps and
- Security, regulatory compliance and privacy
It’s a daunting list, no question.
But even developing skills in half of these areas will connect you more deeply with customers, especially those who work in the C-suite. This is where you want to be, even if it’s just “virtually.”