So what does a Chief Digital Officer actually do?

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A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) discussion comes up with me from time to time.

Everyone has an opinion on what the role is, and what functions and reports it would operate in. My April’s 2016 blog post is my opinion on the subject and how the role stands with me today.

The CDO role and it’s associated KPI’s depend greatly on what business vertical and industry the CDO is being invited to operate in.

A CDO can been appointed to an industry with a ‘short fuse, big bang disruption’ like the finance, retail trade, arts and recreation, professional services and media and telecommunications where my experience of CDO work has focussed.

Or sometimes a CDO find themselves operating in a vertical grouped in where a ‘longer fuse, big bang’ digital disruption is occurring and cost efficiency tend to be the transformation drivers. Industries such as education, health, transport, post, agriculture and utilities sectors.

While all industries are being disrupted because of the Internet, the CDO must have the experience in how to drive the amount of velocity to apply to the transformation assignment so revenues grow rather than become restricted because the disruption has taken a front seat . This velocity decision impacts how assignments are led in many cases.

The powerful breakthroughs in computing and telecommunications has seen the introduction of always on broadband, mobile and e-commerce systems, resulting in a real-time buy and sell channels that are seeking customer experiences. The understanding of how this works results in many new and exciting ways to engage with customers on a global scale to grow business and/or organisations.

Digital transformation goal at an organisation board level will always look for programs that increase automation and gather and analyse unprecedented amounts of data so they can stay relevant in a competitive global market.

While cost efficiencies are important strategies the board also must seek a CDO leader that can also deliver customer market growth programs.

This combination means there are a vast array of capabilities and skills required to stitch together a large scale audience led digital transformation.

The CDO candidate therefore must be from clear customer centric up bringing.

Ideally spent their entry career creating compelling stories across many different types of media channels, and were brought up on a number of design thinking approaches that were then fused to screen customer first thinking tracked to agreed business models, defined audiences and financial plans.

They must be an individual who has passion for the arts blended with a scientific method mindset to use the tools of the day, but also be innovative to always be looking ahead to find an edge.

The CDO role is to visualise and communicate well crafted ‘real time’ innovation programs, that sometimes start a life launched from innovation labs.

They also need their developed programs need to bring innovation concepts that combine business model and execution plans ready for board review and sign off.

For a CDO to exist and thrive, their concepts while needing to be story told, must always be mindful, and have an understanding their stories impact others. Their clients staff, their friends and their customers.

The CDO appointee will most likely come from an understanding on what drives culture as well as opportunity.

Culture always trumps strategy so the CDO has to be collaborative at all times seeking out digital artisans and change agents from both the client, the agency/service provider and the customer.

To bring to market a digital transformation program the CDO must foster a partner ecosystem for co-innovation and co-creation.

The team that is created for the assignment must also give the project leads and middle managers latitude to fail fast so they can learn even more quickly.

So that in more than summary form outlines what Chief Digitial Office does.

Finally my experience also tends to have the strong opinion the CDO alway seek council from the CEO when on assignment.

Ideally if a CDO and CEO can jointly develop and embrace the digital transformation vision, and work together to communicate that digital vision, the more success can be had.

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