Customers' digital behavior drives CIOs to partner with CDOs, CMOs

CIOs from CVS Health and JetBlue insist it doesn’t matter whether they work with CDOs, CMOs or other executives as long as their efforts meet customer demands.

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The emergence of the chief digital officer in some enterprises has revived theory that the CIO role is doomed. But CIOs say that partnerships with CDOs, CMOs and other senior executives who own different aspects of the business are essential to fostering healthy digital transformations.

"You read the press [about] the rise of the CDO, the demise of the CDO, the threats that the CDO places to the CIO," said CVS Health CIO Stephen Gold, on a digital transformation panel at the MIT Sloan Symposium Wednesday. "But I don't see it that way." Gold said he "strategizes" regularly with CDO Brian Tilzer, whom CVS Health hired from Staples in 2013 to help cultivate a more customer-centric approach to innovation.

CIOs must serve customers

Companies are scrambling to deliver software and services that enable customers to better connect with their brands. This is adding new wrinkles for CIOs selected by CEOs to build platforms that deliver on a digital strategy. In some companies, CIOs are partnering on these strategies with CDOs and CMOs. In other, CDOs have taken the digital reins. Gartner said 25 percent of large companies will have CDOs by 2017.

cio cdo panel Clint Boulton

Shawn Banerji, managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates; Stephen Gold, CIO at CVS Health; Eash Sundaram, CIO at JetBlue Airways, and Marty St. George, JetBlue Airways executive vice president of commercial & planning discuss how CIOs are partnering with CMOs and CDO to improve customers' digital experiences at this week's MIT Sloan Symposium.

However a CEO opts to assign digital responsibilities, CIOs are being asked to focus on customers in ways they never have before. “The voice of the customer still remains the most powerful," factor in their decision-making, said panel moderator Shawn Banerji, managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates.

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