by Maryfran Johnson

Chief Digital Officers: Friend or Foe for the CIO?

Feb 21, 20133 mins
E-commerce Software

The rising tide of hiring CDOs, who bring marketing, e-commerce and sales backgrounds to the C-suite, could eclipse the strategic importance of CIOs. Here's how Best Buy, Starbucks and OfficeMax are taking advtage of this new dynamic duo to bring about digital transformations.

Adjusting to a world gone digital–and to demanding customers gone viral–is very serious business across nearly every industry today. So it’s no wonder some CEOs are scooting another chair up to the boardroom table for the new chief digital officer (CDO).

CDO talent searches are surging, and recruiters are scrambling to find hybrid executives who bring this magical mix of marketing, e-commerce, business strategy and revenue-generating skills to the party. Gartner predicts that 25 percent of companies will have CDOs by 2015, but estimates that only 20 percent of CIOs have added digital officer responsibilities to their jobs.

So how big a deal is this? Will the appearance of another trendy chief title (remember chief innovation officers?) knock CIOs out of the top strategy circles at their companies? We’d like to think not, of course. But in reality, the answer depends on how any given CEO views the customer-facing, digital-transformation capabilities of CIOs and their IT organizations.

We explore this latest C-suite challenge in our cover story (“Meet the New Chief in Town: Chief Digital Officers”), by examining the impact of new CDOs on three well-known brands: Best Buy, Starbucks and OfficeMax. Studying these newcomers reveals some fascinating contrasts and a few uncomfortable truths.

At two of the companies–Starbucks and OfficeMax–the CIO and CDO seem to be well aligned and working as a team. But it’s a different story at troubled retailer Best Buy, which radically reshuffled its roster of top executives last fall. The new digital chief in town has a rather chilling assessment of what IT’s role at Best Buy will be. “Enterprise IT is inward facing. I am responsible for outward,” says Scott Durchslag, president of online and global e-commerce. “A future lens is needed,” he adds, which not every CIO can provide.

Our story may give you a lot to think about, as it underscores the escalating need for CIOs to focus on external business concerns as much as internal IT excellence.

Also in this issue, we introduce a new column from CIO‘s Publisher Adam Dennison, who weighs in with some timely thoughts on the evolving nature of the IT-marketing relationship (“Why CMOs Won’t Control Your IT Budget”). Dennison will appear every other month in that column spot, sharing it with our CEO Mike Friedenberg. (If you’d like to watch a publisher keel over with happiness, drop him a welcome note and say hey.)

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