The CDO's first 100 days: Expanding the agenda

The second installment of my two-part series on a chief digital officer's agenda for the first 100 days on the job explores the importance of processes and technologies — especially data, mobile and infrastructure.

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Just as with any new presidential administration, new chief digital officers have to pack a lot of work into the first 100 days on the job. My first post in this two-part series focused on one key priority for CDOs to focus on in those early weeks — people. In this second half of the series, we are going to expand the executive agenda and explore the importance of evaluating processes and technology in the CDO’s early foundation-building days.

Processes: Are they fueling or foiling innovation?

Where does a CDO, whose work extends across so many areas of the business (IT, marketing, sales, product/service development, delivery, customer support, etc.) have opportunities to influence process improvement in the first 100 days? Clearly, the CDO cannot tackle process optimization across all those groups. That would take more than 10,000 hours on the job. But what about the touch points between businesses groups where digital collaboration and information-sharing needs to occur?

Product development, sales and marketing are distinct business groups that have much to gain from expanded digital engagement with customers and the broader marketplace. Are the processes that drive information-sharing effective? Would fewer processes and more collaboration increase efficiency, innovation and results? Could process automation help business groups engage and share more effectively and quickly? The fact is too many processes and procedures will hamper innovation and competitiveness. The more a CDO can identify unnecessary processes in order to simplify and encourage collaboration on digital initiatives, the more people, creativity, experience and passion will get behind the work.

CDOs who are new to the job need to first examine how various business teams are working together to address digital goals and then ask themselves these key questions:

  • Do we have too much process? Is the burden of process hampering innovation and creative thinking? Is it slowing down day-to-day work efforts?
  • Are cross-functional teams aligned on digital strategy and related project outcomes?
  • How are we leveraging automation to increase process efficiency?

If the processes that keep these teams connected are laborious, they will foil innovation and no CDO (or her/his digital strategy) will succeed without innovation. If the processes embrace automation and encourage more collaboration, digital innovation can take root.

Technology: Start with data, mobile and infrastructure

Since digital doesn’t work without exceptional technology, where is a new CDO to begin when looking at the scope and reach of technology? I suggest CDOs begin their tech assessment with three key areas: data, mobile capabilities and infrastructure. Why data first? Because without customers, you have no business, and technology now allows us more access to customer data than ever. Here’s what a new CDO should know data-wise:

  • What technology tools are in place that are monitoring and sharing customer engagement, satisfaction and history?
  • How are these tools and the data they collect impacting business strategy and success?

A key to CDO success is knowing the voice and goals of the customer, and data analytics offer a direct route to those revelations.

Another essential tech-check area for CDOs is mobile. How effective is the business at engaging its key audiences (customers, prospects, talent, employees, etc.) wherever they are? While the conversion to mobile may seem like it happened eons ago in the age of technology, there are plenty of companies that are still trying to catch up to the mobile habits of their customers. A CDO needs to assess how effective current technologies and tools are in keeping pace with the mobile economy.

Last, but nowhere near least, we have infrastructure, which is something CDOs want to be experts in very early on. With infrastructures around the world changing rapidly to adapt to emerging cloud platforms, automation capabilities and serious security concerns and needs, CDOs should spend plenty of time early getting up to speed on infrastructure platforms. Just as important is getting to know the teams that support and drive every digital initiative the business pursues. It’s like checking the foundation. You need to know it well in order to build off of it.

Make those 100 days count

Needless to say, understanding people, processes and technology are only part of what CDOs will do in their first 100 days on the job, but they are critical. Digital solutions and innovation cannot thrive without broad support across the company, and people, processes and technology are what ties a company together. My advice to  CDOs heading into a new job is to engage those first 100 days with gusto. The more you can contribute early on to improving people, processes and technology, the more advocates and political capital you win for future digital initiatives.

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