The rise of the chief digital officer

As digital transformations become increasingly customer-centric, organizations are looking for leaders to drive change with the customer in mind. Enter the CDO.

The rise of the chief digital officer
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The C-suite is growing increasingly crowded as organizations are bringing in a variety of new roles, including chief digital officers, who often work in tandem with CIOs on digital transformation initiatives on an enterprise-wide basis and rethink how to best serve customers. But what exactly do CDOs add to the C-suite mix, and why are so many organizations turning to them these days?

The CDO title is not a new one; the position dates back at least to 2011, when executive search firm Russell Reynolds began receiving calls looking for candidates, but it has evolved into more of a customer-focused role, according to Libby Naumes, a consultant in Russell Reynolds Associates’ Digital Transformation Practice.

“Today, we’re still getting calls for CDOs, but more often it becomes a broader call about putting the customer at the center of everything,’’ says Naumes. “So ultimately, where we guide them and have a broader conversation is in thinking about the connected consumer and how their business model is ultimately connected back to the consumer.”

Customer technology and the go-to-market strategy must work hand in hand, and the CDO fits in the middle of those two functions, Naumes says. Historically, companies’ go-to-market strategies were disconnected from platforms such as marketing and sales, and now they are all overlapping, and executives need to think about the customer being the focal point and all those other functions being the enablers, she explains.

As a result, newer tech-focused roles have sprung up, including that of chief customer officer and chief experience officer, she says. “Those are different roles bursting out of the old-school CDO.”

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