Becoming a Chief Digital Officer - Expert tips on starting a new role as a CDO

The Chief Digital Officer role has emerged across various sectors in response to new demands on being a digital business, with their representation at large organisations rising from 400 in 2014 to 1,000 in 2015 according to some sources. While the CDO job description is not fully established with many new CDOs learning on the go, here Chief Digital and Information Officer at The Ministry of Justice, Arif Harbott, shares some of his tips on digital leadership and starting a new post as a Chief Digital Officer. [See also: Chief Digital Officer salary and job description - What's the CDO role and how much do Chief Digital Officers get paid?]

Starting new role as a CDO - Walk the shop floor

The emerging role has the potential to become the new star of the C-suite, and Harbott encourages CDOs to spend time with users on the front lines. Harbott believes relying on reports will only produce a filtered versoin of the information, while workshops offer just a glimpse of the business. Getting the experience first-hand will give new Chief Digital Officers a much a better understanding of the business, and this is done by spending time with users.

Starting new role as a CDO - Build credibility

Harbott believes building credibility will increase your chances of adding value to a business and recommends CDOs find "an opportunity to deliver quickly" through various challenges. Finding a project that is "just right" will galvanise the team and help get more on people on board to drive digital success.

Starting new role as a CDO - Expect CDO role to evolve

The role of a CDO can be expected to develop over the next few years as digital technologies continue to change. Similar to the CIO, the CDO has been hired in certain sectors to help transform the company digitally and drive overall strategy, Harbott and other observers see the role of a CDO being non-existent in the next five years. "We'll be looking at a digital CEO instead" Harbott explains as corporates become digitally savvy.

Starting new role as a CDO - Communication

One of the expectations of a new Chief Digital Officer is build a strong rapport with various stakeholders. Effective communication will help ensure trust from those who have an interest in the organisation, while presenting new ideas and products to potential stakeholders will help CDOs develop their networking and leadership skills as a result.

Starting new role as a CDO - Strategy and vision

A strategic vision of the new products and services by keeping up-to-date with technological trends will help new CDOs drive improved business outcomes. The ability to manage change and transform the business will lead to digital talent pushing the boundaries for a future of digital CEOs. Generating a vision of how the products will align with the business and how you are going to bridge the gap will keep colleagues engaged and motivated.

Starting new role as a CDO - Data focus

Data can be the foundation of efficient delivery of digital services, and by examining and extracting the right data new Chief Digital Officers can gain a clearer insight of how they can develop the business.

Starting new role as a CDO - Become a customer

Chief Digital Officers need to experience the business first hand by using the organisation's services and those of its competitors, gathering research through using their services and products which will affect the company's overall strategy and business plan. A personalised approach of taking the customer's perspective by using various products, digital channels, and by stepping into the customer's shoes will determine how satisfactory the user experience is and where the Chief Digital Officer can add value.

The first 100 days in a new role as a Chief Digital Offcer are crucial and can make or break a fledgling CDO career. Harbott says before taking the role it is key to research and prepare your data strategy: "Seeing first hand - and combining that experience with user research data –is the way to get real insight" of how to add success to the organisation, he says. With digital channels becoming the fastest-growing revenue stream, the CDO role is becoming integral to organisations that choose to go down the Chief Digital Officer route, and the potential to plan, envision and deliver a strategy for success is critical for CDOs starting their new post.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 secrets of successful remote IT teams