I’ve always been sceptical about Chief Digital officers and I’m happy too see that they’re not as trendy as they were. Some facts :
â€¢ I don’t have the impression that businesses that did not have CDOs are less advanced in average than those who appointed one.
â€¢ Too many CDOs focused essentially on marketing and customer relationship. Today we must admit that digital transformation was essentially customer facing and very few things changed inside. After a couple of years the gap between both sides becomes too huge for a business to perform. I recently heard than a large business that everyone considers as digitally successful was looking for a chief transformation officer because that’s what really matters.
There’s never been a chief electricity officer, so why a chief digital officer ?
â€¢ Obviously the most successful CDOs had the title but in fact were more like Chief transformation Officers. So why not giving them the title they deserve ?
Globally speaking, if we consider that digital is like electricity, there’s never been such a thing as a chief electricity officer. But there were “heads of” of “directors” of things that were done by applying electricity. It’s more vertical and business/operations oriented.
Last, and most CDOs told it themselves : their goal was to make themselves obsolete. So it’s time for a reality check : either they were successful, or their failed, or they were useless but the consequence is the same : we don’t need them anymore.
The end of “above the ground” digital
Either you’re advanced or not in your transformation, more than a CDO you need people able to apply digital to business and operations and transform the latter. It’s concrete, pragmatic, effective and sense-making. If you need to coordinate projects and means, then you need a chief transformation officer.
But please no more “above the ground” digital departments flying over business and operations without deeply knowing and understanding them and have no legitimacy to drive change where it matters.