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Warning: CDOs can be hazardous to your CIO's health

Clint Boulton | June 20, 2016
Hiring a CDO can prove disruptive to businesses, creating competition and conflict between the anointed digital leaders and CIOs and potentially CMOs, says PwC. But there is some good news.

The creative disrupter: The creative disrupter offers a more hands-on approach to the continuous development of new digital technologies and business models and solutions. Curran says the disrupter is especially valuable in companies facing severe and dramatic changes as a result of digitization in consumer-oriented industries, such as publishing and retail. Like the thinker, he or she must work directly with the CEO to generate the competitive differentiation that will lead to revenue growth and increased profitability.

The customer advocate: Best suited in customer-intensive industries such as retail, banking and travel, advocates will work with or replace CMOs and sales heads as they focus solely incustomer satisfaction. Companies with product portfolios already differentiated through digitization could limit the CDO role to that of customer advocate and experience transformer.

The innovative technologist: Similar to a CIO or CTO, this CDO promotes new digital technologies, such as Internet of Things, mobility, social media and analytics, to transform the company’s value chain. Curran says companies in manufacturing industries should consider turning to these executives to further optimize their supply chains and bring digital technologies to factories and to key production steps such as design and prototyping.

The universalist: This is the dream role for CIOs who regard themselves as highly strategic.This CDO manages all aspects of a digital transformation. This executive reports to and has absolute execution power from the CEO. Well-suited for companies behind the curve in digital, the universalist shepherds the development of digital strategy as part of the broader corporate strategy and can devise new business models or revenue streams. They also control digital marketing and the customer experience.

Curran notes that many companies remain unsure of what they want or need in a digital leader.

“The key lies in understanding where you stand on your path to digital maturity and having the outlines of a strategy and transformation plan that will get your company there,” Curran says. “With that knowledge in hand, you will be able to define much more clearly the kind of CDO who will best take you down that path.”


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