Over the past nine months I've been interviewing chief digital officers and senior digital leaders across a variety of industries to gain insight into the emerging role of digital leadership. My colleague Martin Gill and I wanted to discover why firms hire chief digital officers and what they are responsible for — more importantly I was looking to discover what CEOs should be doing to set up their businesses for success in a digital world.
One aspect of the research I'd like to highlight here is the need to think of digital as more than simply a bolt-on to your business. To create a digital business able to compete in the age of the customer, we need to think of building out a digital business ecosystem. I know what you're thinking — "not another ecosystem" — and yes, it's a very overused term, especially by consultants and analysts. But I simply can't think of a better term to describe the interconnected and codependent relationships needed in a fully digitized business (see diagram).
They commemorate the founding of the Royal Marine Commandos in 1942, and these windswept, bronze statues (almost as cold as the poor trainees were at the time) overlook the glens and lochs where the original commandos trained.
So what’s significant about the commandos in the context of eBusiness? Well, it isn’t that they were uber-cool special forces dudes. It isn’t even that they were pioneers of irregular warfare (i.e. innovators). The concept of Commandos pre-dated World War 2. In fact, in commanding the foundation of the commando units, Sir Winston Churchill took inspiration from his experiences in the Boer War and looked to the raiding tactics of the Boers for a model. So it's not even like us Brits invented the term.
What’s important about the commandos is that they were cross-functional. They were expert at collaborating across organizational boundaries. And in this they were pioneers.
Traditionally, the Army, Royal Navy and RAF were silos. Massive, traditional, centuries old silos who went further than just having incompatible processes and disjointed command structures. In many cases there was outright rivalry between service arms of the kind that would be intolerable in business. Troops fighting in bars. Intelligence actively hoarded by officers. Functional rivalry like nothing you have to deal with in eBusiness (hopefully).
Chief Digital Officer (or CDO) is the latest in a long line of snazzy C-level titles to emerge over the last few years. At Forrester we’ve been watching this trend for a while now and have made a few comments, but I think it’s time to put a firm stake in the ground.
Don’t hire a Chief Digital Officer!
There. I said it.
Now, why might I say this when a number of high profile firms are in fact hiring CDOs? Well, to put things in perspective I want to look at a tale of three brands, all of which I’ve spoken about in the past:
I’ve been thinking, talking to clients, and reading a lot recently about the rise of the Chief Digital Officer.
Most of my recent research has been concerning the shift we are seeing in leading organizations in response to their increasingly digitally aware consumers. Much of this has been described in our agile commerce research, and it goes something like this...