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Last month, Harvard Business Review published an article on why we need better managers to deal with Digital Transformation.
We agree with many of the things that are mentioned, but the question is: how do you find this digital leadership? They mostly seemed to assume that all CxO’s need to work together for this, but not every company is blessed with a digital savvy management team. So to take charge of the digital transformation, we believe that you need someone new: a Chief Digital Officer who becomes a permanent part of the team. Explaining that makes this a long post, but picking the leader for your Digital Transformation is not a decision that should be made lightly. In the ideal world, your CEO should embody everything that is needed for digital transformation.
The first response of the CEO, once he realizes he is not the one to do this yet, is to go look around the existing organization to find senior management that can handle the job. Your CMO understands the real power of digital channels because their department was the lead for most of the online activities that were developed over the last two decades. It is correct to assume that both the CMO and CIO will be at the frontline of the digital events, but they might not be suited to draft the marching orders for the entire company, if they are held back by their vertical legacy and day-to-day focus. Digital Transformation is not an event that you can just temporarily hire people for, then once the job is done, they leave the company to pursue other crisis management challenges.
Another problem with this view is that, although the DTO reports directly to the CEO, he will be perceived as some kind of (external) consultant. When you read all of the above, you might realize that a lot of the general characteristics of the CDO are actually the same as what we would normally expect from a CEO. The CEO needs a CDO when he is unable to pull off the huge challenge of digital transformation alone. Jo Caudron and Dado Van Peteghem are the managing partners of DearMedia, a consulting company that helps companies deal with digital strategy and transformation. LinkedIn emplea cookies para mejorar la funcionalidad y el rendimiento de nuestro sitio web, asi como para ofrecer publicidad relevante.

Without someone really taking charge of something, we all know it usually doesn’t lead to much results, as everyone is very busy with their jobs. He or she doesn’t need to be a digital guru, but rather a digital general manager with all the skills to manage a lot of internal and external change.
He or she runs the company and does this from a digital-native perspective, by personally taking up the digital agenda. The logical choices would be the Chief Marketing Officer or the Chief Information Officer, but this is not necessarily the best approach. They own the customer facing touch points of the company which are increasingly becoming digital. He understands technology better than anyone and owns the IT strategy and platforms, but digital transformation has more to do with business than it has with IT. It involves everyone and everything in the company and is triggered not by technology, but how a changing society is utilizing technology. Maybe your CMO or CIO has broader management skills, and a transversal view of the company. The main reason you need a CDO is because your current CEO is not digital enough to run the company as if it was Uber, Airbnb or Tesla.
The only way to make this happen is for the CEO and CDO to have a very tight cooperation, a real trusting partnership, in which the one is strengthening the other and vice versa.
By accepting a full-force CDO and giving a “license to change”, the CEO knows that a lot of the future of the company will depend on the success of the new kid on the block.
Later on in the post we describe what this CDO should be like, but first you might be wondering whether this role is even needed. Unfortunately many companies do not have digital CEO’s yet, so they need to bring in digital leadership in another way. The challenge though is that marketers look at the company in a marketing-centric way, without the necessary holistic and transversal view on everything else that matters. On top of that his responsibilities come with substantial budgets, strict policies and processes, which requires a traditional way of management that is difficult to mix with the attitude that is needed for digital transformation.

If that is indeed the case, they could be the person to shape the digital transformation, but then they would have to leave their current job to take up the new position of leading the transformation. The DTO might be regarded as an intruder, not a peer or a partner of the other CxO’s in the company. This possibly creates an awkward situation and perhaps even tensions between the CEO and the CDO that need to be resolved. There has to be a strong partnership between the two or the operation will fail. The CEO stands for the power of the present (and the past), the CDO stands for the opportunities of tomorrow. This could mean that the CDO is involved in creating and rolling out the initiatives that guarantee the revenue streams and profit of tomorrow. Consulta nuestras Condiciones de uso y nuestra Politica de privacidad para mas informacion.
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We believe it will be difficult to combine the role of the traditional manager with the role of the great transformer, as these have inherent conflicting strategy and tactics.
Once you digest one wave of disruption through the proper transformation, you will face another one. You could call it a form of co-CEO-ship, although that is often known to not be a very effective leadership model. This will make the CDO the executive holding the keys to the future, putting him or her in direct line to become the next CEO of the company.

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