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As times have changed, so have the roles of the CXO’s. And not just that - the CXO’s themselves have changed!

Owing to the latest evolution that the tech world has seen, both in terms of technologies as well as business models, a new role has been born - that of the Chief Digital Officer. The exact role of the CDO differs from one organization to the next. However, the basic task is to make sure that every organization is digital ready, always.

According to John Barret, Boston-based partner with OnPartner, “Today’s CDO is increasingly expected to think about how to fundamentally change the business in ways that directly lead to improvements in profitability”.

In Chief Digital Officer: Champion of Change, a recent business survey commissioned by Mindtree, it was found that the success or failure of most CDOs would be driven by organizations’ greatest resource: people. However, with that imperative come significant challenges.

What can a CDO expect?

At a time in which digital convergence is simply a necessity, a CDO’s challenges are manifold. After all, it is only when a foundation has been properly set up that it can be built upon.

  1. Changing their organization’s culture
    The fact of the matter is that digital is not simply a term used to name certain technologies - it is also a mindset. A key feature of digital is connectivity across groups and teams, and without this, the business will not move towards growth and will struggle with internal operations.

    Also, keep in mind the inherent tendency of people - as well as institutions - to resist change. Without this crucial understanding, digital initiatives will not only be tough to implement but it will be impossible for the CDO to generate the kind of revenue and growth that projections depict.

  2. Tension in the C-suite
    Given that the role of a CDO is more specialized in the digital field than anything else, this can lead to tension among the C-suite particularly those routed in legacy systems. CDOs are change-makers and often want to act quickly, which can be a shock to some. Here, the CDO will have to make sure to communicate in a manner that does not disrespect the rest of the C-suite, as their support is necessary to achieve this transformation. With enough tact and sensitivity, as well as decisiveness, the CDO will surely make an impact - but it will take time.

    This serves testament to the earlier mentioned fact of resistance. And where there is resistance, there is the greatest possibility of growth - and a CDO must always remember this!

  3. Work across functional silos
    Functional silos are a reality in business. Groups can go on for years without knowing what other groups are up to in the same organization. While this results in operational challenges of its own, it also results in barriers to business growth. The marketing team might be using one kind of technology for their needs, while manufacturing may use a different tool. Of course, this means that their business challenges are unique - but the important thing for a CDO to do in this context is to understand the needs of both groups and bring them together where necessary.

    Additionally, CDOs are tasked with bringing elements of Interactive & Data together to integrate them across different cloud environments. These aspects of the business are typically owned by different groups and bringing them together can be a challenge. CDOs who have brought these groups together have been more successful.

  4. Need to change legacy systems and implement modern technologies
    A digital approach combines efficiency with innovation, but often, businesses forget the latter. In no small part, a CDO’s role will involve updating all the legacy systems to make sure that the company truly embodies the digital spirit.

    The latest technologies, then identified as being capable of delivering better outcomes, will need to be implemented company-wide, across all its branches. The change must affect the company at a structural level, or else the results will not be on par with the expectations - and this challenge will be one where the CDO will really have to push themselves!

  5. Talent shortage
    The rising demand for CDOs is out pacing the supply. This is fueling an increasingly competitive war for talent according to Russel Reynolds Associates. For companies looking to hire a CDO, this can be quite a challenge given the unique blend of experience that hiring managers are looking for. Candidates should not only have solid leadership experience, but they also need a mix of tech savvy that covers online, web, and social media strategies.

    The path a CDO takes to the C-suite may look different from other more traditional C-level roles. A digital leader may have been more involved in e-commerce, online marketing, or transformative products. This diverse background and skill set is carving out a new breed of executives that will earn their title as the change-makers.

As noted in CDO Trends, the Chief Digital Officer has growing influence as an effective change-agent. However, their success and staying power relies on their ability to overcome the challenges, understand pain points and implement solutions as quickly as possible. In conjunction with this, they also need to look at creating new processes that combine both efficiency as well as innovation, forming a solid foundation for the future of their organization. For all of this, and more, the Chief Digital Officer is the role to look out for!

Download Survey Report: Chief Digital Officer – A Champion of Change


About the Author

Sreedhar Bhagavatheeswaran
SVP and Global Head of Digital Business at Mindtree

Sreedhar Bhagavatheeswaran heads Mindtree’s Digital Business, globally. He comes with rich and diverse experience in the Banking and Financial Services industry. He has worked with several global financial services institutions helping them innovate with digital technologies. Sreedhar is a passionate technology enthusiast with keen interest in emerging technologies in the Digital services space.

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