Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

New jobs as Chief Digital Officers emerging

What do Gannett, New York City, and Columbia University have in common? 

Each has a Chief Digital Officer, or CDO, to bring together strategic business practices, technology, skilled leadership and internal and external communications. Most CDOs can be found inside of media companies, sitting just a seat or two away from the CEO.

Two years ago, there were lively conversations that CDOs were those who didn’t get the coveted title of President. Others maintained organizations that supported the CDO position were advocating for silos, the curse in marketing and communications. Today, demand for CDOs is outpacing supply.  

A complex blend of talent and leadership

Chief Digital Officers are not self-described social media gurus or community managers. CDOs have competencies in the convergence of technology, business, boards, and organizational development. 

“Business strategies now must be seamlessly interwoven with ever-expanding digital strategies that address not only the web but also mobile, social, local and whatever innovation there may be around the corner,” write Rhys Grossman and Jana Rich of Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search firm. In their article titled, The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer, Grossman and Rich state: “To help meet these challenges, companies are increasingly looking for a Chief Digital Officer who can oversee the full range of digital strategies and drive change across the organization.”

To lead a business through a technological transformation is no easy task. CDOs are innovators despite internal skeptics who whisper and rant about the pitfalls of social media.  

CDOs must have the following five competencies: 

1. They must be comfortable as a possible successor to the CEO. CDOs must be able to lead a global culture and drive an online presence. He or she must be experienced in business operations, management and recruiting and retaining top talent. A CDO is a visionary, especially in our technology-based world.  

2. They must act as agents of change and grasp the underlying psychology of consensus-building and conflict resolution.   

3. They must have Board experience and solid communication skills. After all, they are the conduit between stakeholders and the C-suite.

4.  They must know how to set sound business strategies have seasoned project managers to implement them.

5. They must possess deep knowledge of technology, e-commerce, consumer behavior, and social media. This is especially important for media organizations, as CDOs are often charged with transforming analog to digital. 

Where is this person?

You may be wondering: Does such a person exist? Where do organizations find one individual who encompasses this blend of talent? 

And if you work in PR, marketing or communications, you may be curious if you have what it takes to be a Chief Digital Officer. 

Grossman and Rich maintain that people considering CDO positions “may be reluctant to join established organizations, viewing them as old fashioned.” The co-authors note that “many candidates come from cutting-edge, entrepreneurial organizations.”

Here’s another solid point that Grossman and Rich offer. “Companies… have to move very quickly when they find and meet talent that has potential. The current state of supply and demand almost guarantees that other opportunities will be available to talented candidates.”

The bottom line about the evolving role of CDOs brings us to the real bottom line in business. Chief Digital Officers are leading new revenue streams through digital channels that can leave many people and employees feeling uneasy. 

If the CDO is unable to succeed in brand management, e-commerce, transactions, and customer engagement efforts, his or her organization can be faced with financial disaster.

 

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