Study identifies traits of emerging chief digital officer

Apr 28, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

A new survey by Constellation Research identifies four CIO personas that helps define the skill sets that may be required for the emerging chief digital officer.

Based on how IT strategies are being implemented and managed, the personas are:

Chief integration officer: These CIOs prioritize scaling external systems to help the company connect with customers, partners, suppliers, new employees and other external data sources. Their preferred method of scaling external systems includes managing integration libraries (54 percent), ensuring master data management (51 percent) and identifying systems that can be retired and replaced (42 percent).

Chief infrastructure officer: CIOs with an "infrastructure" persona want to implement disruptive technologies and contracts in order to save the company money on IT costs. Primarily, these CIOs make researching — and deploying — cloud-based solutions a top priority (63 percent). Renegotiating contracts (37 percent) and initiating virtualization (35 percent) are other priorities.

Chief Intelligence officer: These CIOs aim to bring the right information to the right person at the right time, with the right security and format. Primarily, CIOs who fall under this persona invest in data standards and accessibility throughout the organization. While enabling mobile access for employees (59 percent) remains a top priority compared to last year (58 percent), improving data quality (47 percent) and implementing self-service (42 percent) are gaining momentum.

Chief innovation officer: CIOs who focus on innovation have deep knowledge and passion for the business domain and the ability to simplify the communication of technology and its impact on the business. Mobilizing the enterprise is most important (54 percent), while training IT leaders to address business goals (46 percent) and exploring cloud-based solutions (40 percent) also are top priorities.

Constellation expects a chief digital officer role to emerge that may include the personas of the chief innovation officer and the chief intelligence officer. Wrote Constellation, "Though the current debate often centers on whether the CIO or CMO will win out or whether chief digital officers may arise from an expanded role for the CIO, we see these arguments as shortsighted. The role will transcend both the CIO and CMO, as digital initiatives will require new skill sets."

Interviews with 119 respondents also found that up to 80 percent of IT budgets are spent on outdated legacy systems, which CIOs considered the greatest challenge they face. The top priorities for all CIOs were enabling IT employees with mobile technology (65 percent), leveraging analytics and Big Data (60 percent) and transitioning to the cloud (51 percent).

Which of the four personas identified – or combinations thereof – will best support a retailer’s IT strategies now and in the future? Do you see the role of chief digital officer moving beyond traditional CIO and CMO responsibilities?

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8 Comments on "Study identifies traits of emerging chief digital officer"

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Jason Goldberg

I really see the critical skills for Chief Digital Officer (CDO) differently than the article.

I believe CDO is really an interim title. 10 years from now we’re as likely to see CDOs as we were to see Chief Electricity Officers in 1930. In many organizations, there is a transitional need for a CDO to teach their peers how to navigate various digital disruptions, but the primary skill of those CDOs is organizational change management. CDOs will be teachers/mentors, not operators. I don’t think the practice of shifting operational responsibilities to the office of a CDO is sustainable.

Ian Percy

No matter what sort of leader (IT or otherwise) we’re talking about, there is one key question she/he should be asking regarding every issue. And that is: “What is possible?”

IMO there’s really only two directions to look: 1) At solving “problems” which means you’re focused on the past. 2) At seeing “possibilities” which means you’re focused on the future. Apparently 80% of IT expenditures are focused on dealing with the past, which is rather alarming. So, given we can’t pick “all of the above” I suggest that someone focused on innovation and on possibilities will give you the biggest value.

Adrian Weidmann

For years I have been advocating that in-store media is (and should be), the responsibility of a “new” position with P&L responsibility between merchandising and marketing – not one or the other. The same holds true with regard to the CIO. For a retailer, the CIO’s most immediate and valued role is the processing and protection of credit card transactions and information. Between that and supply chain issues, marketing and merchandising initiatives take a distant third tier.

Given the trends and expectations of digitally empowered shoppers, the CDO needs to combine the traits outlined for the intelligence and innovation personas. The CDO needs to be the digitally empowered shopper’s advocate within a retail/brand environment. Balancing the valued expectations of the majority of your target shoppers and innovation is a must! The CDO cannot be chasing every new digital “shiny object” because it gets PR attention. Being pragmatic and knowing who your shopper really is must be the foundation that the CDO builds a meaningful solution.

Ralph Jacobson

We must not confuse the “responsibilities” as described with the traditional roles of these executives. For example, in the next two or so years, the CMO will direct more IT spend than the CIO. However, this Line of Business executive is gaining more influence across the LoB functions in most companies. Although, at the same time, CIOs are also gaining additional responsibilities and influence.

The Chief Digital Officer role is too “new” to determine any future evolution with much certainty. A piece of the CIO’s world will undoubtedly become under the umbrella of the CDO before long. Bottom line, the CMO will most likely have the most influence of any of these executives in the 2-4-year time frame, based upon studies that IBM and other organizations have done recently.

Phil Rubin
3 years 4 months ago

The idea of a Chief Digital Officer is actually narrower – using these personas – than the “traditional CIO” and not something that fully covers the responsibilities, now and in the future, for a (“traditional”) CMO.

Looking at the CIO role of today, infrastructure and the associated capabilities are most fundamental and the biggest challenge, as evidenced by 80% of the IT spending being focused on legacy systems. Integration is part of updating this infrastructure, but the scope of integration in terms of operations, alignment and marketing is much broader than the role of any C-level executive other than the CEO or COO and that extends to all C-level leaders. Intelligence is a by-product of infrastructure and data integration and innovation is most capable when the other three I’s are present.

gordon arnold

This article quite adequately demonstrates the focus on creating job titles to find a solution for e-commerce marketing. What is evolving from this is a state of confusion commonly found within corporate structures with to many chiefs and not enough sales. Instead of hiring Information Technology ( IT ) wizards the search should be for 21st century sales and marketing experts with a proven track record of e-commerce success. IT specialists should be screened for the highest priority need in present day e-commerce, and that is security.

Mark Price

Information, integration and innovation are critical aspects to business growth. Cost-savings can be valuable to a company in the short-term, but ultimately CIOs must be able to show growth in revenue driven by their initiatives in order to maintain the funding of their departments, and to maintain their careers.

Dan Frechtling

Based on the various CIO definitions above, CMOs need not worry. The collective CDO role as described here is too limiting because it focuses on technology rather than the customer.

Sadly, it’s a sustaining model for IT rather than a disruptive model for growth.

Other industries view CDOs as real innovation leaders. Here, none of the CIO personas are thinking of the new ways e-commerce, mobile, and cloud technologies can create new business models.

While CIOs at mens’ clothing retailers fiddle with cost reduction and information routing, CMOs (or real CDOs) think about the white spaces. Trunk Club disrupts the mens’ high end with an experience that maximizes service and minimizes the “shop” in shopping, while the CIOs above are merely the lights on.


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