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Digital Transformation

The Role of a CDO Should Not Be Technology Oversight

Working Together

Whether the title is “Chief Digital Officer,” “VP of Digital,” or any other flavor of ‘digital’ at the executive leadership level, an organization should make sure the responsibilities of this role are not focused on technology, but on culture and change management.

These roles should focus their efforts identifying and supporting the cultural changes needed to sustain digital transformation.

The evolution of the ‘digital’ role in an organization has resulted in as many different job descriptions as there are people doing the job, but more often than not, a large part of the responsibilities include some kind of technology selection, oversight, or roadmapping responsibilities. This may be misguided in its own right, as described in Forbes’ criticism of the advent of CDO roles, but as the digital transformation train speeds up for most organizations and the inevitable, well-intentioned ‘digital’ titles are added to drive the business forward, far too much time at the leadership level is spent on the technology part of digital evolution and not enough time is spent on the processes or people parts.
If digital roles are to become part of the new norm in organizations seeking to grow, then these roles should focus their efforts on working in collaboration with IT and Marketing, with the majority of their responsibilities identifying and supporting the cultural changes needed to sustain digital transformation. They might even have a goal of becoming the next generation HR department. Why? Because the #1 reason digital transformations fail, and CDOs lose their jobs, is because all the best technologies in the world cannot solve a culture problem, and most CDOs either don’t have the background to deal with the real need for culture-building head-on, or underestimate the time, attention, and resources needed to support a shift and can’t mobilize accordingly.
So what should a Chief or VP of Digital job description look like? Here are some bullet points to consider:

  • Ability to collaborate with peers in IT, Marketing, HR, and the C-Suite to identify culture impact and change management needs as new technologies and processes are implemented
  • Ability to coach and mentor peers on how to evolve their roles to be more inherently digital in approach
  • Ability to articulate an organizational digital vision, and evangelize that vision up and down; side to side in the organization
  • Ability to identify business processes that could be more efficient, or drive growth through digitization
  • Design and implement re-skill programs for workforce impacted by digitization
  • Overall, to ensure alignment from the top-down in digital transformation

As you can see, the responsibilities above have almost nothing to do with technology and that’s intentional. While the CDO role should have deep and broad knowledge of technology and the digital space, they must be willing to allow the CIO to be the CIO, the CMO to be the CMO, and so on for any other “C” or VP role that already exists in the organization, and instead focus on how to guide the organization through its digital transformation at the cultural level.
Learn more about how digital roles can support transformations in a non-technology focused way.

Essentials for Your Digital Strategy: Digital Responsibility

Essentials for Your Digital Strategy: Organizational Alignment

How to Establish Digital Governance for Content & Commerce

Change Management: Is It Worth the Investment?

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Kim Williams-Czopek

Kim Williams-Czopek is a Director of Digital Strategy at Perficient. She’s been a senior leader in several digital agencies, digital product companies, and served as VP of Digital on the brand side. She specializes in customer experience, commerce, digital responsibility, and digital business strategies.

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