Why Your Next CEO Might Be Your CDO
I've been a Senior VP of Digital, Executive VP of Digital, and Chief Digital Officer (CDO) the bulk of my 25-year career. I've served in this role for B2B, enthusiast, and book publishers ... and in privately-owned, private-equity-backed, and publicly-traded companies. I have always said that the "Chief Digital Officer" is merely a temporary role, so a recent article from FIPP discussing CDOs becoming CEOs caught my eye.
In a media company, I believe the primary job of a CDO is to help a company become more fluent in digital channels and infuse a digital DNA into the culture of a company ... from content and production, to audience development, marketing and sales. You might even have a fully separate digital department during this transition time to help execute the strategy while the rest of the company is learning and still focused on the traditional parts of the business.
The end goal of a CDO is to have all departments and personnel feel just as comfortable in the digital medium as with print and events, and to look across all potential channels options for the best ways to serve their readers and advertisers. A company has turned the corner when the digital innovation no longer comes from the CDO and the digital department, but from the "traditional" editors, sales, production and audience development teams. If this culture transformation is successful, the responsibilities for digital will be re-integrated into their rightful departments within the company.
When this transition happens, a CDO is no longer really needed to lead digital innovation or execution. Instead, the role of the digital team changes to more of an IT function focused on customer-facing technology: hosting, web / app development, systems integration, data management, and internal user support and training. The CDO either must shift to more of an CTO/CIO role overseeing digital technology and operations or find another CDO opportunity elsewhere.