This insightful report from McKinsey&Co, says “the CDO is now a transformer in chief, charged with coordinating and managing comprehensive changes that address everything from updating how a company works to building out entirely new businesses. And he or she must make progress quickly.”
Well, not only must we wholeheartedly agree, but that’s what Transform has been helping CDOs (and CIOs, CMOs, Commercial Directors, Digital Directors and the like) with since we started out back in the nineties. What we actually see increasingly is that the demand on the CDO (or equivalent) basically continues to extend through the spectrum from strategy, through design and into delivery. Those that are most effective and making the most positive impact on their organisations are taking a customer-centred approach and not only do they design and deliver services for those customers, but behind that they are also leading in design and delivery of new capabilities across their organisation. So I can’t and won’t argue with McKinsey’s five focus areas for CDOs:
- Make digital integral to the strategy
- Obsess over the customer
- Build agility, speed and data
- Extend networks
- Get stuff done
In fact we’re wondering if McKinsey has been peaking over our shoulders whilst we’ve been working with clients. That’s not a bad list, but on the other hand it’s a massive brief.
The pressure is on; as customers rapidly adapt to the digital world at their fingertips and as organisations adopt new technologies in the scramble to keep up with new competitors emerging all over the place. Hence the growing debate about the value of a new addition to the boardroom / executive management team: the CDO. Some pundits (and plenty of headhunters) insist a CDO is vital to push through rapid change in organisations that have been slow to embrace the new opportunities and threats presented by digital disruption. They argue that CDOs often need to be parachuted into situations where others in the executive team lack the necessary skillset or firepower to implement digital transformation. Others believe CDOs are needed to bring a new understanding and perspective to the digital challenge, to evangelise digital thinking and to apply it across the whole business.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s the CDO
If we step back from this for a moment, we could say that what they are really describing as a CDO could also be called CETNtCaaRoDO (Chief Everything That Needs to Change as a Result of Digital Officer) – or CBtCit21CO (Chief Bring the Company into the 21st Century Officer). Neither of which is particularly snappy though.
The role is effectively re-orienting the whole business around the customer, while aligning the organisation behind this change, and making it everyone’s job. Which is hard when it involves changing the way the organisation does things, and when the CDO is often seen as CEO in waiting.
Realistically, you’ve got to admit that in all five areas listed above, the individual responsible needs a rare combination of analysis, communication and change skills. Very rare in individuals. Even more elusive in organisations faced with a transformation challenge.
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