Why You NEED Your Chief Digital Officer Sooner than Later

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You’re going to get a chief digital officer. The only question is whether you’ll do it in time to stay ahead of the competition or wait until you’ve fallen behind everyone else.

Marketing is evolving faster than most people can keep up. In just a few years, you’ve seen how huge trends in social media, mobile technology, big data, the cloud and more have drastically changed the face of marketing across the board. If you’re already struggling to maintain a modern strategy amidst all this change, how are you going to deal with the next big thing on horizon?

You can’t rely on your traditional marketing professionals alone to keep you on the cutting edge of digital. They all have their own specialties and priorities to focus upon on a day-to-day basis. Your marketing team needs the support of a high-level digital authority to advise and direct overall strategy. How is digital impacting your revenue, your growth, your customers and your future?

A talented and innovative Chief Digital Officer can serve as your CMO’s right-hand person devoted to utilizing the digital landscape to more effectively reach customers, prospects and decrease the friction with which you conduct commerce; therefore preparing your company for the future and enabling growth.

Defining the Role

Without much time to mature as a top-level role, the digital officer is still growing into its potential and has somewhat different responsibilities depending on an organization’s structure.

But some consistent characteristics have emerged to start painting a picture of this job’s function. The Chief Digital Officer exists to take the way you have always done business and transform it for today’s world while keeping you ahead for the changes coming tomorrow.  Customers have become accustomed to being able to complete almost all interactions—from shopping and purchasing to customer service and engagement—online, at their convenience, and with a growing variety of electronic devices. The Chief Digital Officer uses technology, data, and user experience knowledge to improve company processes, contact consumers at the best possible times and ultimately drive more business.

Here’s Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of McKinsey, on the chief digital officer:

So who within your organization can best define what this person is and how they can impact the business?  Some organizations are leaving the Chief Digital Officer role to IT, which is really dangerous.  You need a Chief Digital Officer who can help you grow; and the CMO along with the rest of the “C” Suite needs to be the leaders in outlining your specific vision for the role.

In many ways their goals will resemble that of the CIO and CMO. Indeed, they will often serve as team partners, translators and mediators for the two. But they won’t share the direct focus on branding, advertising, hardware and technical logistics, freeing them up for a more overarching view and strategic growth-oriented approach.

They’ll even be able to support your other departments: accounting, HR, legal…can you think of any of them that aren’t reliant on digital tools? A good Chief Digital Officer will look for opportunities to streamline digital process across your entire organization.

Do You Want to be a Digital Leader, or Follower?

Despite past speculation that the Chief Digital Officer is just another fleeting trend, the role has defied naysayers and is becoming a standard across industries. By 2015, as many as 25% of organizations will have a Chief Digital Officer—and I fully expect it to be a corporate leadership staple shortly after.

The chief digital officer is here to stay. It will have a place in some manner at organizations of all sizes for the foreseeable future—at least as long as humanity is using the internet and attached to computers all day, every day. CMOs and companies that continue to delay on this acquisition may see their tenure or place in the market cut short. So if you want to stay competitive in your market, it’s a classic case of WHEN—not IF—you’ll hire a Chief Digital Officer.

Will you be the innovator who snaps up top digital talent now and puts it to use innovating and refining your entire business to earn a competitive edge? Or will you wait until everyone else has a head start and try to play catch up?

Put a Digital Expert in Charge with a Chief Digital Officer Executive Search or Risk Falling Behind

The bottom line is that businesses who want to stay in business  need someone at a very high level oversee your digital presence. From pioneering new ways to engage customers to coordinating internal digital processes, their insight and experience will improve corporate efficiency and ultimately your profits.

The clock is ticking. This isn’t just another expense to be chalked up to the marketing department budget and pushed off indefinitely. It’s an investment—an essential, time-sensitive one—into your company’s competitive future. And unlike so many other investments, digital offers unprecedented responsiveness in demonstrating real-time ROI. You can see exactly where your money is going; and how it’s coming back to you.

No matter how digitally-savvy your marketing leaders, they are still marketers first—and rightfully so. But they are not technologists or software fortune tellers or digital diviners. You need someone who has the responsibility and resources to keep you on top of things, and the corporate authority to step in, take direction, and give advice that’s taken seriously at all levels.

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