A few months ago the eConsultancy website skewered my current role, claiming “Evangelist” to be a job title to be avoided in 2013. A few weeks ago they then did for my future career prospects by delivering a damning judgement on the concept of the Chief Digital Officer. Buggers.

In seriousness, though, I absolutely get where the author is coming from in the recent article. What do you do if you CIO is too inward, tech focused, and your CMO unable to see beyond traditional advertising? Well, recruiting a third member of the board seems like you’ve missed the two real problems in your organisation.

As I spoke about recently, “Digital” as a concept is (reaching over the wall of extreme hype) a way of thinking, not an activity in its own right.  Separating it out runs the risk of ghettoizing it – if there is person who is made responsible for “Digital” everyone else, by default, can take a step back. I’ve seen this work at both macro and micro levels: organisations setting “innovation” into “innovation departments”, and it becoming a side-lined activity as a result; large projects assigning “communication” to a specific person, and thus failing to communicate internally or externally.

Organisations of size traditionally have seen specialisation emerge within their structures as it has been seen as the way we do things. As modern roles become increasingly nebulous and uncertain (I’m an Evangelist for goodness sake) that specialisation becomes less meaningful. Most large organisations these days actually align themselves around product lines with sales, marketing and product development within, and then have corporate shared functions (IT, HR, Finance, Legal) spanning across the organisation.

One of the outcomes of consumerisation in technology, and the emergence of Cloud-based software services has been that the the IT role has started to see its value challenged – if you no longer need to own and run the technology behind software, why do you need to have a centralised function running it? It’s this existential angst that seems to me to be the single biggest driver behind the CDO concept. Tied to the now utterly over-reported Gartner “prediction” about CMO and CIO spend (nothing concrete ever went public, and they were only talking about CMOs in the technology provider sector) we now seem to have an entire industry springing up to try to make technology in business somewhat more complicated than maybe it need to be.

2 thoughts on “CDO-DOA?

    1. I fear that that’s been happening for as long as there have been IT departments. Although I’m sure that the same can also be said about the other horizontal functions in large businesses…

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