Meet the Post-pandemic Chief Digital Officer

Image credit: iStockphoto/Jian Fan

2020 has seen a rapid pivot to embrace all things digital. It has put pressure on enterprises across industry sectors to accelerate digital transformation in the race to automate. Previous barriers to adopting cutting edge technologies have evaporated as everyone embraces the new normal.

Businesses spanning healthcare to financial services to retail are all scrambling to add digital services to try and replicate the physical services they relied on. This has created an arms race to acquire the relevant digital skills to fuel the transformation. In response, the chief digital officer (CDO) has shifted from an important but for many optional role to a critical leadership position to help navigate the new normal, ensure survival, and ultimately seize the digital opportunity.

McKinsey stated that the CDO is the "transformer in chief." However, to successfully navigate this new era where businesses rely on digital, enterprises must rethink this executive's scope. The role must evolve and become the catalyst for driving the roadmap for digital, data, and automation. This significantly broadens both the CDO's responsibilities and skills, helping position them at the business's heart.

As a result of this strategic shift, there are three core areas that the CDO role needs to hone in on:

  1. Digital

The traditional scope of a CDO has focused on transforming analog operations using digital processes to generate new business opportunities, revenue streams, and customer services through the adoption of digital technologies. At this stage of digital maturity, having a digital presence is simply a baseline. The CDO now must create an entire digital ecosystem that delivers a frictionless experience across all channels. This requires the CDO to integrate innovative technologies that enhance the user experience. However, to understand the user experience and customer preferences, you are reliant on data.

  1. Data

Data is the lifeblood of successful enterprises. The only way organizations can know anything about their customers is through data from every single transaction and touchpoint. The CDO must tap into all of the available information and develop ways to use it as a valuable asset driving the strategy to continuously improve and shape the customer experience. To do this requires a systematic approach to capture, receive, and interpret the data. In turn, these insights should drive the priorities in terms of the product roadmap and inform where and how digital efforts should maximize the business impact.

Without data, the CDO is often reacting to the whims of others. As AI becomes more pervasive, coupled with the surge in connected devices and systems, data volume will continue its exponential growth. The successful CDO needs to harness the vast array of data streams to continually drive and optimize the digital experience.

  1. Automation

Every industry is now searching for ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. Organizations that hesitate to embrace automation run the risk of not being able to compete. As a result, the CDO needs to help direct the automation strategy and determine which intelligent technologies to deploy to improve productivity and optimize the user experience. Therefore, they need to take ownership and drive automation priorities. As industries recalibrate to weather the global economic downturn, enterprises that fail to harness automation will seal their demise.

The pandemic has driven organizations to accelerate digital transformation, and the CDO needs to help navigate this pivot to digital dependency. By expanding the remit to focus on digital, data, and automation, the role will evolve from merely going digital to putting in place the infrastructure to create long-term success and ensure survival in the short term. The successful CDO needs a strong technology background in addition to a broad range of commercial skills. It's time for the CDO to step up and seize the opportunity and for organizations to recognize what this critical leadership role must deliver.

John Bates, chief executive officer at Eggplant, authored this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Jian Fan