The Rise of the CDO


The West is in the middle of a Digital revolution.

We have known this for a while. The apocalyptic events of Y2K, the Rise of Offshore companies, and the Recession of 2008 have pretty much guaranteed the need for change in the business field. Add to that technological and social advances like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we’re lucky that this hasn’t turned into a digital coup! What does this mean for business?


Traditionally, the “it” position in companies has been divided into several groups.

  • The CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

The person who is the driving force behind the company. Puts together the resources to support the company, and take the product to the marketplace. This is the person who makes things happen.

  • The CIO (Chief Information Officer)

The person who is responsible for the Information Technology and computer systems that support the companies goals. Their job is to analyse and rework existing business processes.

  • The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)

The mission of the CMO is to understand and connect with the organizations modern customer.

These three positions have made up the trifecta of power within a business for a long time. The CEO at the top, and the CIO and CMO supporting on either side. However, in response to the radical shifts occurring in both the Marketing and Information fields, a new position has emerged that is rapidly growing in importance and power. CDO

  • CDO (Chief Digital Officer)

The person who manages the company’s digital presence and digital developments. They  actively influence the digital future of the company.

  easelly_visual-2 Normally, this might not shake up the power structure of a company too much. The CDO would find a spot in the existing structure, and would go on to support the other positions to make the company stronger. The problem lies in the nature of the Digital Revolution. The Chief Digital officer may be in charge of the Digital components of the company, but it’s hard to find anything today that isn’t related to digital activities in some way.

Companies need to be fleet-footed to keep pace with changing technology and consumer behaviour. Business strategies now must be seamlessly interwoven with ever expanding digital strategies that address not only the web but also mobile, social local and whatever innovation is around the corner –Irving Wladawsky Berger – strategic advisor to Citigroup

Suddenly, a relatively new position has essentially jumped to being the right hand of the CEO. handshake Where does that leave the CMOs and the CIOs? CMOs are experts in traditional marketing. With the onset of digital, are they being left to oversee the death of  traditional marketing channels as the non-digital consumers die out? No.

“Technology is simply a means to an end. The vision is that understanding and connecting with customers is fully unified under marketing’s umbrella. There are still non-digital aspects of understanding and connecting with customers.” – Scott Brinker –

Some people believe that the CIO will morph into the CDO. However, most of the technology that the CIOs work with is ‘behind closed doors.’ These are the technical aspects of the company that the public rarely see. They are poorly positioned to work with more front-office innovations. If anything, CDOs DO spell trouble for CIOs.

“The only constant in the world is change.”

What will the CDO do to the power structure of companies moving forward? One theory is that they will be absorbed into the CMO position, taking over both digital and analog marketing aspects of the company. The same could be true for the CIO position. Dave Aron of Gartner (the worlds leading information technology research and advisory company) theorizes that about 20% of CIOs have taken on the responsibilities of the CDO. Where do the CEOs falls into relation in all this? The future could very well soon see the rise of the Digital CEO.   Links to Useful Articles A CMO, a CIO, and a chief digital officer walk into a bar… The Rise of the Digital CMO Why the Chief Digital Officer Role Is on the Rise Why CIOs may morph into the chief digital officer


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