The question of when digital transformation will be complete is a moot point these days. New technologies and digital trends will never stop. However, it’s likely that the people leading the charge will be the change from year to year.
In a recent report from Altimeter, analysts found that CMOs lead the transformation in 34% of companies, while CIOs and CTOs take charge of digital transformation in only 19% of companies. I have two comments as it relates to this. First, the CMO needs to have a role in Digital Transformation, however, it is the CEO that must lead. Second, I believe in 2017 we need more CIOs and CTOs taking prominent positions in digital transformation.
Some companies are introducing a new role, the chief digital officer (CDO), who is explicitly charged with leading the digital transformation of the organization. While I standby my belief that digital transformation must start at the very top of the organization, I do believe several members of the c-suite need to be the day-to-day champions of this organizational change. Here’s my take on how these executive roles can work together, as well as who is better poised to lead the digital transformation in 2017:
The Role Of The CMO
In some ways, it makes sense for CMOs to be largely responsible for leading the digital transformation. Considering that customer interaction accounted for much of the digital transformation’s influence, CMOs were the ones providing the much-needed insight into customers’ needs, expectations, and habits. As the digital transformation alters the way companies interact with customers, CMOs have an important voice, and they’ll continue to play a key role as the digital transformation moves forward.
However, CMOs also need to recognize and remember that a digital transformation is much more than a marketing campaign—it represents a significant shift in the way companies operate. While it’s critical that companies continue taking customer perspectives into account, there’s going to be an increased focus on organization-wide efficiency. While the CMO should still have a voice and a seat at the table, overall leadership of the digital transformation should fall to other C-suite executives in 2017.
The Role Of The CIO
The CIO should take a major leadership role in 2017, forging digital-based alliances across the entire enterprise. As technology moves forward, CIOs will be responsible for building bridges between business technology teams and the company’s IT department. It’s going to fall on the CIO to empower company-wide changes in thinking, culture, and practices. As the digital transformation continues to radically alter the way businesses operate, a CIO with a strategic mindset can be at the forefront of these changes.
The Role Of The CTO
CTOs will also need to take a more prominent leadership role. With an eye for providing customers or clients with top-end efficient technologies, CTOs represent a unique blending of priorities belonging to both the CMO and the CIO. The CTO plays a uniquely critical role, offering an external-facing perspective to balance the CIO’s more internal focus. Therefore, as much as we expect to see digital transformation leadership shifting to CIOs, it’s likely that CTOs will also assume significant management in the process.
The Role Of The CDO
CDOs are a more recent addition to most C-suite executive teams. In 2016, an increasing number of Fortune 500 companies added a CDO, who can be an invaluable player as the strategic reference for companies. CDOs are responsible for using social media platforms to engage the community and to plan and promote consumer loyalty.
In a time when it is imperative for companies to break down silos and integrate data and systems across all levels, CDOs will lead the charge. The CDO exists to facilitate connections between all departments. As the digital transformation continues into 2017 and beyond, the position of CDO will become essential to any successful enterprise.
Who needs to lead the digital transformation in 2017? In my opinion, the answer is more nuanced than simply pointing to a single C-suite executive. What’s certain is that CMOs will take a step back while the number of companies employing CDOs, CTOs, and CIOs will increase.
Regardless, executive teams must work together for companies to remain relevant in a digital landscape. Digital orientation requires companies to understand consumer behavior, educate and train its leaders, invest in organizational culture, and take advantage of merging platforms. By embracing digital transformation and synchronizing communication at all levels, executive teams produce an atmosphere where digital talent flourishes and where marginal gains convert to exponential growth.
This post was first published on Forbes.com