One of the great things about my role is reviewing our research. This is how I mostly spend my all-too frequent travel time flying between continents. So while the latest movies are keeping my intrepid fellow travellers occupied for the long haul, I’m usually reading research as part of our peer review process or when it has just been published.
Somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, an interesting new research note really caught my attention on the need for a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) by Laura McLellan, Yvonne Genovese and Dave Aron. The authors explore the important question of whether the emerging digitalization of business creates a requirement for CEOs to have someone new report to them who is responsible for the enterprise wide digitalization of business. They also address whether or not business unit leaders need this role.
Of particular interest, the analysts note:
- Not one but several roles of digital leadership are emerging
- Some CIOs will add digitalization responsibility to their role but a large number do not yet have the capabilities or trust of the organization
- The need for this role will vary dependent on industry and maturity of the organization
Clients can read the research note, including a toolkit on the Chief Digital Office, by clicking here.
The research note follows other pieces of research that Gartner has written over the past year about the CDO role. It is clear to us that as organizations continue to digitalize processes, client facing activities, their products and/or services, there is a growing need for business leaders to add a deep level of understanding of technology to their skills. As every budget in an organization gradually becomes digitalized, this need grows.
But here’s the question. Does this requirement lead to the need for a new, separate role reporting to the CEO? Even to a business unit leader? And if so, is this role really sustainable long term? In a recent conversation I had with the CIO of a large global retailer we discussed just this question. We came to the conclusion that the answer is no. Why?
- Organizational roles that are persistent in time carry a degree of accountability, budget and potentially people responsibility. I am not sure long term the CDO does.
- The aggregate responsibility of a CEOs management team changes only slowly. While technology has disrupted this statement, externalizing the responsibility from the current roles reporting to the CEO rarely leads to long term sustainable impact.
- Digitalization is a management skill set that will developed by many members of the leadership team, but it is not a separate role
This still makes the role of the CDO important, but mainly as a change agent, a role that will assist the CEO and perhaps boards of companies in the process of change driven by digitalization.
Now onto the next research note with 1000 more miles of cruising altitude to go before that friendly reminder to turn off all our electronic devices.
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