The CIOs of most organizations now wear many hats. As well as maintaining all the current applications, ensuring cyber security is up to date, and creating a store of data for the whole company to use, many are now being asked to take on the digital transformation role as well. In many situations this is quite simply the wrong move.
For any organization that is facing the potential for the complete disruption of their industry and/or business model, it is essential that the Chief Digital Officer be more aligned with the business and new channel strategies than the existing information technology department. This is not to say that there will not be strong linkages between the existing technology groups and the digital teams, but, the emphasis has to be on the go-forward business model, not maintaining the existing legacy systems. The Chief Digital Officer must be free from the existing technology stack to envision new ways of delivering products and services, and then delivering on those commitments. This means spending more time with marketing, finance, sales, and other teams in the business, as opposed to working on maintaining the existing technology framework. It is a totally different type of responsibility and skillset and the result of the work is often measured completely differently than a CIO role.
Alternately, if the digital strategy that your organization is pursuing is an add-on to the current business, then the CIO should also be the Chief Digital Officer. This is the case for many companies that are adding some form of digital element to their existing business model. In this case the CIO is the best person to lead any digital initiatives, as the new digital models must be closely aligned and integrated with the existing technology stack. It may be a stretch for individual CIOs not to mention a considerable challenge but it is the best way to keep a common vision.
The issue is neither black or white and there in considerable grey area but companies must be very careful when they start to think about how to digitize their businesses and who will lead the charge.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.