If Your Company Has A Chief Digital Officer, You're Doing It Wrong

from the this-is-a-mistake dept

Nearly five years ago, we warned that media companies were making a big mistake in hiring “Chief Digital Officers.” The problem is that, these days, especially in the media world, thinking digitally isn’t a separate silo or a separate job function. It needs to be the thinking throughout the organization. Just setting up a position of “Chief Digital Officer” is all about shunting digital thinking off into a silo. Even for companies who claim that the Chief Digital Officer’s role is to get everyone thinking digitally, it doesn’t really work. The chains of commands are not structured correctly. You’re asking “everyone” to pay attention to someone who they don’t really report to.

For a little while, it had seemed like media companies had moved away from such positions — and I had hoped it was a sign that they had realized what a mistake it was. Instead, it seems like the concept was merely lying dormant. AdAge reports that the role of the Chief Digital Officer is making a comeback within media companies. Thankfully, the AdAge article at least suggests that the new rush to hire such positions often indicates that a company “is behind.” Of course, what it doesn’t really acknowledge is that hiring a “Chief Digital Officer” probably isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s more of a sign that the business isn’t really thinking digitally at all.

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Comments on “If Your Company Has A Chief Digital Officer, You're Doing It Wrong”

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s like saying a CIO isn’t of value to the organization. Everyone doesn’t report to the CIO, but the CIO suggests and recommends what direction the organization should take with regards to their information technology.

I disagree. A CIO has a specific job function in terms of managing the informational infrastructure for the company.

But a Chief Digital Officer is about an overall *externally focused* digital strategy. It’s not something that can be silo’d.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:


CIO = person in charge of information infrastructure INSIDE the company. It’s their job to ensure that digital information flows between employees, regardless of their business model. Their job exists because the IT infrastructure and other parts of the company (marketing, sales, CS, accounting, etc.) are naturally different functions, although they may have some direct relationship to IT.

Chief Digital Officer = person in charge of digital information OUTSIDE of the company. The fact that their job even exists suggests that the company does not recognise that, in the modern marketplace, there is no natural separation of digital information and other parts of the company. It also suggests that within the company, sales of digital items is regarded as a separate function and perhaps lower priority than physical items – practical suicide for a media company.

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