The role of the CDO has added another aspect to the digital hype that has stirred activity at the executive level. The swansong about the CIO is an indicator that the digital term has not yet fully established itself in companies. The CIO/CDO is not solely responsible for digitisation but instead it’s the executive level, carried and understood by the entire staff.
To approach this topic we need to become aware of what digitisation actually means. Often it is connected to state-of-the-art technology or total networking. Some talk about robots, artificial intelligence and the data centre in the cloud. Also talked about are security threats connected with digitisation and disruptive threats on the market. Then there are the endless start-ups that force giants to leave their comfort zones. Based on our experiences from the age from which we come, we more or less connect all that to information technology. Now, the culmination of the IT department’s capabilities is to provide technology and around-the-clock services like electricity coming out of the wall. We – the technology followers – are conditioned to this and applaud it when it works.
This feedback loop has characterised the work of many an IT manager and IT expert. Now, all of a sudden, the IT departments are also tasked with doing all that digitisation stuff as well. And this is where we reach our limits. Not because we can't deal with the technology and not because we lack understanding or motivation but because digitisation affects all business units within a company and IT cannot shoulder this challenge alone. And when IT is incapable of meeting these requirements and convincing others that it can only be done together, some quickly draw the conclusion that the company employs the wrong CIO. And that someone else should take the reins. Which is where the CDO comes in and plan B is activated. The CDO, however, is incapable of doing anything differently apart from being better in convincing people that digitisation affects the entire company and that it is more than just a topic of technology. So, actually, something that the CIO could do just as well, provided he internalised the digital mindset and lost his technological blinders. Maybe they need to be shaken up and competition has never hurt anybody. No matter who will come out on top in the clash between CIOs and CDOs: I wish both good luck!