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The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer

According to Gartner, by 2015 25% of organisations will have a Chief Digital Officer sat on the board of directors.  Then, by 2020, 90% of technology spending will be driven by departments outside of IT.  Although analysts have been known to be wrong on the odd occasion, Gartner does have an outstanding track record and there’s no denying the impact of digital on organisations, employees, customers, partners, suppliers and stakeholders.  In fact, pretty much every aspect of doing business.


What intrigues me at this point is who will end up in control of this spend?  Will a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) replace a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO)?  Or will we see a hybrid department emerge?  What will the shift in budgets mean for jobs and training?  What should marketeers be doing now in order to prepare themselves and keep their career options open?


I don’t know the answers to many of these questions just now, however, I’m following them closely.  Perhaps the marketing department is best placed to make sense of the convergence of social, mobile and cloud?  Let’s face it, the IT crowd hasn’t done a great job of communicating the benefits of digital and the cloud so far. 


I suspect that the rise of the CDO will be a gradual one that creeps up on us as organisations continue to digitise large areas of business, such as moving more marketing spend to digital, or digitising the research and development budget.


However, it does leave the issue of career paths wide open.  If I were a marketer, the question I’d be asking myself just now is “Outside of the traditional marketing role, what technology and IT issues do I need to get to grips with, to take advantage of this career opportunity?” If cloud computing, big data and social enterprise analytics are all terms that sound like white noise to you, it might be worth considering a cosy lunch with one of the IT crowd and a pen and paper.  Whatever happens, I know this much: you can’t be in marketing if you don’t understand digital. And you can’t understand digital if you don’t understand technology.