D before I, after C and before O. (why the language of CDOs, CIO and digital marketing is changing)
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D before I, after C and before O. (why the language of CDOs, CIO and digital marketing is changing)

D before I, after C and before O. (why the language of CDOs, CIO and digital marketing is changing)

Posted on 7th April 2015

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Almost everything seems to be online these days. For the last few years we have even had the redoubtable Martha Lane-Fox telling the older generation that they will just have to get online, whether they like it or not.  Digital permeates (almost) everything and everywhere.  Yet, in business as in other areas of life, an innate, human conservatism pervades most organisations.  This is as true of much recruitment as of the NHS, accountancy, sales or marketing.  It also creates an interesting dynamic within companies, which in turn influences the way recruiters interact with their clients as all parties try to stay ahead of the game and ensure that not only are the right people in place but that the jobs they are in are the jobs the client company really needs, not just a re-hash of a former job-title/specification to try to keep up with the market.

This is perhaps best illustrated by the changing roles/titles of Chief Information Officers/Chief Digital Officers and their associated marketing colleagues.  Marketing is now increasingly digital marketing, even if it hasn’t actually caught up with consumer behaviour, which, as was noted at the Davos Summit in January, has become more digitally focused than even the advertising/marketing industry seems to realise.

Whilst acknowledging that job titles are often national in character (not many VPs in the UK?), the fact is that there are more CDO jobs than there were a few years ago, and the number is continuing to rise.  The emergence of the CDO, as distinct from the CIO we all know and love is a reflection of the disconnect between IT and business as a whole.  IT, with its instinctive position as a service department rather than a strategic service is also feeling the pinch from marketing, where digital marketers will come to dominate as traditional Marketing Directors with only just enough digital knowledge to get by are superseded by those who not only fully understand digital but also the analytics that underpin it.

Last year’s Accenture report, which identified the management of change as the biggest barrier to businesses as they seek to implement new digital projects, also highlighted the confusion that surrounds this issue.  Accenture’s survey showed that over one third believe the CEO is the person who is in the digital hot seat! In contrast, some 23% thought it was the Chief Technical Officer and 22% the Chief Information Officer.  Only 1% thinks that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is responsible.  The emergence of the CDO is perhaps a reflection of the jockeying for position and influence (and job title!) that is now taking place. 

What matters most at this level is not time spent on functional marketing/digital activities, but time spent on leading digital transformation strategy.  As CMOs’ influence wanes, the Chief Digital Officer is growing in importance as a new and increasingly important breed.  The Accenture study suggests that nearly 80% of marketers believe that their discipline is moving away from the traditional model and will have to embrace fundamental change over the next five years.  Expect the role of the CDO to expand, and if the CMO and CIO don’t wake up and smell the coffee then, well, we know what will happen. CDOs, in contrast, are beginning to plan strategy across all digital channels – from mobile to the Internet of Things (IoT) and the increasingly important SaaS-based web – and as a result are starting to provide insights and recommendations to inform future strategy and enhance the digital experience for the business’s key audiences.  And when it comes to recruiting, it’s not as simple as changing the I to a D, but if you do that then you will, for now, be starting in the right place.  


Gareth Biggerstaff, MD, Be-IT Resourcing 

Posted in News, Recruitment, Technology


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