By definition a CDO is a change agent within the organization, according to Laster. "It's critically important that this person be able to hear and understand a diverse view of opinions and ideas and then be able to synthesize them into frameworks that people can see themselves in," he says.
According to Cohn, CDOs need to be skilled in three areas: data analytics, technology and traditional ecommerce marketing. "An ideal CDO candidate will blend these together to successfully lead analog to digital transformations," he says.
Orttung shared four crucial skills CDOs need if they hope to be successful:
- A keen focus on the customer and the metrics that measure the quality of the customer experience.
- The analytical skills to identify areas of the business where innovation presents the greatest opportunity.
- The communication skills to paint a picture for the organization for how that innovation will transform the process.
- The leadership capacity to drive real results in transforming processes.
CDOs must be skilled at business strategy, customer engagement, acquisition and loyalty via digital platforms, according to Kim Villeneuve, CEO with Centerstone Executive Search, an executive recruitment firm. "These include desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, game console, smart TV, smart watch and wristbands, as well as technology on the horizon," she says. "The CDO is a consummate general manager, recognizing the need for influence, collaboration and building innovation across all functional areas."
The CDO should understand the markets they serve and be passionate about them. CDOs need to be able to formulate strategy, communicate to a number of different stakeholders and then be able to implement plans and make them a reality, Laster says. "These are super important for a role that's driving fundamental change."
Differences of opinion exist around whom CDOs should report to -- the CIO or the CEO? Orttung is among those who say that CDOs should report to CEOs to ensure they have the approval and resources they need to get the job done. "This role is critical to the success of the overall organization and will require the CEO's support to make the necessary changes to the core processes of the company," says Orttung.
CDO needs a working relationship with the CIO
Regardless of the reporting structure, CDOs need a strong and active relationship with CIOs if they hope to succeed. "If this interaction works well, the rest of the business will thrive," says Orttung.
Laster says McGraw-Hill's CIO is his best friend. "He is the host of everything I create. "We're two halves of a whole," he says. "There is nothing I could accomplish without a great CIO."
Laster also believes that a previous stint as CIO made his move to the CDO position easier. Centerstone Executive Search's Villeneuve agrees that CDOs with technology backgrounds are well-positioned to form strong bonds with their CIOs. "CDOs who have come up through the IT function, or had significant understanding of that function, stand to have more credibility with the CIO which in turn yields a strong partnership."
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