11436 SSO

In Search of CDOs

Sam Ramji
Dec 03, 2013

You can tell a lot about a company’s strategic direction by whom it is looking to hire. Twitter’s job posting for a “financial reporting manager” over the summer sparked reports of the micro-blogging service preparing for an IPO, for instance.

Career listings can also say a lot about market trends and the trajectory of an industry. After hearing the perspectives of many digital leaders at the recent Chief Digital Officer Global Forum in Menlo Park, I was inspired to write down some important traits of a CDO.

For companies seeking a digital leader, these are the skills and talents necessary to unify an enterprise under a common digital strategy, driven by customers, partners, and employees who demand a mobile, digital experience.

We need a digital transformation to meet the challenges of a mobile-first world, digital partnerships, and new forms of competition. We must build a consistent experience for customers across our different lines of business in order to produce network effects for our enterprise.

You are a creative, driven leader who innately looks across departmental and corporate boundaries to solve large-scale problems. Because of your years of experience in business management, the language of P&Ls, KPIs, and change management is natural to you; at the same time, you’ve spent years surrounded by developers working on everything from enterprise systems to mobile devices.  You feel comfortable as a culture broker, establishing a single vision that spans businesses and technologies and being the active champion who gets everyone on board to execute that vision.

You have worked in more than one large enterprise and spent some time in a start-up. You see the wave of digital transformation that is happening right now in our industry and others, and you are absolutely confident that we can apply the lessons of the “digital natives” to our enterprise to grow our reach, revenue, and customer and partner engagement. An active reader of industry and world publications, you’re just as likely to spend a weekend afternoon digesting the latest Wired as you are the Wall Street Journal.

You know you can be successful as chief digital officer not just because you have passion and vision, but because you have spent years building a broad social network of business leaders and innovators. You have driven projects that have succeeded and you know why they succeeded; you have led projects that have failed and you know why they failed. You know that collaboration and leadership are different, and you will lead from the top to make it happen. You understand how the business works—and doesn’t work—at a fundamental level.  This experience has led you to adapt your approaches and enabled you to offer impactful guidance to others. You know how to get things done.

Finally, you have a deep respect for the challenges inherent in shifting goals and behaviors across tens of thousands of people.  You know innovation must be managed as a flywheel, and not as a one-time project. You’re prepared to keep at this for the three to five years it will take, and have the emotional energy to keep overcoming “innovation fatigue” and entrenched resistance to change.  You’ll keep communicating the vision, adapting it as we learn more, and simplifying it over time so that it’s embedded in every employee. And you’ll adapt the strategy over time to meet the movement of the market and the practicalities of execution.

Given all this experience, the key thing that will make you and the company successful is one of your paradoxical traits: despite your confidence and charisma, you are not in this for your ego. You know this is about the customers and partners who depend on us, the enterprise, and everyone who works for us.  It’s not just that you want to solve the problem of unifying the enterprise under a common digital strategy—it’s that you know how critical it is for business success.

In this job, the chosen executive will:

  • earn company-wide commitment for the digital strategy
  • embrace data-based experimentation
  • connect with experts in the company and the broader industry
  • lead comprehensively across departments and divisions
  • develop a 30-second explanation of the digital strategy
  • speak multiple business languages (IT, marketing, strategy, finance)
  • drive for tangible and measurable results (e.g., new revenue streams, higher efficiency, faster time to market)
  • keep the strategy fresh by staying up to date with the latest innovations, changes in competition, and shifts in the market
  • maintain focus on and commitment to executing the strategy for multiple years

The ideal candidate will have:

  • 3+ years of proven executive leadership 
  • 3+ years experience in e-commerce or digital channels
  • 5+ years as an executive team member leading a line of business
  • 5+ years leading an engineering or product development team
  • an MBA or equivalent practical experience
  • an MS in computer science, information systems, or equivalent experience
  • a demonstrated ability to set strategy and adjust course as needed
  • interpersonal skills that peers would describe as “charismatic”
  • international experience and cross-cultural listening skills
  • proven public speaking ability, both on stage and with press and analysts
  • delivered at least two large-scale projects across business divisions
  • insight into the way that digital transformation is affecting our industry
  • a broad social network both within the enterprise and with external visionaries
  • a proven ability to attract and hire top talent

Download the PDF of this CDO job description



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