I recently spent two weeks in Europe (UK, Germany, France – PRE-BREXIT), where I met many of our customers, prospects, and partners.
One thing that surprised me was that I ended up talking to a lot of Chief Digital Officers, which is something that I rarely come across in the US.
In 99% of these instances, the CDO reported to the CIO or CTO; in all cases, the rise of the CDO is to accelerate the digitalization of an organization. Any system can be simplified into two parts: a front end and a backend. Often these backends still rely on mainframes and use old but robust programing languages. But, the flip side is that changes are difficult, costly, and slow.
What I saw in Europe, for the most part, was a separation of those two environments, where the CDO is now in charge of the front end (web, mobile app, end-user experience) using the latest frameworks, technology, and cloud providers, and relying on APIs to talk to the backend, ensuring reliability, data integrity, security, compliance and business continuity.
The CDO is really about making IT an enabler of business by quickly delivering new products to the end-user.
What was amazing was how pragmatic and data-driven these CDOs were with everything from systems telemetry to business analytics tools to end-user telemetry. And when I say pragmatic, I mean they’re not running toward the latest shiny toy or tool and being more responsible in their technology-buying decision process.
In the US, we are more focused on the CDO as some sort of an evolution of a Chief Marketing Officer that is only worried about millennials and digital natives.
I found this european touch to be more balanced, more in-touch with realities of delivering new products fast without compromising technology, security, data integrity, etc. The CDO is a bridge between technology and customers (not just the business), delivering what the customer wants faster, on the latest end-user devices.
What I am still struggling with is the need of a discussion around the necessity of a CDO; everything we use everyday is digital already! Does it mean we need a Chief Offline Officer or Chief Analog Officer?