Goodbye, chief digital officer? That’s what research and analyst firm, Forrester, is predicting. They reported last fall that the role of the chief digital officer (CDO) will become obsolete (fee required) in roughly 5 years or so. Why, you may ask? Because CIOs will become more business savvy and take over the CDO role.

For the time being however, CDOs are definitely still here, Forrester prediction be damned. About 25 percent of medium-sized to large companies now have a CDO, according to a survey of 4,498 CIOs across 86 countries by Harvey Nash and KPMG

We interviewed three CDOs who shared with us what their role means to them and their visions for 2018 and beyond. 

What is a Chief Digital Officer?

Let’s first explore how a chief digital officer is defined, which may differ from organization to organization. CDOs help businesses convert traditional "analog" businesses to digital, according to Wikipedia. It’s the position that spearheads digital transformation in an organization by using digital tools and implementing organizational strategy and focus. Those leading their organization’s digital transformation journey must align employees’ preferences, skills and experience — and their organization’s leadership, according to Aragon Research. Aragon Research’s Jim Sinur said CDOs should help their organizations’ digital transformations by doing the following.

  • Waiting for future proof of digital success
  • Developing a holistic digital strategy
  • Exercising digital dexterity

What’s Inside the Minds of CDOs?

We caught up with three CDOs to discuss their visions for the CDO position and their goals for this year.

Bertram Schulte, SAP

Bertram Schulte headshot
Bertram Schulte

CMSWire: How do you define a CDO? 

Schulte: I define a chief digital officer as the driver behind the wheel of a company’s digital transformation. I am a facilitator of change that needs to occur on many levels within SAP. This makes the nature of my role complex because I am the first to go through fire to inspire change. 

The nomination of a CDO means the organization understands the challenges that come with the arrival of digital technology. The CDO’s job is to tackle these hurdles head-on by working with all corporate functions. The CDO does not work in a vacuum off to the side, running new things, but is focused on transforming what already exists, helping the entire company shift to a digital mindset.

CMSWire: What are your top personal priorities this year in your role, and why so?

Schulte: In 2018, our future is simple. My top priority is to deliver a successful no- and low-touch experience, establishing digital as the one channel for the entire customer lifecycle. Eighty percent of our customers want digital access, which is why our highest priority for transformation this year is to create an even-better customer experience — one with more transparency and a streamlined purchase path. We want to enable them to discover, buy, try, manage and interact digitally with SAP. In the meantime, I also want to integrate and unify all disparate initiatives to one consistent experience. The simpler we run, the better.

Related Article: Organizations Need Talent for Digital Transformation

Stephanie Trunzo, PointSource, a Globant company

headshot of stephanie trunzo of pointsource
Stephanie Trunzo

Learning Opportunities

CMSWire: How do you define a CDO?

Trunzo: The chief digital officer title has evolved out of the changing roles of the CIO and CMO. The traditional C-level roles that used to divide technology and the experience with the consumer/brand into separate conversations are changing. Organizations realize that to become digital, there aren’t clear lines to the responsibilities of those various executives anymore. The CDO role serves to bridge the gap in these conversations from a tech and experience perspective, increasingly leveraging data to drive an effective digital presence.

CMSWire: What are your top personal priorities this year in your role, and why so?

Trunzo: Oftentimes, tech takes the forefront of digital conversations. One of my priorities for this year is to take a closer look at our experience layer and shift that balance so that the tech and experience teams are given equal priority. You need to create a peer-level relationship between technology and experience (design, UX, strategic insights).

Related Article: More Digital Business = More Chief Digital Officers

Josh Machiz, Nasdaq

Josh Machiz headshot
Josh Machiz

CMSWire: How do you define a CDO? 

Machiz: CDO for me is a role of digital transformation. Playing at the intersection of marketing and IT to drive those organizations closer together and push the latest technology into hands of marketers and, most importantly, all employees. It's fundamentally about bringing people closer together with technology that unites us.

CMSWire: What are your top personal priorities this year in your role, and why so?

Machiz: My top goal for the year has been to build out original series from Nasdaq. In August we launched our first original series Cultural Capital, which is now a finalist for a Digiday publishing award and in October we launched Never Settle which has been nominated for two Emmy awards. We have more shows in development and I'm excited to continue our build-out of original programming. The next big objective is transforming our employee base into brand advocates. I'm bullish that employee-driven social can be a tremendous brand multiplayer when implemented correctly.