In short, technology has taken hold of every business and every related function. The result is the need for greater technology expertise and therefore more leaders in respective areas. Looking at the respective leadership roles in their most simplistic terms. This encompasses how technology can be used across the business in line with a future vision. They are therefore both technical and business orientated. This is essential as their stakeholders are often those who lead business divisions but don’t possess the necessary understanding from an IT/Technology perspective. This individual is typically a truly operational head responsible for Infrastructure, PMO, Service, eCommerce and more.

This role requires technical expertise to produce a better end product. While the CIO may use technology to solve problems and achieve a vision, the CTO creates the technology. Often a CTO is customer facing, engaging in technical strategy and product development. (Not internal IT Operations). To put this another way, the CTO is driven by the Top Line and the CIO by the bottom line.

The CIO has emerged as a key role in business as organisations rely so heavily on technology to achieve their objectives, whilst still requiring the expertise and external figure head status provided by that of a CTO. The IT Director” has been asked to step up to the plate in line with IT reliance and its evolvement. They will often take the technology route (CTO) or business/commercial (CIO). The IT Director role itself may not have developed significantly in principle, but as the individuals progress their careers, they may find themselves taking responsibility for either one of the above or even both in smaller organisations.

Chief Digital Officer is the latest in a long line of new C-Level titles to emerge over the last few years. It is born out of organisations’ reliance and focus on utilising digital technology and social media. Rather like a CIO, the CDO is looking at how all areas of an organisation can benefit from Social and Digital strategies, and technologies. This role, then, is now both technical and business focused. As the end result is customer / client facing, they must be both internal and external facing in how they operate from a strategic perspective. But they also need to understand how the organisation can benefit from technology.
The role frequently is transformational and so they are generally responsible for the adoption of digital technologies across the respective business. Consequently, the expertise and understanding of Digital Technology is crucial, but the strategy and communication aspect (Business / Commercial skills) are important. Often the remit of a CDO is to develop and articulate a digital vision and the necessary change or transformation required.

I would therefore say that it is more likely that the CDO role would become part of a CIO position in the future and unless a business operates purely in media, the CDO may be a short lived appointment. Many of the CIO’s I deal with already have responsibility for eCommerce and Digital strategies and unless the scale of a business merits it, I can’t see this changing. The implications for managers coming up through the ranks in IT and in other parts of the business. A company’s success is partly dependent on its leaders ability to understand and recognise just how technology, digital innovation and social media fit into the business. For managers, the challenges is they must direct their careers down either a business focussed or technology biased path, whilst also having an in-depth understanding of both routes and the impact of innovation.

For the smaller organisation, the need for expertise that encompasses all is much greater and this will ultimately cascade down through a company’s technical function and into all areas of the business. Therefore, non IT Managers and leaders will become much more adept and informed regarding technology and digital innovation. What does this tell us about the changing role of ‘digital’ in business – changing perspectives towards it and changing expectations of it. The role of being “digital” for media organisations has always been essential.

At the end of the day it is what they do. However, for all other companies, “digital” is part of the future strategies, to embrace and embed these are essential – not just to thrive but often survive. In order to grow, therefore, businesses need to embrace this as it is vital to their future success. And as it is so important, it becomes part of the vision and strategy of the entire company, driven by the leadership team and not necessarily by a CDO.

Mark Geraghty
Managing Director
Amygdala Search Ltd

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