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The rise of the Chief Digital Officer and the collaboration games business and IT play

Successful Chief Digital Officers are building ─ not burning ─ bridges between business and IT

Business and IT are overcoming challenges of the past and crafting their transformation path, as a combined force

 For some time, many businesses have felt that they’re not realizing the appropriate levels of delivery from IT. This has led them to pursue shadow IT opportunities, which create various challenges, such as:

  • increased complexity for the IT team
  • questions regarding the relevance of IT
  • increased contention between the two functions
  • issues relating to the EU General Data Protection Regulation

Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) are leading transformation across the business

The good news is that this dynamic is changing, with the introduction of digital, and the mainstream adoption of the CDO role.

Some 82.4% of organizations have identified a CDO or equivalent as responsible for leading digital transformation.
  Read more @GlobalNTT Tweet this

The CDO is enabling the augmentation and acceleration of digital transformation by bridging the gap between business and IT. This is facilitating sincere engagement between the two functions and enabling more valuable and sustainable IT delivery. This shift has many benefits:

  • IT may continue to work on addressing legacy and new issues that are relevant and add value to the business.
  • Business is starting to recognize that, with the support of IT, they have more time to focus on customers’ expectations and changes in the market, as opposed to pursuing reactive shadow IT.

Hand supporting a laptop icon

Encouragingly, recent research we’ve conducted into this area indicates that the CDO is helping to align and integrate the organization better. According to our recently published NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report:

Some 82.4% of organizations have identified a CDO or equivalent as responsible for leading digital transformation. This is reassuring for three reasons:

  • Firstly, it helps businesses recognize that digital is not something you pursue ‘on the side’ but rather a discipline that needs to be considered holistically.
  • Secondly, it indicates that digital doesn’t rely solely on technology transformation.
  • Thirdly, transformation isn’t being seen as a derivative responsibility of a particular function in the business.

These three facts support the thinking that the CDO function should not be located within IT.

Give your CDO wings

The role of the CDO has increased in relevance and in its ability to bridge the gap between business and IT. By working as one, the organization can define, plan, and execute the appropriate initiatives to meaningfully respond to the market and ensure internal changes are supported. But bear in mind that real value comes from CDOs who are empowered and able to motivate and mobilize change across the organization. Without an appropriate mandate and ability to execute, the CDO can’t be expected to accelerate thinking and drive embedded holistic change in behaviour.

Many organizations find it challenging to provide adequate resources and support to the CDO function. Some 23.3% of respondents recognize there’s a lack of digital skills and expertise in required areas. This support is essential to drive a systemic way of thinking, address problems, and effect non-technology centric change. The digital transformation budget allocated to the CDO function is also an area of concern. Failing to resolve this issue will render the CDO unable to drive the right level of investment against the correct, high-return initiatives.

Some 42.3% of respondents say business and IT are planning in a more integrated manner with the introduction of
  the CDO function. Read more @GlobalNTT Tweet this

While these developments are encouraging, and digital transformation is now widely accepted as being ‘more than just about IT’, our research reveals that:

  • Only 28.6% of organizations are embracing digital transformation as a collaborative effort between business and IT.
  • Almost half (49.0%) of digital transformation projects are still IT-led.
  • Some 42.3% of respondents say business and IT are planning in a more integrated manner with the introduction of the CDO function. However, only 13.7% of respondents say that planning is flowing effectively through to execution.

My top 2 recommendations for realizing compelling and complementary value from the CDO, business, and IT

  • Set the CDO up for success

    Without an appropriate mandate, budget, and ability to execute, the CDO can’t be expected to accelerate thinking and drive embedded holistic behavioural change.

    Be realistic regarding what the CDO should achieve and the time it will take to change entrenched habits and ways of thinking within the organization.

  • Let customers determine priorities

    Bringing the customer into the transformation process, that’s led by the CDO function, fosters better collaboration and removes siloed thinking which helps to drive holistic and relevant solutions. It will enable business and IT to collaborate better to deliver these customer needs. Remember, customers don’t care if it’s business or IT delivering the value, they just care about enjoying an experience that’s delivered consistently and seamlessly at every touchpoint.

Finger pressing a button icon

Therefore, I suggest that leaders bring the wise wordsi of Helen Kellerii to bear within their organizations and its various functions: ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’

If you’re interested in finding out more about our research and opinions on this topic, download the Executive Guide to the NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report.

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i https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/collaboration
ii Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

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Hayden Lamberti

Hayden Lamberti

Digital Strategist: Digital Advisory, NTT Ltd.

Hayden loves observing human behaviour and how it is changing in the world around us. He is passionate about change and aligning people to deliver differentiation through customer-centricity in organizations.

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