Is the CDO a Real Threat to the CIO's Role?

By Marc J. Schiller  |  Posted 07-29-2014 Print Email

Instead of grabbing a new title like Chief Digital Officer, strengthen your current role as CIO and make it more meaningful and influential in your organization.


Let's Keep a Sense of Perspective

But before we get swept away in all the excitement, let’s maintain three key points of perspective:

1.    You already own your organization’s digital functions. As CIO, all things digital are already in your purvey right now. So your organization wants to digitize its business processes? Great—make it happen! Nothing’s stopping you. Don’t hold yourself back just because of some cool new name that’s getting tossed around out there.

2.    Today’s sexy digital systems are tomorrow’s boring infrastructure. Once implemented, all these nifty new digital systems will be absorbed into the server farms and become another invisible part of the business’ infrastructure. Soon enough your users will only care about these new digital systems when they aren’t working correctly. Don’t think so? Where is your once-hot Website staff sitting right now?

3.    Crafting digital products and services isn’t what internal tech leaders are supposed to do—and there’s nothing wrong with that. If the products people came to you and wanted a sophisticated digital wrapper product, there’s a good chance you won’t know what to do. No matter how much you might want to be the guy that is capable of developing cool, new iPhone apps and embedded systems, it simply may be out of your technical capabilities. After all, it may be pure R&D software development. And that’s not your job. 

I know you probably want to personally solve every tech-related concern in the company, but it just isn’t always going to be you. And that’s fine. Because it doesn’t—not for one moment—take away from the critical role of a Chief Information Officer.

And What Is That Role Exactly?

Being the Chief Information Officer is a huge job, the full breadth of which is embedded right there in the definition of “information” itself—facts, figures, understanding and insight. More specifically,

Informationthe communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence, obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.

Now compare that with the definition of digital:

Digital: of, relating to, or being data in the form of binary digits.

Which do you want to be—the chief of the digits or chief of the information?

So, instead of picking up a new title (and perhaps inviting even more political conflict), it’s better to bolster and strengthen what you have now and make the role of Chief Information Officer more meaningful and influential in your organization.

About the Author

Marc J. Schiller has spent more than two decades teaching IT strategy and leadership to the world’s top companies. Through online courses, speaking engagements and corporate consulting, his company educates IT pros at all levels on how to be more effective, influential and successful in their IT careers. Get access to free videos and an excerpt from his book, The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders, at

To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Blueprint, Prototype or Pilot: Which Is Right?", click here.


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