The idea that job titles are often given for the sake of giving job titles is not new. Giving complex names to simple jobs has been ammunition for satirical media for a long time and for many the Chief Digital Officer falls under this bracket.
However, it will ultimately be the companies who ignore these satirists who will have the last laugh.
This is because in modern businesses this role is often vital, especially in companies who have diverse and complex digital offerings.
There are websites, apps, a myriad of devices, millions of technologies and even new social networks that can have a major impact on your company, how do you deal with them?
This is where the Chief Digital Officer comes in, not simply to have a fancy job title and abstract responsibilities, but instead to oversee the use of digital technologies for the continuing growth of the company.
It could be claimed that departments who initially use the technology or new digital product could oversee its use, but ultimately this means that new digital offerings are compartmentalized and potentially not being used to their full capabilities. Take Twitter for example, which would initially have been in the marketing function before it became clear that it has a use across almost every area of the company. If the marketing department alone had been in charge of this, the chances are that it would not be being used to its dull capabilities.
It is also important to have somebody with authority who could have the ultimate say on whether or not a new technology or digital product should be adopted, who should use it and when they should stop. In order to do this they need to have both an understanding of the technology and the business uses for it. Understanding of one but not the other could create problems moving forwards as too much weight on technology could see adoption of an exciting but non-business friendly technology and too much on business could see the potential of technologies in future missed.
Sitting in the middle ground between these two mindsets a Chief Digital Officer has the ability to adopt or reject based on a balanced view of both the technological and business problems that can be solved.
There is also the concept of digital itself, which is something that many companies don’t understand.
As soon as you have a social media account, website and app, many believe that they have a digitally led company. The truth is that this is not the case. Being a digitally led company has significant benefits, but having a nice website and an app that people like is simply an add on to the existing company culture.
A Chief Digital Officer has the responsibility of making sure that the transition from traditional company to digitally led company is done smoothly and properly. It will lead to a significant reduction in problems during the change and will also allow your company to be more effective when it does implement these new changes.
The transition will also not just be a move from one way of thinking to another. The digital world, by definition, is fluid and constantly evolving, which means that to make sure that a company can take advantage of it they will need to be the same. Having somebody who has responsibility over this ongoing transition is going to be key to knowing what needs to be changed and how it should be done.