In the media crush around digital transformation, much has been said about the rise of the Chief Digital Officer. A Constellation Research Report describes the importance and role of CDOs as being critical to:

  • Designing new experiences and business models
  • Developing a digital culture
  • Applying new technologies to existing infrastructure
  • Moving from gut- to data-driven decisions

The Chief Digital Officers who can best fulfill these first four roles often emerge from the CIO position, given the usefulness of technical leadership skills in these initiatives. In fact, Scott Anthony, recently asserted in the HBR that anyone leading digital transformation should invest time in learning to code because that first-hand knowledge drives better decision-making, problem solving and discussions with vendors.

We would assert that at least as important as discussions with vendors are discussions with potential partners because, to us, the greatest leverage and value is to be gained by the the fifth and final role of the Chief Digital Officer as explained by Constellation:

  • Co-creating and co-innovating with new partners

At first, having a CDO being a business development executive seems like a skill mis-match. Working with new partners requires creative strategic and technical thinking, risk taking balanced with legal and risk mitigation approaches as well as an agile/fast-fail orientation. These skills are not often top of the list for typical IT executives. But, it is exactly these skills that IT professionals who seek to become Chief Digital Officer need to urgently develop and/or ally themselves with. Because they probably already know how to code, ascendant CIOs need to work quickly to develop the business leadership skills required to seize the digital leadership role in their organizations.

It makes sense to start structuring new partnerships via digital business networks, like Ariba, because these are clear business cases that are cross departmental and rely on core CIO contributions around data, process design, intellectual property and change management.

As the CIO becomes the de facto Chief Digital Partnering Officer he can extend his leadership across all business units as the digital partnering platform becomes the enabler of business processes enterprise wide, but more importantly, the conduit for information about the business ecosystem that allows companies to create new IP and maintain advantage.

assists leadership in seizing the digital advantage, including assisting CIOs in strategizing the digital transformation of their organizations.