Do not envy your Chief Digital Officer

25 juli 2018

Door Marco Gianotten

The nasty side of disruption isn’t sexy

Seriously, did your board install a Chief Digital Officer to emphasize the digital transformation of its business model? Poor bastard! Digital disruption equals creative destruction: the new destroys the old. Try to picture a freshly installed Chief Digital Officer who has to attack a current business model of his new employer. Guess who wins, with trigger-happy shareholders breathing down the CEO’s neck: the Chief Digital Officer or the powers that be?  

A true CDO has to take the high road. Forget the sexiness of ‘digital’ in the job title. A CDO is the explorer of uncharted territories. The job description should resemble the mythical ad by Ernest Shackleton to enroll a crew for his Antarctica expedition: “Men wanted for  hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”  

The whole point is that it’s stupid to expect one man or woman to shift a business model while the others are dismissed. Disruption is pushing the old out. Sometimes that old is an IT system, but sometimes it’s an outdated business model. Disruption hurts like hell. 

Presenting a CDO as a peace-sign to the shareholders, giving them the impression that something is going to be done about the danger of digital disruption, it’s just a fig leaf. When CFOs have skin in the game and accept that sacrifices have to be made, it’s for real. When CEOs ‘walks the talk’ by confronting shareholders with the brut reality of the change ahead, it’s for real. Only in such an environment will a CDO not be the next ‘Don Quixote’.