Rise in Digital Spend Shakes Executive Tree

May 16th, 2013

By now most people have heard about Gartner’s prediction that by 2017, the CMO will be spending more on technology than the CIO. This is truly a significant statistic that speaks volumes to the evolving roles of both the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Information Officer.  However, Gartner offers up a different story in the CMO/CIO tale, one that could be the result of such a drastic shift in digital spend: the Chief Digital Officer.

Due to the growing need to digitize all business functions, a new CXO has been born. Gartner also predicts that “by 2015, 25 percent of organizations will have a Chief Digital Officer.” What role will this new executive play? According to Russell Reynolds Associates, a leading global executive search and assessment firm, “CDOs will be the executives with the operating experience, management skills, strategic mindset and vision to lead businesses in an increasingly technological future.” This person is not only responsible for the driving revenue growth, but also for transforming the company (and all of its business units) into a seamlessly operating digital machine.

So, how does this affect marketing leaders? In the words of Scott Brinker, Author of Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, CDOs are truly just “hybrid marketing- technology change agents at the right hand of the CEO.” Brinker continues, “The mission of the CDO is to understand and connect with the organization’s modern customer”—not a far battle cry from that of a CMO. Rather than the CDO and CMO sitting distinctly side-by-side, it is not too far of a stretch to assume that these roles are going to overlap. In many instances, it could be a digitally savvy CMO who steps up to play the role of Chief Digital Officer.

According to Brinker, the “ideal scenario” would have the CDO and the CMO under the same corporate umbrella forcing one to report into the other. The inherent goals of these two roles are too closely aligned.  The CDO role and the CMO role with have to carefully operate together or morph into one. As Brinker writes, “When it comes to understanding and connecting with the modern customer, that leader can be either the CMO or the CDO — but it’s harder for it to be both.”

No matter what new structure the executive tree takes, it is clear there will be significant changes ahead for the goals and operations of the CMO. The digital revolution has already begun, and it will continue to evolve the daily operations of successful companies and their marketing departments. The solution lies in adapting and moving forward with the digital shift. Those who become lax with the change will surely fall behind.