What attributes does a shared CDO need?

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After a brief hiatus, here’s another post on the idea of the shared chief digital officer. The others are here.

So, what does a shared CDO look and sound like?

Firstly, perhaps it’s a good idea to say what the shared CDO is not – and that is just a rebranded CIO, or chief information officer. The role of CDO is not an IT position. Instead, it is a strategic role where end user needs and the objectives of the organisation are aligned.

So, what are the things we should look for in a good, shared CDO?

  • people and outcome focused – and definitely not solution focused. The CDO must be totally bought into what the organisations want to achieve for their people, as well as a focus on the needs of those people themselves. This should be what drives the design of the solutions, rather than picking tools first.
  • influence and persuasion – hugely important will be the ability to be able to convince senior people across the organisation and those in political roles of the importance of digital, especially in terms of the new ways of working, focusing on user needs with agile methods
  • strategic – the CDO has to be able to take a strategic view, freeing up practitioners to get on with what they do best whilst providing the vision so everybody knows where they are headed
  • great communication – being able to communicate what can be complex issues and technical issues to different audiences is key. Being able to come up with a narrative that will bring different groups on board with transformation activity is a key skill
  • networked – a shared CDO needs access to a large network, in terms of finding support and advice, examples of good work elsewhere and so on. Equally, having a network of suppliers in the form of SMEs and freelancers will be vital in filling in gaps in capability on the team
  • open – the shared nature of the position means that the CDO cannot be anything other than open in the way they work. This means not seeking credit, but ensuring that the delivery of outcomes alone will be the evidence needed that the role is being done effectively. Sharing knowledge, experience, tools and processes openly will help embed them in the organisations the CDO works with
  • technical understanding – whilst the CDO is not a technical role, having an understanding of how the mechanics of the web and other technology works is really important. This will help keep those delivering technology on board, as they trust that the CDO knows what they are talking about, and will also give others confidence in the CDO’s ability to deliver
  • team-building – as mentioned several times in my recent post on digital innovation, building the digital transformation team is a key role for the CDO. This requires the right skills to do so – a collaborative attitude, the ability to get people to buy into a vision and to provide just enough leadership to motivate people without getting in their way
  • thorough understanding of and commitment to user centred design and agile – a bit wordy, but these two things are absolutely vital to the CDO role. They are, in a way, what separates digital from other ways of working. Not only must the CDO be totally fluent when it comes to user focus and agile, they must truly believe in it. Anyone pretending will be found out pretty soon.

That’s my list. I’d be interested to hear what others might add, or indeed take out.

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Dave Briggs

I'm an experienced senior manager in digital and ICT, looking for interim engagements to modernise technology teams to help organisations transform.