An interesting article recently came out at CIO Dashboard, entitled “Who’s in Charge of Digital?” The world often presents dramatic business changes that cause questions about C-suite roles and responsibilities. But I'd caution leaders to pay close attention when changes are proposed to executive designations.

Some changes in the C-suite, such as the move to establish Chief Communications Officers or Chief Marketing Officers, can be appropriate. These roles enable more strategic discussion of broad opportunities, as well as more strategic deployment of resources across an enterprise.

However, the notion of creating a Chief Digital Officer designation seems like a step backward in strategic thinking and positioning. In its simplest interpretation, the digital venue is but one of many different realms that professionals seek to integrate into a common communications strategy. Primary communications channels that once could be readily counted on two hands have exploded through the growth, development and maturation of digital technologies.

While the digital space cuts across numerous disciplines beyond marketing - such as customer experience, sales, technology and other areas - slicing key functions into specialty towers goes against the wisdom of having CxO leaders for these disciplines of an organization. Whether a marketing campaign is sent via a digital channel or a through a traditional channel, it should be strategically aligned with broad positioning, messaging and other communications criteria. Whether face-to-face or online, the CCO or CMO should be integrating with other executive leaders to provide the greatest possible leverage to the overall enterprise.

Have an opportunity to integrate sub-disciplines under a single, strategic and powerful C-suite leader? By all means. Reacting to the latest tools by elevating a somewhat… or, completely… tactical function? Be careful not to self-impose a “divide and conquer” approach that could disadvantage your organization.

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