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Management Strategies

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Rob Preston
Rob Preston
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CDOs Replace CIOs? I'm Not Buying It

Marketing-minded chief digital officers aren't technical enough to lead the changes that companies need to make.

There's nothing like a provocative analyst prediction to get people talking. Several years ago, it was Gartner's prediction that marketing organizations will outspend IT organizations on technology by 2017. Not to be outdone, the provocateurs at IDC last week weighed in with their own headline-grabber: By 2020, chief digital officers (CDOs) will "supplant" 60% of CIOs at global companies "for the delivery of IT-enabled products and digital services."

In other words, most CIOs -- if the position still exists at their companies in five years -- will be relegated mostly to managing and securing infrastructure and applications, according to the IDC prediction, one of 10 that the research firm laid out as 2014 comes to a close. CDOs, meantime, will take on the more strategic (and fun) role of applying digital technologies -- mobile, cloud, analytics, social, robotics -- to boost revenue, maximize profits, and delight customers. CIOs = back office. CDOs = front office. It's 1989 all over again.

Here's my prediction: By 2020, chief digital officers will be yesterday's fad, joining the ranks of chief innovation, learning, and culture officers. Sure, a handful of them will still exist, but the CIO -- customer-focused and product-savvy -- will drive the corporate digital agenda in partnership with CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, and other business leaders. CIOs won't go back to being order-takers. "What good CIO would let that happen?" says Cathy Bessant, head of Bank of America's 100,000-person Global Technology and Operations unit, which includes six or seven CIOs.

[Read the Rest on InformationWeek]

Rob Preston currently serves as VP and editor in chief of InformationWeek, where he oversees the editorial content and direction of its various website, digital magazine, Webcast, live and virtual event, and other products. Rob has 25 years of experience in high-tech ... View Full Bio

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