Keeping C-level positions straight has always been somewhat difficult — with the past decade’s addition of several new tech-related C-level spots, differentiating between them has become an even bigger and more important task.
Hovering around the obvious CEO, COO, and CFO spots is a whole new line of commander-in-chiefs, but rather than overseeing overall business strategy, these roles are steering the increasingly-elaborate data and tech operations of the world’s biggest firms.
Though there’s no doubt that these tech-focused positions can and should overlap, an understanding of their varying roles and responsibilities is critical for companies that want to successfully divide and conquer their (hopefully) expanding technological operations.
The Traditional Players
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re looking at the engagement between the CTO (Chief Technology Officer), the CIO (Chief Information Officer), the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) and, the other CDO (Chief Data Officer).
Each and every one of these roles will vary, of course, depending on the company’s product and business model — and some larger firms may boast all five of these roles, while some may pack the responsibility into just two or three.
First, let’s look at the CTO and the CIO — the two positions most often conflated. A CIO is the go-to commander and problem solver for a company’s existing technologies, responsible for making sure the company is consistently adapting to new and necessary tech and IT products — software or hardware.
The CTO’s focus, on the other hand, is on identifying and implementing new technologies, and it’s the more externally-driven of the two roles — the CTO wants to make sure the customers and clients are on the receiving end of the highest-quality and most efficient technology possible.
To completely oversimplify it, a CTO handles external operations and improvements, while a CIO’s focus is largely internal.
On to the next and most easily differentiable role — the CMO. Often referred to as a company’s informative “nexus,” the CMO’s responsibilities span from sales to product development to marketing, and even all the way to customer service.
As this marketing-driven nexus, a CMO must work closely with other C-level employees to make sure that the marketing sector is utilizing the most up-to-date technologies and strategies to promote their product or brand to the world.
Digital vs. Data
The last two roles — Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer — not only share an acronym, but some responsibilities. As you might expect, a data officer extracts and analyzes data to inform a company’s business strategy — they must know how to gather information and, more importantly, they must know how to effectively use it to improve a business.
The Chief Digital Officer, on the other hand, is a role that’s appearing more frequently and, in turn, becoming increasingly essential. In the most general sense, the digital officer oversees data assets with a marketing- and technology-sensitive eye.
In many ways a fruitful combination of the CIO, CTO, and CMO (and also, perhaps, their successor, according to Znet), a CDO’s job is to constantly reshape a company’s structure and strategies to ensure that it’s taking advantage of any and every new technology or data-driven service.
A CDO must take social and mobile into account as much as any traditional business model, focusing on reinvention and innovation as often as humanly possible.
The Common Goal
These slight differences in roles and responsibilities aside, keep in mind that most of these jobs are working towards a greater common goal — using tech to better business.
Although some positions are certainly more data-driven while others are more geared towards marketing, the point is that companies are now increasingly allotting C-level roles to people who know how to seamlessly incorporate technology into a business’ overall strategy and daily operations.
The fact is, many of these positions didn’t exist a decade or two ago, and the CDO is becoming an increasingly sought-after title — more and more, former CDOs are being appointed to CEO spots thanks to their tech-specific expertise.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call the position — what’s in a name, after all? What matters is that your company devotes the necessary resources to hiring, training, and capitalizing on C-level digital experts.
As the business world continues to spin on a data-tilted axis, making the move from conventional business models to tech-driven ones is more important than ever. And what’s most important is that all of these positions — and these people — are on the same page, working together to develop a cohesive, “360-degree” approach to business — no matter their technical titles.