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More and more companies are using a member of the directorate or the management to prepare themselves for the future. Under the label "Chief Digital Officer", they are supposed to help overcoming the hurdles of digital transformation. In other companies, a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) takes the role. In the latter two cases, the profile is highly technical, while in the case of a CDO, the requirement profile is already vague. The industry association bitkom talks about this position as a symbiosis of commercial and IT know-how.

Sounds great. But it’s not thought through!

What is the desired effect: These “Merlins” are supposed to initiate change processes and to have an effect on the organization. So, I do not need a technology driven ex-admin nor a visionary digital evangelist to announce his private version of the story of creation! Because the target of these change processes is the customer, as well as success in a changing market!

In order to bring speed and agility, two prerequisites for a successful digital transformation, into the company organization, we have to talk about changing information flows and fields of action. We are speaking about fault tolerance - an eminently important prerequisite for innovation. We must question familiar hierarchies and authorities. Orders by the superior often do not mix with swarm intelligence...
All these are "discursive" tasks. Primarily, the sought-after person must take the employees and departments with him/her and create a willingness to change from the (by all means justified) fears. Then, in the next step, he or she can draw on the opportunities for change - with the knowledge and ideas of the employees. In other words, in exchange with the available resources and their expertise.

What skills should such a CDO (or whatever the poor person's name is) have?

Communicative - in the sense of listening and moderating! Consulting competence - and yes, that also means bringing along technical understanding and knowing which innovations and approaches exist.

Self-conception as an interface - no organization needs an "external know-it-all".

In this way, a strategy for digitalization can be developed that is accepted and supported by the company.

There is one insight from the still short phase of existence of the CDO, proven by several studies: The most important stumbling block for the CDO's successful operation are - in addition to his/ her lack of decision-making authority - the company's values and working culture.

Don't take a classic marketeer, embossed by Push

Don't take a distributor on the hunt for new sales targets

Don't take an IT professional, because technology is not the solution.

It's communication. In the company and in the market.


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