I’ve seen a lot of discussion around Digital Transformation and who owns it. In fact it started with discussions around MarTech and was highlighted by Scott Brinker. He called out the concept of the Chief Marketing Technology Officer illustrating a gap that existed between traditional roles in organizations that would own and drive the change stemming from a shift to Digital.

So this disruption has been going on for some time and people are battling for who should own it. Is it the CMO? Digital is really just technology so is it the CIO? There was the comment from Gil Press and an article he wrote for Forbes called Digital Marketing Battlefield Map: CMO vs. CIO:

“I think the looming war is all a made-up tempest in the digital deluge. All corners of the organization, not just marketing, are impacted by the data avalanche and all activities, from engineering to manufacturing to sales and will continue to be re-shaped by digitization.”

Let’s not also forget the great Twitter battle between Vala Afshar and Esteban Kolsky back in 2014. Vala, the Chief Digital Strategist at Salesforce, exchanged perspectives on who would reign over Digital, and by association likely drive much of the Transformation from it. Vala was pointing towards the CMO but Esteban, a former Gartner Analyst, clearly pushed the CIO. You can see Scott’s breakdown here.

The most recent comments that ultimately drove me to share some thoughts came from a comment made by Oracle’s Director of Strategic Communications Michael Hickens. His tweet simply stated “CIOs are the obvious candidates to evangelize and implement digital business.” Obviously some corporate self serving direction there but Accenture’s CIO, Andrew Wilson retweeted it which is how I picked it up…and here we are…

I think we have to stop thinking about Digital and the Transformation in terms of a role. Digital is not a P&L. Transformation is not an Organization. Neither are a role and there is no prescription or pattern that applies. It’s disruptive. Everyone agrees with change but no one wants to change or lead it.

comic change

So let’s stop saying that it’s the CIO or the CMO. Maybe instead of your title it’s your belief system that is key. Maybe it’s your ability to bring the organization together and really be a change agent. Maybe it’s about the customer and that obsession might expose that everyone might own it. Maybe we should do a RACI model so you create clarity in your organization. Maybe we should understand Digital Transformation is as much about Organizational Change and Change Management as it is Digital {Marketing or Technology}. Are those owned by a CIO or CMO? Maybe if you say things like “we have always done it this way” you shouldn’t get to be considered for Digital Transformation regardless of your title. Maybe our P&L structures impede our ability to truly change, to be digital, to be customer obsessed in a new age of constant disruptive events.

We all agree Digital Transformation is here and here to stay. But PLEASE stop claiming that it’s the CIO or the CMO that owns it. It’s the person that can lead the change, brings a Design Thinking sensibility and a Lean Startup acumen to the table. And OH BY THE WAY that doesn’t mean we just create a new title like Chief Digital Officer and that makes the individual the right person either!

P.S. My own personal belief is that we all own Digital and thus Transformation. So keep in mind that Transformed people Transform People, Teams, Organizations.

End of soapbox…back to my Starbucks and oatmeal.

Quisitive – A Digital Transformation Company