C-suite redesign, in our times, is unavoidable. The present Business environment is full of increasing complexity and disruptions. It is apparent that running a Modern Business of a significant size, exceeds the capabilities of even the most gifted CEO. A number of solutions have been proposed, among which is the increase of the members of the C-suite.
While one or two additions may be necessary, one of the main strengths of a C-suite is that it should be small, therefore agile, to face the many disruptions and other emerging challenges of the Business environment.
The basic composition of the C-suite is the CEO, COO, CFO, CMO.
The job titles’ inflation tendency must be resisted, so that command authority will not be diluted. There is no reason for other Corporate/Company posts to be given the title Chief.
The title Senior Director, Corporate Director, Vice-President are more than adequate to cover the rest of the executive functions.
However, one addition to the C-suite is justified. This field is, Data and Data manipulation, a result of the ongoing technological revolution.
This is the start of a fundamental development, correctly perceived as a new beginning, having similar to the Industrial Revolution impact on the World Economy.
Digital mastery is a prerequisite to prosper in the digital era, when technologies such as data mining, analytics, IoT and artificial intelligence – non tangible production know-how – will determine tomorrow’s winners.
The data driven Economy is only at its early stages but the speed with which is developing, is leaving behind a lot of Companies. Most Companies’ Leadership understand, Strategically, the need for transformation to data driven ones, as the only way to stay in business. Yet, they have difficulty in the Tactics and the Methodology of the application.
There is a multitude of new digital technologies to be adopted and assimilated inside a Company, in order to process, marketing and sales data, tracking data like IoT, Blockchain and AI.
All these tools improve the recognition of new business opportunities, as well as, boost operational efficiency all the way from Customer Service to Supply Chain and most of all support Business decision making faster with better accuracy of, data based, predictions.
Most C-suite members are in their 40’s and 50’s. Their knowledge of data technology and use is often uncertain, erratic or minimal.
The people that have this knowledge are often, lower in a Company’s hierarchy. In consequence, they have neither the authority or responsibility for Strategic decision making, nor the broader business exposure and valuable entrepreneurial understanding, which is necessary for a member of the C-suite.
The Digital Science changes every three months. It is obvious that additional knowledge must be incorporated in the C-suite.
Before a decision is made as to Who is to be added in the C-suite, as well as, the relevant job description, it is necessary to understand the following thought sequence:
- Data in itself, is of no value.
- Processed data becomes Information.
- Processed Information becomes Knowledge.
- Processed Knowledge becomes Understanding.
- Understanding is the basis of Decision Making.
Therefore, data-based decision making is a long process, where data is necessary but it is only the beginning.
Uncertainty is a major factor that hinders decision making.
The enlightened top executives, process Information, turning it into Knowledge and Understanding, hence improving decision making by spinning uncertainty within acceptable risk parameters.
The main function of any C-suite executive is the formation of Strategy and the follow up of the Tactics emanating from this Strategy.
That is, any members of the C-suite are principally contributing to the formation of the Business Strategy. For instance, a CFO is not a CFO because he/she is a good accountant or a good number cruncher. The CFO deserves the title only when he/she shapes successfully the Financial Strategy of the Company.
The new addition, required in the C-suite, is that executive who can develop and implement a Strategy to harvest and turn data into Understanding on which decisions can be made.
Two titles and job descriptions come close to this requirement:
- Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a C-level executive who is in charge of information technology (IT) strategy and the computer systems required to support an organization’s unique objectives and goals
- Chief Data Officer (CDO) is a C-level corporate executive who is responsible for an organization’s data governance. The CDO position is related to, but separate from, the job of the chief information officer (CIO).
Here exactly lies the core of the problem. Data governance is not an end in itself and neither is IT Strategy. None of the two, answers the basic current need of today’s Enterprise i.e. Digital Transformation.
What is required, is an executive with deep digital knowledge combined with a keen business acumen, who can cooperate & shape, with the rest of the C-Team, the Digital Transformation Strategy. This transformation will create new digital wealth. It will cover the whole business spectrum, so as to base C-suite decisions in a heuristic form.
The inclusion of this executive in the C-suite, will digitally transform the Enterprise and substantiate the value of the digital transformation.
The correct title for this executive is Chief Digital Officer (CDiO).
This executive must incorporate, to a great extent, the capabilities of both the CIO and the CDO.
The reason is simple. A Strategic decision taken by the C-suite, with regards to the digital transformation of a Company, fails in application due to either a combination of lack of relevant digital knowledge and crossed lines or inadequate command capability on digital issues, in the highest levels of the Corporate hierarchy.
The essential problem of digitalization is not technical.
It is Lack of digital knowledge understanding & digital decision-making capability at the top.
Digital transformation project failure rates, have been shown to be up to 84%. Cisco claims that as many as 60% of internet of things (IoT) initiatives get stuck at the proof-of-concept stage.
Successful, Digital Transformation, needs a strategically holistic approach and a tactically articulated one. Objectives must be set, successively, to be achieved on a linked step by step execution.
The classic mistake is to digitalize without a digital integration Methodology and Roadmap.
The digital transformation initiative must be led knowledgeably, by the C-suite.
This can only be achieved based on the knowledge and authority of a Chief Digital Officer equipped with sound business fundamentals. Such a person is difficult to find and introduce in the C-suite. Available relevant executives are not necessarily C-suite ready. It is though worth the effort to find and develop such an executive.
In the future the most suitable person will be a COO with deep digital knowledge. But this is for the next C-suite generation.