Why Your Business Needs a Chief Digital Officer.

The phone rings. “Hello? Hi, Grandma. You did? Great! See, I told you that you could do it. Now attach the photos to the email and send the pictures of your new apartment to your friends, and send them to me, too, so I can see. Wonderful! Love you, too, Grandma.” A few minutes later, my phone vibrates. I check my email and let out a big sigh. My 82-year-old Italian grandmother’s attempt to use her iPad to take pictures of her new apartment has resulted in dozens of close-up selfies.

I have since taught my grandmother not to press the button that switches from the back camera to the front. I’m proud that she has taken the steps to acclimate herself to a technology that even young people struggle with at times.

Experiencing technology overload.
Why the anecdote about Grandma? Well, because despite the numerous benefits, the fact is clear – with so many emerging technologies, no matter your age, you can be overwhelmed. Technology is not slowing down – with smart watches, virtual reality, robots (the Terminator kind), hover boards (the Back to the Future kind), and who can guess what’s next around the corner. It’s human nature to continue pushing the technology envelope, regardless of whether you’re ready to embrace it or not.

This feeling of technology overload can become even more magnified in a work environment. Employees can be frustrated and struggle to keep up with the latest trends. Competition is pushing businesses in all industries to be more efficient and provide a better service or product, often using technology. This is nothing new; just think back to the days of lemonade stands, when the kid down the street would bust out a juicer. But it’s important to make sure employees are comfortable with new technology, as they can’t be easily replaced since they bring expertise in other areas, as well as institutional knowledge that is priceless.

What can a business do?
That’s the key question. What can a business do to keep their technology acumen sharp while empowering employees to embrace it? The answer is to hire a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to champion the ongoing digital evolution.

What’s a CDO, you ask? A CDO is an individual who helps a company drive growth by converting traditional “analog” businesses to digital ones. A CDO also oversees operations in rapidly changing digital sectors like mobile applications, social media and related applications, virtual goods, as well as “wild” web-based information management and marketing.1 Since a CDO works with all areas of a business, he or she can create and foster great relationships with employees by sharing understanding of digital tools and tactics available to a business.

Three characteristics of an effective Chief Digital Officer.
For a CDO to be successful, he or she should possess some key characteristics beyond a passion for technology and digital media. (Because we’re not just working with robots here.) So, here they are in no particular order.

Be a humble mentor. Nobody likes the arrogant technologist who makes others feel inadequate. (Nobody likes arrogant people period.) And a company doesn’t need a CDO who pretends to know about technology, but makes wrong decisions. This person needs to be transparent about what they know and what they still need to learn. They must be able to understand that there are other skills outside of technology that people bring to the table. An effective CDO must provide a nurturing environment where people feel safe to ask questions and learn at their own pace, without feeling they will be judged.

Be a lifelong learner. A good CDO knows that they will never stop learning because technology will never stop moving forward. Therefore, it’s a priority to learn about all technologies – past, current, and emerging – that can impact a business. He or she must make this learning part of the corporate culture by getting everybody involved. A CDO may lead webinars or send out information on a regular basis. Not everyone needs to become an expert, but employees should be made to feel comfortable with and open to understanding how technology can be put into practice.

Be a careful listener. There is a saying, “If you enter a room thinking that you are the smartest, you will come out the dumbest.” A good CDO should never think that their wisdom trumps the expertise of others. He or she must be open-minded and listen to folks with different talents. This allows a CDO to access expertise from a variety of areas, and apply digital knowledge to other areas.

CDO ASAP.
It’s important to invest in the future of a business, and that includes making sure a CDO is on your team. This person can help your business and employees ride the wave of upcoming digital trends. This ensures your business can compete in the future rather than being a page in the past.

1 Chief Digital Officer is the next hot executive title, says Gartner, Betanews.com

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