“You’re a Chief Digital Officer? So what is it you do, exactly?”

Cristina Pizzagalli

September 22, 2016


A POV of Jennifer Bell, Digital & Social Media Director, Cogeco Peer 1

I hear that question a lot.

It’s understandable, because the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is relatively new to the business world. The position was introduced less than 10 years ago, and has only really grown in popularity within the past three or four years.

Still, there really isn’t a short answer to the question, because the role of CDO is a true hybrid one. Broadly speaking, it sits astride two core areas: Marketing and IT.

Perhaps the best way to describe my role is that I’m responsible for how we bring our brand and the customer experience to life. All the vehicles I manage are digital. And all those vehicles lead to destinations that are specific, measurable business goals.

A website, for example, needs ongoing and repeat customer engagement. A social post needs to be monitored to help determine customer opinion. A live chat line needs to be answered in real time.

To compete effectively today, businesses must actively work within the digital space. Digital is a must-have, not a nice-to-have. It’s no longer a subset of, or a footnote to, a broader business strategy: it is the strategy itself.

A CDO is unique in that they solve entirely for the customer experience, with a view to drive revenue for the business. To achieve this, the CDO oversees the technology, ensuring all protocols, security measures, and mechanisms are in place. A CDO looks at the “how”, while Marketing and IT look at the “what”.

Very often, a customer’s first interaction with a company is digital. They go to the company’s website first. The website, in essence, is the company’s brand. It represents the company’s promise to the customer.

So, to help ensure a positive customer experience, monitoring online behavior is paramount. At the same time, it’s essential to create a platform that is engaging and worthwhile to the customer.

As the head of digital, I find a big part of what I do is acting as a bridge between Marketing and IT, with an eye on what’s best for the customer, and what’s going to lead to a sale. So, Marketing and IT each informs the other in the digital world, and each is inextricably linked to the other.

Everything is super-fast in a digital world. Everything can change in a flash. Change, in fact, is the nature of the beast. Digital enables us to react to the market almost instantly, because we can see how it’s performing almost instantly.

Recently, I heard, “Doesn’t ‘CDO’ really stand for ‘Chief Disruption Officer’?”

In a way, they had point.

Digital is transformational. It’s kinetic. It’s dynamic. It’s changing the way every business performs and how every customer behaves. It’s also constantly evolving – but more on that, next time.

Coming soon: Where is the role of CDO going next?

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