Chief Digital Officer – Improving scope of digital marketing in India

There are new job profiles coming up every year in the space of digital marketing. 2013 witnessed a new job profile emerging globally – Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT).

We at TechShu have always believed in the importance of getting someone on board who understands Marketing + Technology.  Digital marketing is a mix of digital and marketing; true innovations are not possible if you don’t understand the technical possibilities.

At TechShu, Ogilvy’s ad mantra and high end website architecture are celebrated equally. In 2013, as per Gartner, 70% of companies have a CMT.

After CMT, it seems it’s Chief Digital Officer (CDO) time. Brand Equity’s article on CDO published a couple of days back details why Indian companies thinking big digitally should consider hiring for the position. The article quotes a Gartner study in the US which predicted that by 2015, 25 per cent of organisations will have a chief digital officer.

However, in India the companies are still skeptic – some think that it’s the CMO who should drive the digital strategies and innovations. The article quoted Deepika Warrier, vice president – Po1 (Power of 1) marketing, PepsiCo India, as saying that digital at this stage needs to be incubated by the CMO as it requires focused mentoring to build interactions with other business functions. Their team is led by Rishi Dogra, who along with the digital mandate is involved with a unique concept called Pepsi Labs.

He works with co-creators incubating, experimenting and testing new content ideas. PepsiCo claims to have doubled its digital budget from last year.

 Jasmin Sohrabji, CEO India and South East Asia, OmnicomMediaGroup, however, is convinced about the case for a CDO. The reason it hasn’t happened thus far is due to scale and scope.

Even among the more digital aware, spends hover at about 10 per cent, offering little or less than threshold scale.

As focus (and spends) move to digital platforms, the relevance for a CDO will come into play, she feels. As online advertising market in India is expected to touch Rs 7,000 crore by 2015 and companies amping up their digital spend – the case of CDO is indeed a strong one.

Globally organizations as diverse as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Harvard University, BBC Worlwide have hired the services of a Chief Digital Officer.  The succesful Chief Digital Officer Summit  held in New York City on February 28, 2013, the panel discussion at the 2013 Adobe Summit on the question of “who owns what” in the C-suite between the CIO and CMO – all pointing to one thing that the CDO trend is defininitely a positive one.  

So, What Does A CDO Do? 

A recent Gartner poll of executive search experts found that “the uncertainity over what’s expected of a CDO results in flawed searches for these digital leaders.” The problem is that the organizations are still not clear about the responsibilities of a CDO.   

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, George Westerman, MIT Center for Digital Business research scientist, said that digital is currently “a cacophony of disconnected, inconsistent, and sometimes incompatible activities” in many organisations, and the role of CDO is to unify the discordant sounds “into a symphony”.

“The title CDO may or may not become permanent in your company. But the responsibilities of the CDO will be required,” Westerman stated.

“You may appoint a temporary CDO to get your house in order, or you may develop other ways to get the job done. Whatever approach you choose, you need to create appropriate levels of digital technology synergy, brand integration, investment co-ordination, skill development, vendor management and innovation over the long term.”