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Chief Digital Officer vs Chief Data Officer
22.11.2021 | Ewa Suszek

Recently I was asked for a comment to an interesting discussion about the posts and roles of Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer, which took place during the CDO Club discussing pannel. Here, I would like to elaborate on some comments, that turned up during this meeting – says Ireneusz Suszek, the AZ Frame’s Chief Sales Officer.

Chief Digital Officer vs. Chief Data Officer it’s – seemingly – a very simple relation. The first of the officers supplies the work content for the other one. Chief Digital Officer is a position, with which I’ve always had a very intense contact – as a person who, during last 20 years, was involved with digitalisation and IT adaptation of different processes in banking, schooling, public services or e-commerce. In the recent years I carefully studied the digital transformation porcesses in the Energy sector… So yes, I fully realise the importance and the functional scope of the Chief Digital Officer position.

During the discussion I emphasised on the fact that, although the significance of this position is very much clear to me, in my professional practice I haven’t met too many persons performing the CDO function. But – not to be groundless – I decided to check how my personal experience translates to the numbers:

  • the first ever Chief Digital Officer was employed by MTV in 2005
  • according to the Bilot company studies, by 2017 only 5 from 500 biggest operations in Poland decided to have a CDO as a separate function

Four years have passed since 2017, so one has to assume that the number of CDO’s increased respectively. In my opinion, however, still not too many people use this title in their emails or on business cards. My suspicions seem to be confirmed by the fact that in spite of my long time professional activity, I still personally haven’t met too many CDO’s.

In organisations which decided to formalise this posiition, a CDO in a person responsible for the digital transformation.

Digital transformation is not about usual implementation of the changes, that result from the new technologies. It will be only effective, when allowing an organisation for a change of functioning at the market, with all challenges and chances that the „Digital Era” offers. Digital transformation often refers also to creation of the new business models.

An outstanding example of the latter are first, fully autonomous shops, which – operating without personnel – limit the shopping by simple putting a given commodity to a basket, then to a bag and leaving the shop (having made the payment first!). The special devices scan the bar codes and chargé for the purchase from the credit or client’s cards. Although the whole process has its drawbacks, all my friends and relatives confirm – it works!

It is worth noting that this digitalisation answers the market needs, making up a new quality and lets a given organisation „shine”. It significantly outreaches similar processes in other companies, which – for instance – focus on developin the self-service paying desks in shops and supermarkets.

On this example we can notice a close circuit between the digitalisation setting new trends, and the area of data. Why? Simply because the latter – if only managed properly – allows an organisation also for so called „monetisation” of the former. We mean here not only a simple feeding the first process with the data, but also a symbiosis, which has to function as a necessary condition for both.

If the data teams within an organisation are able to sort these information our, profile and cleanse them, making up 360 views and so called „golden records”, then – on one hand – they set to inspire next, interesting digital projects, on the other – increase the value of the organisation itself. Not only directly, which results from the digitalisation, but also indirectly, which stems from the value of the data. This seems to be even more important – if a given network suddenly stopped its sales activities, its own value would be ascribed also to the information acquired and processed by the CDO.

Two, complimentary worlds of the new reality

At this moment, one of the pannel leaders raised the followinf question: autonomous shops are not a novelty – this is still the same buy-sell process, in which only a few details have changed, like the fact that you need to have your phone with you, when doing shopping.

Having a second thought, I’d like to reject the validity of this claim.

As I said earlier, digital transformation often makes up new business models. A network which tests its autonomous shops, precisely fulfils this postulate! The market needs and limitations have been noticed and understood – also trends towards which numerous merket processes follow. If we take a look at the automotive industry, do the two ideas of cars – „traditional” and autonomous, in which man will be only a passenger – constitute really the same business processes?

Definitely not. The purpose of each is similar and we can collectively call it „transportation”. But each makes up an entirely separate business process. Autonomous shops likewise… Putting a barrow on a market place and a shop that fully benefits from the Digital Era achievements are two different business processes, which share the aim only in this respect that both from a market place and an autonomous shop one will leave with fresh foodstuffs.

I also would like to point that for a few years now a smartfon with the payment application is not an ultimate solution in terms of payment means in point of sales (which, in opinion of my interlocutor, would indicate the similarity between new and tradtional methods of shopping). Biometry, combined with cameras able to identify faces or events, gives much wider possibilities for autonomous trade in the future.

Summing up: Autonomous services, including the ones in the shops, are new business processes. In my view, the phrase „a new process” has not been abused in my statement.

I consider the whole topic very interesting. I am also curious to hear other opinions, especially from the network who opened their autonomous points of sales all over Poland. Do they perceive their activity to be a traditional process indeed (only subject to some modifications)? Or maybe a description like this reduces the real meaning and weight of the investments (already made and planned) towards new solutions for the clients?

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