The boundaries between technology companies and other sectors are rapidly blurring. The pandemic and subsequent acceleration of digital transformation has caused retailers, doctors, educational institutes, BFSI industry, etc. to move their businesses online. Technology has empowered customers to the point where they can make informed and informed purchasing decisions and thus reduce barriers to switching loyalties. Companies have been quick to focus their technology efforts on innovation, market entry strategies, and digital approaches in order to tackle this disruption. However, they quickly realize the fact that a more complex integration is the need of the hour in which go-to-market and technology functions must seamlessly collaborate with each other to ensure a frictionless and more efficient customer journey.
Companies are rethinking their organizational structures to develop processes and models that deliver better connectivity through the entire customer lifecycle, right through the use of technology, digital solutions, product delivery, marketing and sales. Thus, intelligent structuring entails accountability from one or two leaders rather than many leaders with overlapping competencies, and employees under their supervision who are under multiple managers. Companies must focus on speed, creativity, and accountability, for a faster, flatter team where communication takes priority, rather than old silos.
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Today, we’re seeing an influx of new roles in the go-to-market function, with the introduction of Senior Customer Officers, Chief Growth Officers, or Chief Revenue Officers. However, as digital transformation becomes more and more important, leaders in the organization are now expected to have initial capabilities and go further to understand data and back-end processes as well.
In the technology function, we see individual leaders responsible for all technologies, from security, data, IT, engineering, digital customer touchpoints and in some cases, digital product development. These leaders must be able to focus on clients and provide strategic advice to the Executive Committee while reporting to the CEO. The titles for these roles are virtually insignificant, with CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, and any combination of the three immaterial being different over time.
Job restructuring is done to flatten the talent hierarchy and reduce the number of accountable leaders most often in one of three basic ways:
1. Technology responsibility expands to include product, advanced analytics, and enterprise transformation, thus overlapping what would have been the role of the chief digital officer.
2. Marketing competence and digital are combined to create an overall customer-focused role. Here the leader looks at digital touch points, channel strategy, customer experience, and e-commerce.
3. A third role has been introduced to improve the link between market entry and technological functions,
Category 1, as technology responsibility expands into the territory of the traditional chief digital officer, is experiencing an increase in popularity due to the growing importance and elevation of the role of technology leader, the general expansion of the technology function, and the use of technology in the strategy of a company. The leader has broad powers spanning technology, engineering, data management, information technology, product management, analytics, and digital. This job is helped to focus on creativity and branding that is delivered through the Marketing Officer, who may or may not be a member of the Executive Committee. However, the technology leader inevitably sits on the executive committee and reports to the CEO.
Category 2, where the responsibility to move to market increases to include traditional chief digital officer responsibilities, is the least common of the archetypes. Here we see a joint marketing and digital function, or a multi-channel leader sitting on the executive committee. The leader is responsible for all marketing operations from performance, digital, branding, go-to-market strategy, omnichannel customer experience, product management, and sales. Now we see that the marketing organization is centralized and the leader reports to the CEO, rather than spreading the reports across business lines. In this example, the Technology Leader will focus internally on covering business services, IT/technology, and operations.
Category 3 is when a technical leader, marketing leader, and third leader work together to bridge the gap between functions. This structure facilitates the deeper expertise of each field; However, it has the disadvantages of separating accountability at the executive level.
The marketing leader is the owner of the brand and channel validity. The middle leader who is often a chief digital officer or product officer focuses on customer-facing technology, digital touch points, and digital products. The Technology Leader oversees IT, technology, engineering teams, and networking and communications infrastructure. Usually, in this structure, two of the three leaders will be on the executive committee. The technology leader is more likely to report to the CFO or COO, due to the smaller responsibility. This is becoming increasingly rare. We found that 85 percent of top technology leaders appointed to FTSE or Fortune 500 companies in the past year were members of the executive committee, compared to less than half of all top technology leaders in those indices.
Pure-tech models found in technology organizations and platforms often consist of three roles.
1) Chief Technology Officer with engineering focus and responsibility for building products and platforms.
2) Chief Product Officer to oversee design, strategy, product management, roadmaps, and customer experience.
3) A brand and marketing manager focused on creativity.
In this scenario, the Chief Procurement Officer and CTO typically sit on the executive committee, and in larger companies, the chief executive officer is supported by an inward-focused VP of Engineering who also sits on the senior leadership team. Sixty-five percent of hires in the technology sector last year were senior marketing managers or chief revenue officers — which suggests that these assignments enable growth more than customer experience, which is likely to be within the product’s purview.
When selecting leaders for an organization, it is critical for the organization to clearly define the essential skills and experience required. Once this is determined, this will require a decision on whether the traditional leader role is called upon to take on a more hybrid role such as CDIO, CTDO or CDMO.
Opinions are personal. The author is Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates.
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