Who’s Responsible for Building a Digital Business?

By Larry Bonfante

It’s impossible to not notice that the way we do business today has changed dramatically from how we conducted business just a few years ago. Whether your company directly engages consumers in a B2C model or whether you are engaged with other businesses on the value chain in a B2B model, much of how we conduct business today happens in the digital landscape. Furthermore, the opportunity to deepen the level of engagement with our customers and make it a richer and more positive personal experience has never been better.

This opportunity has spawned a frenzy of organizational conversations as to who is responsible for a business’s digital success. In some organizations the prevailing thought is that marketing is the logical department to own responsibility for digital business as it is simply one more medium to leverage when engaging and messaging customers. Some organizations argue that IT should lead the charge since much of how we leverage digital engagement is done through leading-edge technologies. A third approach that has gained some traction is the creation of a new role, the chief digital officer who theoretically is a hybrid of a technology executive who understands data and a marketing executive who understands engagement. All of these approaches have merit and make sense on a certain level. I, however, have a slightly different opinion.

In my mind, the entire C-suite has a collective responsibility for an organization’s success in the digital landscape. Regardless of who acts as the focal point to help shepherd the company’s energies to drive the digital agenda, each C-level executive can make an important contribution to ensuring that their digital business is successful. Whether it’s the CFO using their financial acumen to determine rational ROI conversations, the CMO leveraging their skills in customer engagement, the head of PR using their talent in messaging in social media, the head of sales contributing their acumen as to how we can broaden our current relationships and create new ones, or the CIO sharing their experience on how to leverage the technologies involved in digital engagement and help support major project rollouts, each C-level executive has something to contribute to this critical agenda. They also have a shared responsibility to ensure that an organization successfully leverages this opportunity to truly deepen the relationship they have with the consumers of their products and services.

So if you ask me who is responsible for an organization’s digital success, my answer is that the entire executive team needs to develop a collaborative approach to creating value in this new space, and all of them own the responsibility for a company’s success. In my opinion, in excellent organizations this is true of everything that gets accomplished.

About the Author

Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIOand founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at[email protected].

To read his previous CIO Insight article, “Three Flawed Issues About Cloud Computing,” click here.