During my sullen teenage years my father invented a nonsensical, rhetorical question to proffer when conversation ran dry. During particularly quiet moments he’d ask, “So you want to be a movie star?” No, I did not want to be a movie star, but I’d play along and invent similarly nonsensical answers: “Yes, but my agent won’t return my calls,” or “Yes, but Molly Ringwald keeps getting all of my parts” and so on. He still asks to this day and so in this New Year I will ask all of you a related but non-rhetorical question: So you want to be a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)?

Many Forrester analysts and others have taken note of the rise of and need for this position to oversee digital business. Indeed, the rapid and colossal impact of digital disruption is overhauling products, inverting category economics, and redefining customer relationships, requiring new focus and leadership. Where will these CDOs come from? Firms will promote Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) from business units and departments that face the most disruption. In firms that sell products and services directly to customers, we believe that eBusiness and channel strategy professionals are well positioned for a Darwinian rise into the CDO ranks. It’s already happening in firms like Finish Line, Dollar Thrifty Automotive, and MetLife. Many executives in your company see themselves on a similar path — interactive marketers, enterprise architects, and even some CIOs. eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals looking to advance their careers must:

  • Lead an agile commerce revolution. Digital touchpoints are becoming critical to every customer interaction, from the web to mobile to in-store tablet applications. This not only means that eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals have an opportunity to expand their roles, but also that they can revolutionize how their companies weave together digital customer interactions. We call this approach agile commerce, and my colleague Martin Gill will soon publish a comprehensive Forrester Playbook dedicated to helping firms with their agile commerce strategies from vision through to execution. You can get started now by reading his outstanding already-published documents on organizing for agile, creating an agile commerce plan, and driving an agile commerce transformation (subscription required).
  • Begin designing the CDO role to transform your business with digital. Don’t wait for your company to wake up to the need for a digital transformation. Start outlining a CDO position and digital team now with the help of key stakeholders in your organization that touch digital business. In research interviews we’ve found that most firms create digital teams that include customer-facing functions like eCommerce, mobile, and social but exclude employee-facing applications as well as PR/Marcomm functions. Most critical here is dropping the “e” from eCommerce and eBusiness. This is about transforming your entire business with digital, not creating a better digital channel.

If you answered, “Yes, Carrie, I would like to be a CDO,” stay tuned! We’ll be dedicating much of our research in 2013 to the idea of digital business transformation and the Chief Digital Officer. Also, mark your calendars for our annual eBusiness and Channel Strategy Forum, which will be held in Chicago on November 5th and 6th. There we’ll have current CDOs on stage to discuss their evolution into the role and to share best practices for creating agile digital teams. If you answered that yes, you’d like to be a movie star, I can’t help you. Nor can my father, but he may be able to help you get responses other than “fine,” “OK,” or “no” out of your teenager. Happy New Year!