THE BLOG
12/30/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

C-Suite Revolution: Customer Officers and Data Officers Emerge As the Next Top Executives 

Over the past few years, there has been a ton of talk about the emerging roles of the CIO and CMO. A Forrester report has revealed that CIOs are responsible for transforming businesses and spurring innovation, while CMOs are demonstrating excellent practice and added value in accelerating the marketing achievements of their organizations. Despite the transformative impact that CIOs and CMOs have on business, questions have been raised as to whether there is a need for both of these roles, and if we will see them evolve in a bigger way in the coming years.

Next C-suite Members - The Chief Data Officer (CDO) and The Chief Customer Officer (CCO)

While there is no doubt that tech is evolving the role of marketing, and social and consumerization is changing the way information officers plan their technology, there is a notable impact that the role of the customer and the data drawn from technology play in the future of the C-Suite, as well. The business landscape has undergone seismic shifts with the advancement of social, tech integration, and analytics. To keep up with those shifts, there has emerged a growing need for new executive roles.

The abundance of data, and the critical role it will play in the decision making process for businesses, make it fair to predict that the CDO will be one of the most critical officers in a company. At the same time, the new data and insights are going to give us a better understanding of customers. A new emphasis that is less sales-driven and more customer experience focused to make sure that data and the delivery of customer experience are aligned will be crucial. The CCO will help to achieve that compatibility between data and customer. The next C-Suite key members, the CDO and the CCO, will grow from the changing business landscape.

Emergence of The CDO

Capturing data and securing data opportunities might gradually rise to the top of the priority list for organizations, as we see data and analytics play a more critical role. With data driving better customer intelligence, boosting sales, improving productivity, and increasing revenue, businesses that want to succeed will need to be paying attention. Adapting to these new realities, businesses may need more "top-management muscle" to fully utilize the power of data analytics and supervise its application.

While many companies might find it unnerving to re-think top management roles and responsibilities, failing to assign top executive roles for data-related activities will not only impede their growth, but could leave them unguarded in the face of growing competition. Those poised to create this new role will find the pervasion of data much less overwhelming and may find themselves primed for growth among their competitors.

Presenting the case for the CCO

While CMOs regularly feature at the top executive tables, their role does not center on understanding the customer. A new EY survey has found that often Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) set up short-term goals, operate without a strategy, and don't think about innovation. Where these two roles falter, the CCO will be integral.

CCOs are primarily vested with the responsibility of leading the commercial functions of a company. But, in addition, their role is inextricable from various sales, marketing, and customer service processes which involve customer relations, innovation, analytics strategy, and R&D. As businesses are realizing the need to integrate their customer-centric operations, the role of the CCO is gaining more prominence. According to the recent EY survey, 73 percent of CCOs are confident that they add value by "using customer feedback to help develop the business" compared to 58 percent of CMOs, and 68 percent of CSOs. The proverbial rift between the sales and the marketing teams -- with the former focused on long-term brand building, and the latter riveted on short-term goals -- have often undermined organizational growth. With functions that overlap both marketing and sales, CCOs can bridge the gap that exists between both the teams.

Have you witnessed a particular need in your organization that calls for restructuring the C-suite? Has your organization already implemented the CDO or CCO, and what impact has that had on your business? We would love to hear your thoughts.