"Who owns digitalization at our company" is becoming a common question among executives and managers while the focus of digitalization is slowly shifting from what to how. To accelerate digital transformation, Chief Digital Officers (CDO) are joining management teams to focus on customer dialogue, digital content and customer experience. Still, often the total ownership of digitalization seems to be missing - which actually slows the development down instead of accelerating it.
Especially in large companies at least three functions are involved in developing new digital services. The R&D is in charge of research and development while IT ensures that the new solutions fit to other solutions and systems.
Business is often the source of the actual need and on the other hand the end user as well as responsible for generating profit with the new solutions. Often the stakeholders have a clear view of their own responsibility, but no one is in charge of the big picture. In addition the deep understanding of customer experience and customer dialogue are missing.
To add the customer point of view and to speed up digitalization, CDO's have joined various companies lately. How does that affect the ownership? That depends on the role of the CDO.
In case the CDO becomes another stakeholder next to IT, R&D and the Business, the company surely gets the required capabilities to support digital service development. But the total ownership of digitalization is still not solved.
Another position for the CDO is in the center of the development. With proper mandate from the top management the position can be ideal for digital development. On the other hand if ownership is not clear, the CDO becomes a coordinator or a facilitator without true possibilities to affect the development. And in worst case (s)he won't even have enough time to bring the digital insight to the table.
Obviously the CDO as such is not necessary in every company and it's not required for the CDO to take the ownership of digitalization - other stakeholders can take the same position. Who ever takes the ownership should have (1) the required skills, (2) enough time to truly push digitalization forward and (3) proper mandate from the top management.