A chief strategy officer (CSO) is an executive charged with helping formulate, facilitate and communicate an organization's plans for the future.
The role is relatively new, going by many titles; CSO responsibilities also vary from company to company, as do the backgrounds and experience of people who become chief strategy officers. A paper published in the Fall 2012 MIT Sloan Management Review, "The Role of the Chief Strategy Officer," concluded that chief strategists often fall into two camps: they are either the formulators or the executors of strategic plans. Based on 24 in-depth interviews with CSOs at large U.K. companies, authors Taman H. Powell and Duncan N. Angwin stated that the cohort of CFOs responsible for executing the strategic plan also tend to do that in one of two ways: they either function as facilitators whose job is to help the business lines carry out the strategy, or they are "enactors" who execute the strategy themselves or with a small team.
The question has been raised as to why this new C-level role is necessary, given that executing a business strategy has traditionally fallen under the purview of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In reply, management experts point to the present-day complexity of running a business that is agile, global and subject to regulatory compliance. Companies that have employed a chief strategist include: Oracle Corp., Cisco, Cognos and Accenture.
A 2008 article, "Rise of the Chief Strategy officer, by Tim Breene, Paul F. Nunes and Walt Shill identified 90 titles associated with the role of chief strategy officer including "head of corporate development" and chief visionary officer. Their research found that, in some cases, the CSO title denoted "traditional strategic planner," or a vice president-level executive whose authority over execution of a company strategy was limited. In other cases, however, the CSO ensured the company's strategic vision was communicated and executed across business lines. This latter type of CSO often has deep business experience and almost always enjoys a strong relationship with the organization's CEO.