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Digital future reshapes CIO responsibilities

Panelists at the 2014 CDO Summit share why chief digital officer roles will dissolve and CIO responsibilities will evolve in the all-digital future.

At the 2014 Chief Digital Officer Summit in New York City, conference founder and curator David Mathison sat down with four experienced leaders in the digital sphere to discuss the CDO role. On stage were Chris Hooven, senior vice president of sales at IT services and application development firm OSF Global Services; Jonathan Sackett, president and CEO at the advertising and marketing firm MashburnSackett; David Chivers, CDO at Jostens, the provider of school yearbooks and class rings; and David Shing, "digital prophet" (his real title) at AOL. Below find an overview of their session laced with tweets about the digital future from CDO Summit attendees.

When viewed side-by-side, the job description of the chief digital officer (CDO) reads as more glamorous than that of the CIO, according to the esteemed panel. The main reason for the seeming glitz and glam of the CDO job is the nature of the work. The CDO is charged with exercising creativity and developing innovative digital roadmaps for the company, while CIOs are responsible for the computer systems, software and IT infrastructure that make the enterprise go round.

Much like CIOs, CDOs are highly focused on utilizing new and emerging technologies to craft tech plans for the future; however, they are not necessarily involved in the implementation of their bright ideas.

One role isn't more important than the other, the panelists stressed, but digital innovation is, and will remain, a top priority for companies, as evidenced by the growing number of CDOs:

While this growth seems promising, the CDO role has an expiration date contingent on when companies go all-digital, the panel agreed. David Chivers, CDO at Jostens, for example, is presently responsible for the "overall strategic direction and financial accountability of Jostens' digital strategy and platform," but even Chivers knows it won't last forever:

The CDO title may be destined to fade away, but that doesn't mean CDOs will be out of a job. Chief officer roles and titles will evolve, the panel said, as the business imperative to embrace digital technology increases in importance:

Indeed, CDOs are well-positioned to step into the CEO role, said CDO Summit curator and founder Dave Mathison. Businesses will become digital through-and-through, making the CDO skill set all the more valuable. What can CIOs do to make sure they remain valuable to their organizations? First of all, don't be intimidated by CDOs, counseled MashburnSackett CEO Jonathan Sackett -- or at least don't give that impression:

The panel offered some tips for what makes a good CDO, i.e. ambition, creativity, coding skills:

Being ambitious and understanding how to efficiently launch digital ventures are important for the CDO, but the digital business needs to be embraced throughout the enterprise:

The standout tip during the panel discussion came from AOL's Digital Prophet, David Shingy:

The same could be said for excelling in IT. For more tweets from the 2014 CDO Summit, search the conference hashtag (#CDOSummit) on Twitter. Follow @SearchCIO for live coverage of future conference sessions.

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When will the chief digital officer role dissolve? Explain in the comments section.
It's all still in it's infancy in terms of how organisations understand digital for their industry. As this matures it will be recognised that the CMO can absorb the "strategic" and creative element of digital supported by technical backing from the CIO. There just won't be a demand for a specialist.