Out Goes CIO and In Comes CDO – Is Microsoft Setting the New ‘No CIO’ World Order?

Microsoft CIO, Jim Dubois, recently resigned from the company. This could have easily been dismissed as a regular fallout of the company’s global restructuring plans and announcement of massive layoffs, but for the fact that Microsoft chose to fill up the position with a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) instead.


Earlier on 7th July, the news of Dubois’ resignation was accompanied with the news of Kurt DelBene succeeding him and filling in a new CDO role at the company. As reported in the media, DelBene’s responsibilities include oversight for Microsoft's digital transformation, requiring close interactions with the company's IT and core engineering teams, while retaining his existing responsibilities for corporate strategy.


Its pertinent to note that Microsoft no longer has a CIO. The company chose to create the CDO position while entirely doing away with the CIO role. This is particularly interesting in the light of the raging CIO vs. CDO debate and who of the two is better equipped to lead digital transformation within the organization.


Different studies conducted globally have thrown varying results on the answer to this conundrum. But, one thing common among these studies is that they are far from killing the CIO yet. In fact, PWC in its latest 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey whole heartedly roots for the CIO.


Excerpts from the PWC report state:


The chief information officer has become more strategic, connected, and visible during the past 10 years—and remains so despite predictions to the contrary.”


“Often, the job of digital leadership still falls to the CIO.”


Microsoft, however, clearly doesn’t think so.


The creation of the CDO role re-enforces the company’s serious intention to dive deeper into digital. To become the vendor of choice for driving digital transformation for its customers, it is imperative for Microsoft to walk the talk and look inwards towards strengthening its own digital practices. As such, the introduction of the CDO is a welcome development.


But, coming at the cost of the CIO. By eliminating the CIO role altogether, Microsoft has deemed it irrelevant. And, when that decision is taken by a company of Microsoft’s stature, one can be sure that a whole lot of introspection and reasoning would have gone behind it.


This has, once again, revived the debate around how relevant or irrelevant is the CIO – relevance not only from the digital perspective but also from the sheer existence perspective. According to a media report, under DuBois, the IT department was responsible for security, infrastructure, messaging and business applications for all of Microsoft, including support of the product groups, the corporate business groups, and the global sales and marketing organization. Now, all that responsibility is going to shift to DelBene in addition to the responsibility for driving the internal digital agenda.


Is this an indication of what the future might hold? That the CDO will not only undertake what are supposed to be the CDO’s responsibilities but also what the CIO has been doing traditionally. In other words, the CDO is also the CIO.


As of now, considering the Microsoft development, its CDO = 1 and CIO = 0 in the CIO vs. CDO battle.    

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