Knowing Buzzwords Does Not Make You a Chief Digital Officer!

We are going digital and we will change the way the industry leverages digital! You know these 20 year old bright B-school interns? I am sure these kids who were born with technology know a lot about how their generation uses the Internet and devices and Internet of Things and wearables... They will help us take our company into the digital world. I am commissioning a research study on the industry and what is happening globally and how our customers are likely to behave. Everyone sighed and nodded their heads to the ravings of a man possessed.


This CXO had taken on the mantle of leading the digital transformation of the enterprise; no one had asked him nor did anyone suggest that going digital was a priority for the enterprise. He was good at spewing buzzwords and had a basic though carbon dated understanding of IT. His own function and team tolerated him for his loudmouth tactics that appeared to be getting him attention of those who mattered. One fine day he pronounced that he was going to be the Chief Digital Officer and drive the digital journey for the company.


The CMO who was well grounded and grown in the industry over two decades, heard about it from his team mate who was sitting in on his behalf that day. He felt amused that a rank outsider who had barely spent a year in the industry was willing to make tall promises and claims on how the business shall stand transformed with help of a few college kids ! He asked his team to provide full support to the CXO and keep him informed of progress. He had a business to run and numbers to deliver, the company can learn from someone else's mistakes.


The industry was known to be conservative in adopting technology with no real pressures on growth or profitability especially in growing economies. The company had always attempted to stay in front of the game though not always able to push through the competitive advantage. Globally some early pilots on digital had early success and some of the larger multi-national companies had started investing for mature markets. It was too early to predict how digital will finally shape outcomes for the industry, companies and the consumer.


The CXO flew people around the world, organized videoconferences, and finally selected a bunch of students from a mid-tier global B-school. The selected team comprised 5 nationalities was seen as a good mix of perspectives and cultures. They were excited as the young can be, and looked up to the CXO to set the agenda for the project. Many meetings later there appeared to be a structure to what was required and the process to get it; a protégé of the CXO was entrusted the task of chaperoning the team around their field visits.


The CMO working with the CIO had many projects underway which were significant components towards the digitalization of the enterprise and connect with the ecosystem. These were kept as low key affairs to keep news from spreading and gaining a competitive advantage. The business knew these would help them get a big boost in the market and supported the CMO/CIO partnership. The CXO made multiple attempts to get a handle on these unsuccessfully and moved on to his globally envisioned digital strategy that will transform the industry.


Months passed away with the teams working across borders, engaging with customers, stakeholders, end consumers, influencers, and everyone who mattered. They collated volumes of quantitative and qualitative data which was put into the churner. The CXO took excerpts and published them as brilliance from the students while crooking a finger at the CMO and how the new strategy will ... Everyone listened and nodded again allowing the CXO to present the findings in the upcoming meeting. The CMO and CIO remained unfazed and continued to toil.


D-day arrived and everyone was anxious to hear the new vision. Everyone listened attentively to the young lady who presented the groups findings based on data and inferences based on interviews globally. The picture that emerged was not too different from the direction chosen by the CMO and the CIO. The company was on the right track, they just needed to get some acceleration into the projects. A sense of relief settled around the room; the CXO changed colors through the presentation, ran out of the room with phone attached to his ear which no one remembered ringing!


The new generation will behave differently to stimulus, who better to validate with?


This blog is reposted with permission from Arun Gupta. To read Arun's Blog, you can visit:


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Arun Gupta

Arun Gupta is Managing Partner & Director at Ingenium Advisory. Arun has been the CIO of Cipla, one of the ...

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