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Don't Know the CDO? You Could Lose Sales Opportunities

By Lynn Haber
July 28, 2016 - Article

Lynn HaberOver the past few years, digital technology has found its way into every nook and cranny of businesses of every size. What that means to channel partners is that opportunity is exploding but only if you know how the IT decision-making sands are shifting at the businesses you’re targeting.

Khali HendersonSo, the more partners understand the role of what’s popularly called the chief digital officer (CDO), the more successful they’re likely to be. However, not all companies have a CDO – instead, that role is left to the chief marketing officer or the person with marketing responsibilities in most cases – but not always.


The key point here is that with the advent of cloud computing and the trend toward line-of-business buyers – as in "have credit card will purchase cloud apps" – partners need to understand how today’s businesses coalesce around a corporate digital strategy and how it gets communicated. That’s why channel partners who focus their IT discussions solely with the IT department might find that they’re losing sales opportunities.

Jeanine SicinskiTo understand how to familiarize yourself with the CDO, the role of the CDO and/or the individuals responsible for the digital officer function or the marketing function, and how to better communicate with potential customers, Channel Partners caught up with Khali Henderson, senior partner at BuzzTheory Strategies, and Jeanine Sicinski of ViaWest, a provider of hybrid IT solutions. They'll be presenting during a Channel Partners Evolution concurrent education session dubbed "Why You Must Become Indispensable to CDOs." The event is being held Aug. 14-17, in Washington, D.C.

CP: What do partners need to know about the CDO?

Khali Henderson: It’s no secret that technology buying decisions have been moving away from IT to business decision-makers. That’s because technology is fundamentally changing the way companies do business. Becoming a “digital business" means that technology becomes center stage instead of backstage as it’s historically been. And, with that, organizations need a “director," if you will, to come in and orchestrate people and technology into a cohesive vision. Increasingly that director is called the chief digital officer (CDO).

Jeanine Sicinski: Gartner predicts that the CMO will spend more than the CIO in 2017 on marketing technology.

CP: What happens if there isn’t a CDO at a client company?

JS: Most smaller companies won’t have a CDO. Companies are beginning to embrace having a digital marketing manager, who will often report up through the CMO. You can also target CMOs, directors of e-commerce, senior managers of digital, and directors of marketing. With any sales cycle, it’s important to learn the influencers and decision makers.

KH: Since it’s a relatively new role, a CDO’s absence should not come as a surprise. That doesn’t mean that the company is not ...

engaged in digital transformation. Instead, it’s more likely that the effort is being managed by other C-Suite leaders, e.g. CIO or CMO. This can be true in larger enterprises that are more digitally mature and have been transitioning over a longer period of time. While larger companies are more likely to have CDOs, some of the smaller companies actually have enlisted CDOs to create a holistic, integrated approach to digital transformation from soup to nuts.

I think it’s important for solutions providers to understand the difference between ...

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