Make way for the CDO: Mercer elevates CIO to chief digital officer
Mercer promoted Global CIO Gail Evans to global chief digital officer this week, elevating the importance of digital transformation across the company. Evans joined Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, in January 2016 and held previous positions at Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Bank of America.
In her new role, Evans will be responsible for creating digital strategies across lines of business and employing data and analytics and digital tools as the company works to become more digitally agile, according to the announcement. Evans is working with company leadership and professional services firm Marsh & McLennan to create metrics to evaluate how digital efforts affect Mercer, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Evans will report to Julio Portalatin, president and CEO of Mercer, and will remain a member of the executive committee, according to the announcement. Rob Hussey, the former CIO for the retirement and investment business at Mercer, will take over as CIO, according to the Journal.
As companies have turned to more digital technologies, new C-suite roles have emerged. Organizations are tapping CDOs to lead digital transformation efforts, creating some tension over the fate of the CIO's role.
But CDOs aren't vying for the CIO's job. Instead, the leaders occupy two different roles: CIOs focus on internal technology and CDOs are responsible for creating digital pathways to serve external customers.
CIOs work to make a company more effective and productive, according to Jim Fowler, VP and CIO of General Electric, speaking in 2017 at the MIT CIO Sloan Symposium. "If you are going to sell commercial product and you're working to start to build software, analytics that you want to sell outside to your customers, then absolutely, a chief digital officer could put together marketing message, product strategy, figuring out how you commercialize — that's the value."
In 2017, almost 20% of the top 2,500 companies by revenue had appointed a CDO, but that number is expected to increase. Most CDO hiring happened since 2016. Lowe's, for example, brought on its first CDO in December to accelerate the company's "digital evolution."
Whether a CIO, CTO or CDO, executives have the chance to rewrite their job descriptions by implementing digital technology. This too could elevate them to a role even higher in the C-suite.
Since becoming Mercer's CIO, Evans has worked to accelerate the pace of agile adoption, creating a more agile and iterative organization. Speaking at the 2018 MIT CIO Sloan Symposium, Evans called agile a business imperative that drives innovation, even if it can be jarring to move so quickly.
In the end, it is up to leaders to remain calm and believe the minimum viable product will be delivered, she said.
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