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Chief marketing officers and chief information officers aren’t playing nicely. And that fracture is causing the emergence of a whole new C-suite player, the chief digital officer.

“The main reason for the emergence of the CDO position at all is the disconnect between the CMO office and the CIO office,” Tim Bourgeois, executive editor of Chief Digital Officer told me last week.

Relatively new players like chief product officers and chief privacy officers, not to mention chief brand officers, chief data officers, chief creative officers, and chief revenue officers, are entering the C-suite. Among them lately has been the chief digital officer, and the role is creating some disharmony.

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Enterprise software and the CMO, CTO, CIO: Who does what, who gets the cash, and who’s in charge?

That’s not shocking, since CDOs come in with specific marching orders right from the top to effect massive technological change. And their very existence is evidence of a problem.

“If you look at the McDonald’s restaurants, the L’Oreals … the CDOs are coming in as digital mercenaries,” Bourgeois said. “They report directly to the CEO.”

Do-not-change.jpgHiring a CDO is “essentially an admission of failure,” said IntelligentHQ author Ashley Friedlein, because it signifies that the rest of the C-suite is not digital enough — not savvy enough in modern technology.

Another reason for the emergence of the CDO, Bourgeois said, is that in spite of a massive technological shift in marketing, many CMOs at enterprise-scale companies are still embedded in old-school economics. It might be hard for those who are in younger, smaller, and more nimble companies to imagine, but, he said, in spite of the fact that CMOs have been flooded with information about new ways and waves of marketing, 80 percent of their budgets are still television, print, and radio.

Clearly, it’s hard to focus on the future when you’re fully engaged with the present.

“They say: ‘You can change your pay-per-click bids hour by hour?'” Bourgeois, who also consults with C-level executives, told me. “Meanwhile it takes them three months to get their TV budget moved.”

Another problem for the old-guard CIOs and the newer-guard CMOs is the old-school “can’t afford to fail” syndrome. Unlike some startups or smaller companies, large enterprises don’t reward failure, even though failure is an inevitable consequence of trying new things. The result is that being innovative is seen as risky, and “you don’t get ahead in an organization by taking on risky projects,” Bourgeois said.

Which is, of course, why enterprises buy startups and young companies — essentially, they are outsourcing risk.

If the CDO is a short-term solution to breathe new technological life into old companies, what’s the long-term solution? We’ll be talking about that on June 3 in a webinar on the CMO, CTO, and CIO.

Tim Bourgeois will be a panelist, as will Scott Brinker from, and Mike Volpe, CMO of Hubspot.

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