We are living in a customer-driven era where technology is evolving around the way consumers think, communicate, work, and purchase. In today’s digital world, customers expect all of their technology to be easy-to-use, modern, and connected. Companies that fully adopt digital into their strategies are the ones who will dominate the market. The brands that are causing the most disruption in their industries all have one thing in common — they “get” digital.

So how can your company master digital transformation and become truly customer-centric? A good place to start could be hiring a chief digital officer (CDO). This leadership position that has cropped up over the last few years requires a strong background in consumer and digital knowledge. Sixty percent of companies today currently employ a chief digital officer according to the new “2016 State of IT” research report published February 2016.

Here are four reasons to consider hiring a chief digital officer, based on insights revealed by over 2,200 IT leaders and CIOs surveyed in the report:

1. Digital is Changing the Way We Do Business

Since the world has transformed from analog to digital, companies have had to rethink their entire strategy when it comes to interacting with their customers. Gone are the days when an inviting storefront, customer service phone line, or a single website was enough to engage prospects. Today, consumers expect to be able to purchase or ask questions whenever they want, no matter where they are. This is likely why nearly 90% of new apps launching in the next 12–18 months will be created with a mobile-first mindset. Your business needs someone in leadership who not only understands digital, but also how to utilize it to better service your customers. Today’s CDOs are trained to align digital trends with customer needs and can provide the direction your company needs from the top.

As technologies evolve rapidly, it’s necessary that IT practices adapt at the same speed. For example, in the past IT’s main requirements revolved around building and maintaining infrastructure. Today, with the high demand for constantly improving apps, successful IT leaders are leveraging newer technologies like Salesforce1 Platform to relieve back end work and make room for quick innovation. High-performing IT teams are 3.7x more likely than underperformers to say they are excellent or above average at staying ahead of technology trends.

Nicknamed the “Transformer in Chief” by Mckinsey, a CDO is primed to deal with technology shifts. By employing a Chief Digital Officer you are taking an extra step towards ensuring your IT organization is staying ahead of consumer trends. Your CDO should have the knowledge-base and market research to help your IT team make quick decisions so they can deliver as fast as your customers expect, in a way your customers will love.

3. It’s the Age of the Customer…Apps

We are in the age of the customer, and that means your customers’ preferences and actions are driving your critical business strategies. As a result, companies are learning to adapt their technologies to the ways consumers live, work and purchase. Seventy-six percent of high-performing IT teams report increasing spend in customer-facing apps over the next two years.

And who better to oversee this switch to customer-centric apps than a CDO, who — as a hybrid of marketing and IT — has a deep understanding of what customers are looking for? As mentioned, it’s not enough to just create a multitude of customer-facing apps; they need to be intuitive and effective as well. A good CDO will be able to steer your IT organization in the right direction.

4. Digital Transformation Takes an Overall Mindset Shift

Moving to a digital and customer-first strategy is about more than creating different types of apps, it’s a complete mindset shift. In the past, IT operated in the background to “keep the lights on.” Today, IT organizations are at the forefront and leading innovation with the help of the cloud and emerging tech. Cloud migration is listed as the top priority of IT leaders across all performance levels. This is leaps and bounds away from the traditional, cumbersome in-house projects that were once IT’s primary focus. Your company may need someone at the leadership level to help champion this mindset shift and guide your organization through the transition. The CDO has both the knowledge and experience to offer that support and get your IT teams to start thinking in a whole new light.

Interested in learning more about 2016 IT trends like the age of the CDO? Download the full “2016 State of IT” report.

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