The Evolution Of The C-Suite

It’s not about being creative or quirky, it’s simply that new executive titles are quickly emerging. The volatility of the economic climate in the past decade has resulted in many changes to the business and economic landscape. Disruptions to the organizational structure includes changes in the C-Suite as businesses adapt to emerging technologies and the resulting leadership requirements.

But seriously, Ninjas, Evangelists, Muses, and Gurus? Yes – they are out there – the Chief Evangelist Officers, Software Development Ninjas, Human Factors Gurus, Innovation Muses, but the trend is moving more toward the fundamental style titles which show deliberate inclusion in the C-Suite, with little or no ambiguity about corporate responsibility.

Traditionally, C-level positions were focused on operations (COO – Chief Operations Officer), finance (CFO – Chief Financial Officer) and information systems (CIO – Chief Information Officer). But now we are seeing the inclusion of many more in executive teams, like CDO (Chief Digital/Data Officer), CINO (Chief Innovation Officer), CPO (Chief Privacy/Procurement Officer), and CSO (Chief Strategy/Sustainability Officer.

Scott Spreier, Senior Consultant with the Hay Group, a leading global management consulting firm, says “Look beyond the titles. What is critical in creating such roles is first understanding the size and scope of the role. Is it a strategic role or a more tactical, operational role? Is it directly linked to business results, or is it more advisory? These factors all shape the accountabilities of the role and the skills and competencies necessary to execute those roles.”

charts_v2Critical talent needs are now emanating from areas including innovation, new management theory, increased business regulations, increased focus on markets and customers. Now, we’re seeing titles like Chief Customer Officer, Chief Learning Officer, Chief Ethics Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Experience Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, Chief Growth Officer, Chief Risk Officer, Chief Commercial Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer.

According to a January 2012 research report by Gartner, by 2017 the Chief Marketing Officer, one of the top additions to the C-suite, will outspend the CIO on technology. And the Chief Digital Officers, who, also according to Gartner, could only be found in 6% of organizations in late 2013, will soon not be alone. It’s predicted that by year’s end that number will skyrocket to 25%.

EQs_v2Going forward, C-level executives will not simply manage their own business areas; they will be active members of the firm’s senior leadership who advise the CEO on key decisions. As one executive recruiter put it, “The C-level person today needs to be more team-oriented, capable of multitasking continuously and leading without rank, and able to resist stress and make sure that his subordinates do not burn out. And he needs to do all of this with a big smile in an open plan office. In other words, we’re looking at a whole new breed of top executive.”

With all of these new potential C-level leaders, most businesses need to determine which are appropriate for them and if there is room for them at their next board meeting. And even more important, where will they all come from?

TD Madison is known as the go-to firm for executive sustainability in information and technology talent solutions.  We welcome your thoughts and discussion.