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The rise of the Chief Technology Officer

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Good morning.

Some interesting new research out from IBM today shows how much the C-Suite has changed in the last decade. Some 3,000 global CEOs were asked to say who in the C-Suite would play the most crucial role for the organization in the next two to three years. The top answer—after Chief Operating Officer (57{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00}) and Chief Financial Officer (52{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00})—was Chief Technology Officer (36{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00}). Positions like Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Strategy Officer all fell into the single digits.

That’s a big change from similar—but not exactly comparable—surveys the company did in 2013 and 2015, that showed that Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Innovation Officer held the pole positions, after COO and CFO.

What happened? IBM’s Mark Foster said it reflects a change in the way companies think about digital transformation. Back then, “people thought it was all about the front of the business. It was very much around projecting the modernity of your business to the outside world.” But today, “digitization has moved right back into the core of people’s business…requiring a fundamental rethinking of the business.” As for the demise of the Chief Strategy Officer, Foster says in today’s world, “the CEO has to become the Chief Strategy Officer.”

Separately, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda plans to announce today that his company has completed the process to become a certified B Corp—joining the ranks of companies like Danone, Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia, which put social and environmental goals at the core of their operations. Maggioncalda said he was an economics major at Stanford in the 1980s, and then accepted the notion that companies should focus primarily on shareholder returns. But since then, he has concluded that “business as an institution has a role to play in moving society forward.” And given the desire of younger workers to affiliate with companies that give them purpose, “it is also really good business.”

Maggioncalda predicts more companies take the B Corp route because “you can attract, motivate, and retain top talent. It will become the basis of competition.”

More news below. And be sure to listen to this week’s Leadership Next podcast—Apple/Spotify—in which you get a special seat at our recent discussion with the likes of Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, GM’s Mary Barra and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

Alan Murray

[email protected]

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