Costs and BenefitsThe following is the third in a series of follow-up posts to expand on the 13 Essential Roles of a Chief Digital Officer.

With the pace of change in online and mobile applications, hardware, and software, the CDO can never rest on yesterday’s information. There’s always something new to learn and products to test. In addition, the volume of data available to help determine the most effective path forward demands that the CDO spend a lot of time researching and analyzing tools and trends.

The CDO’s team must act as the digital R&D program for most organizations. It’s never good enough to rest on one’s previous success. Instead, a good CDO must always be on the prowl for innovative tools and techniques that will improve bottom line results.

Not every new product or idea will work. There will be plenty of mistakes made along the way. There will be investments that don’t pan out. That’s something that the leadership of the organization must be prepared to accept.

At the same time, it is the responsibility of the CDO to help the organization understand what might work — and what isn’t worth the time. Many non-digital executives read with great anticipation about new technology and immediately want to figure out how to implement it for themselves. That enthusiasm is good and must be embraced, but it is just as important for the CDO to say no to technology as it is to run with it.

In order to be an effective analyst, the CDO must have a hunger for learning and experimenting. A willingness to push the envelope, dig for data, and “see around the corner” to anticipate where technology and the marketplace are headed represent important skills.

In assessing the value of any digital tool or tactic, the CDO should consider:

  • Is this something that our organization can reasonably implement?
  • What are the costs of this new tool?
  • What are the risks of using this tactic?
  • What are the benefits of trying something new?
  • How will this integrate with what we’re already doing?
  • How do I get other parts of the organization on board with this idea?
  • What is the ROI of using this approach?
  • Does this technology have staying power or is it a mere fad?
  • What’s the ultimate goal of deploying this new technology?
  • Are our target audiences already comfortable with this tool or platform or are we breaking ground for the future?
  • What’s the learning curve for this tool or tactic?
  • How do I explain this new technology to our leadership? What about key constituencies (board, donors, investors, etc.)?

Having a sharp analytical mind will help the CDO be more effective and deliver better results for the organization. While many will be able to suggest new technologies and even more will have to work together to implement them, the CDO must be able to make the business case for or against new digital tools.