In the 2022 new normal and beyond, which C-suite roles would come and go, and which would stay?

Over the last few years, we have seen the rise of new C-suite roles such as Chief Experience Officer, Chief Growth Officer, Chief Talent Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Diversity Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, Chief Trust Officer etc.

At the extreme, I’ve even heard of niche titles such as Chief Pandemic Officer and Chief AI Officer bandied around!

These new CxO roles are instituted – and more may arise in 2022 and beyond – to meet specific needs of the present and future. But are they necessary? Which of these would more likely continue to catch on beyond 2022, and which would fade away?

DigiconAsia asked around for some answers, and several industry leaders responded with their insights and some predictions.

Sandeep Sharma, President of Asia, Workday, provided a key reason for the proliferation of new C-suite roles from the perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic work environment: “As the pandemic wears on, businesses need to continue investing in the right talent, and groom leaders who can help build a strong organizational culture that will put them in a position of strength for the long-term.”

In the new hybrid-work environment, which emphasizes flexibility andautonomy, Sandeep pointed out the imperative for businesses to instill a culture that focuses on empowerment, collaboration, and engagement. “It is therefore not surprising for businesses to introduce new C-suite roles, bringing in leaders who can take charge in addressing any gaps, effecting change, and helping to meet the evolving needs of the organization.”

Tony Frey, VP and General Manager, APJ, Informatica, extended the rationale beyond just the pandemic: “Today’s unpredictable business landscape has forced organizations – willingly or otherwise – to operate with agility and embrace digital-first to stay competitive. By bringing new C-suite roles to the table, companies are demonstrating where their priorities are, and how they want mindsets to shift to create a strategic and dynamic working environment.”

“It’s clear that making sure the company is properly leveraging new capabilities, while responding to customer, partner and governmental needs, will require a reinvention of the C-suite itself,” wrote Ananth Krishnan, Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, TCS.

Citing Tyson Foods and Royal Caribbean Cruises as examples of organizations that have recently added the relatively new role of Chief Medical Officer, as employee and customer health became even more of a focus in the turbulent pandemic environment, he explained: “This may mean adding new responsibilities to C-suite jobs already in place, or creating novel C-suite roles, like Chief Medical Officer.”

Ananth added that forward-looking companies have been adding new C-suite roles for some time now, such as the Chief Experience Officer role about a decade ago.

Data-first roles

Frey offered as a common example the role of Chief Data Officer – which traditionally was seen as guardian of regulatory compliance, and now has expanded charter to drive broad and consistent use of data across their organization to improve business outcomes.

“As data is becoming more complex and fragmented, the CDO’s role has become even more important in delivering repeatable, sustainable value to their organization by guiding decision makers to use trusted data insights,” he said.

“CDOs with other LoB chiefs bring value to their organization by working cross-functionally with democratized data that helps achieve a shared vision that is all-encompassing of driving innovation, customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and ultimately wallet share.”

Sandeep concurred: “To inform talent strategies and wellbeing efforts, organizations will need data – on what employees want, the effectiveness of the programs and benefits they offer, and what the business needs. In this regard, we will expect data-related roles, such as Chief Data Officer or Chief Analytics Officer, to become more integral in organizations that want to draw valuable insights from data to stay agile in their decision-making processes and business strategies.”

Meanwhile, SolarWinds Head GeekKevin Kline predicted that a growing number of companiesoutside of the Fortune 500will hire CDOs charged with implementing one or more data governance programs in the coming year.

“We’ll also see organizations without an official CDO moving to implement specific subsets of the data governance portfolio, such as corporate-wide data dictionaries,” he said. “The CDO position, with its emphasis on protecting and promoting the value of corporate data, will see rapid growth in companies of medium size, such as those listed on the Russel 2000 index.”

According to Kline, this will further emphasize data and analytics governance for small and medium businesses, triggered by two widespread issues:

  • The extension of work from home (WFH) and hybrid work arrangements has acted as a big motivator for companies to build stronger data governance programs as small and medium-sized corporations continue to allow access to their on-premises data for the first time from new and unsecured locations, such as employees’ homes.
  • Global data privacy legislation—such as the EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA—apply to organizations of all sizes doing business in those legal jurisdictions. These new laws have potent punishments for violators, prompting many firms to make data governance a new priority.

With more data sources to manage than ever before, and increasing complexity with the rise of multi-clouds, the role of CDO looks like it’s here to stay.

Informatica’s Frey said: “With data growing exponentially, and the pandemic-induced digital acceleration cementing data as the new ‘currency’ of the world, using it right will help reap the benefits of better business outcomes. Organizations therefore need someone who can straddle IT and business strategy and be able to think broadly and strategically on the relationships and interdependencies of business, data, analytics, and digital strategies, as well as the organizational and technical capabilities required to execute those strategies – aligning all stakeholders on their understanding of the business value of data.”

Demise of DBAs

SolarWinds Head Geek Thomas LaRock noted that the rise of automation over recent years has been a disaster for traditional database administrators (DBAs): “More and more systems and processes have been automated with code, and as a result, the need for DBAs as we know them today is changing.”

“In 2022,” he predicts, “we’ll start to see the traditional DBA role evolve into something new — say, a database architect or database engineer — in response to these shifts. No longer should DBAs see themselves as purely operational or focused on maintenance of the data estate.”

Instead, as automation empowers them to take on work that is higher-level, more proactive, and more innovative, their role will increasingly focus on how to turn data into actionable insights capable of keeping business moving forward.

“They’ll also play a role in advising the business on what databases would make the most sense for their organization. According to the SolarWinds Query Report 2021: Database Priorities and Pitfalls, 33% of tech pro respondents ranked cloud database as a service (DBaaS) as the number one priority to adopt over the next three years. The report also found a growing number of organizations are adopting and/or considering the adoption of NoSQL and open-source databases.”

Employee experience

Workday’s Sandeep ventured another prediction: “The past year has underscored the importance of employee experience and well-being, and we can expect organizations to step up efforts in addressing this in 2022 and beyond. Besides having a Chief Talent Officer to shape talent and wellbeing policies, we may also see the rise of new job titles focused on wellbeing – even beyond the C-suite levels.”

At Workday, for example, he revealed: “We now have Business Psychologists, a new role we introduced as part of our acquisition of Peakon – a platform that leverages people analytics to help customers understand the psychological science behind employee engagement and keep a pulse on changing workforce needs.”

Archana Rao, CIO, Atlassian, also predicted that employee engagement and burnout prevention will remain at the top of the agenda for IT: “Distributed work, competition for talent, and increasing levels of burnout will drive IT leaders to invest in building a world-class, digital employee experience. This will include the adoption of more asynchronous collaboration tools, having all employees on the same cloud platform, and making information across the business more open. 

Archana’s colleague with one of those new C-suite roles, shared his perspective from a security perspective. Adrian Ludwig, Chief Trust Officer, Atlassian, emphasized that more empathy, not technical skills, is key to building resilience in 2022: “We’ll begin to realize that security is not just a technical problem; it’s an organizational and human problem. As an industry, we’ve learned that it’s not enough to mandate security protocols and increase training.”

Instead, security teams will need to exercise empathy in order to better understand developers’ top concerns and motivating factors. “For example, you will have far more resilient systems if your development environment includes a strong incentive structure or removes friction for developers to perform security testing and make security improvements.”

So it looks like C-suite roles specializing in ‘softer’ skills are becoming a necessity. Look out for positions such as Chief Talent Officer, Chief Trust Officer and Chief Experience Officer in 2022 and beyond!

“Overall,” Sandeep concluded, “we expect companies to hire good talent for roles that drive organizational change and agility. To be effective, C-suite leaders cannot work in silos, but must leverage innovative technology to draw real-time insights and take targeted actions, to help their organizations redefine their work culture and foster a positive, high-performing environment for the long-run.”