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What’s in a C-Suite Name?

April 21, 2022
From CIBO to CRO ... what's trending, what's not and what do all the letters mean?

IndustryWeek's elite panel of regular contributors.

C-suite roles and titles are important for organizational structure and the achievement of corporate goals—but they should also reflect corporate priorities and drive change for growth. In addition to traditional C-suite roles—CEO, CFO, CIO, COO, etc.—some new roles are emerging, while others, like chief marketing officer, seem to be going by the wayside:

Here are some emerging roles:

Chief Digital Officer. Lately, with more than 70% of companies doing some form of digital transformation, the chief digital officer/chief data officer has entered the C-suite with a vengeance. According to PwC, 19% of the top 2,500 companies worldwide have a CDO in place.

Chief Software Officer: Recently, Stellantis, one of the world’s largest automotive groups, named Yves Bonnefont its CSO. This role sits in the C-suite and reports to the CEO. This is highly unusual, to say the least. You must think about the context. Software is disrupting the automotive business and transforming it into a mobility industry full of apps and platforms. Stellantis’s CEO wanted to make a statement to the entire corporation that software is the future of the car business. Having this title in the C-suite is much more than symbolic. It gives the organization a sense of what is important and what the strategy will be in the future.

Chief Revenue Officer: Companies that have embraced software-as-a-service are increasingly combining all their go-to-market functions under this title. This trend emerged from Silicon valley a while back. CROs focus on accelerating growth and maximum revenues by aligning go-to-market functions. The CRO is the chief conductor of these functions, removing silos, inefficiencies and antiquated ways of working. Blake Wetzel, COO and CRO at TeraGo, said in an interview: “I’ve seen a lot of cases where there’s a VP of sales, a VP of operations, a VP of marketing and a head of technology. This creates silos that impeded go-to-market activities. A CRO pulls all those things together … bringing linkages across those functions.”

To reflect corporate priorities, it is sometimes critical for CEOs and boards of directors to add additional C-suite roles for short periods to reflect corporate priorities. Here are three examples:

Chief Installed Base Officer: Most industrial companies are not leveraging and monetizing their pre-existing customer base and are leaving money on the table. I did not come with this concept. My good friend Vivek Joshi made the case for it in 2021, and I fully agree with his perspective. Imagine large industrial companies having a dedicated strategic initiative around connecting existing customers to current product, services and spare parts, as well as to digital innovation. The impact to the bottom line would be quite dramatic.

Chief Value Officer: This new role focuses on the management of customer value and value-based pricing across the entire organization. It is not to be confused with an older CVO role that focuses on finance and shareholder value. CVOs with a customer value focus manage the customer value management process from A to Z and make sure the organization is obsessed about the customers and making them successful. I held this title for five years, although I did not have a seat in the C-suite.

Chief Monetization Officer: This role has become essential to supporting executive and business teams in the optimization of their revenue and pricing models. Monetization is much more than pricing; it encompasses deal management, billing, data management and revenue modeling. This new role makes more sense in the context of digital transformation and data monetization. The Dean of Big Data himself, Bill Schmarzo, made a case for this role back in 2017. I could not agree with him more.

Employees look at C-suite roles to understand corporate priorities. When these roles are traditional and more legacy in nature, they do not show clear direction for the future. With new roles and titles, the clear message is “We are going to focus on strategic areas: data, monetization, customer value, pricing, growth, services, etc., and these areas will be supported by resources, budgets and C-suite sweat equity.” Anything else is good intentions.

Stephan Liozu ­­­is Founder of Value Innoruption Advisors, a consulting boutique specializing in industrial pricing, digital business and subscription-pricing models, and value-based pricing. Stephan has 30 years of experience in the industrial and manufacturing sectors with companies like Owens Corning, Saint-Gobain, Freudenberg and Thales.     

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