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Transforming the Industry One Relationship at a Time

Michael Ruiz, VP & CDO, MedStar Health

Large and small organizations have expanded their boardroom tables to include a chair for the newest member of the C-suite—the Chief Digital Officer. In fact, the number of Chief Digital Officers has doubled every year since 2005. Due in large part to the increasingly mobile consumer population, companies are recognizing their need to embed digital strategy into every facet of their business. To lead this transformation, Chief Digital Officers are stepping in to fill the role of change agents and lead a revitalized business strategy among their C-level counterparts.

Central to these efforts are the partnerships the Chief Digital Officer must make along the way. The Chief Information Officer and Chief Innovation Officer play key roles in elevating the Digital strategy by leveraging IT systems to scale innovative Digital solutions in a secure and accessible manner. As digital transformation continues revolutionizing the way industry’s operate, the Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer, and Chief Innovation Officer partnership is imperative in identifying new ways to build relationships with consumers in order to differentiate their organization in an ever-changing landscape.

  Chief Digital Officers are driving digital strategy and execution to transform organizations in order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace 

The Role of the Chief Digital Officer

Digital is not defined as a “thing,” but rather a way of doing something. Leveraging mobile, social, cloud, and analytics technology, digital is the foundation for enabling seamless interactions and transactions with consumers.

Consumers today expect to be able to interact with companies whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. As digital technologies continue to enable this kind of customer behavior, organizations who want to remain competitive must fundamentally evolve with digital being central to their business strategy. With 100 billion devices estimated to be connected by 2025, businesses must be on pace to deliver an equally mobile customer experience.

For this reason, Chief Digital Officers are driving digital strategy and execution to transform organizations in order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. First and foremost, this role is consumer-focused, aligned with an equally important business strategy. Innovatively defining new products and business models, the Chief Digital Officer pursues technology-enabled solutions to enhance the overall customer experience at every aspect of their journey. Ultimately these decisions are driven by analytics that support the business imperative for implementing these solutions.

The Partnership of the CDOs and CIOs

While some organizations combine the roles of Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Innovation Officer, revolutionary innovation occurs when all three are distinct functions working in tandem. For example, here at MedStar, each role is focused on research and development from a specific lens. Chief Innovation Officer Mark Smith, M.D. focuses on extensive research and development that is disruptive by nature. In contrast, the Chief Digital Officer role is focused on research and development with the primary expectations and needs of the customer in mind. Finally, Chief Information Officer Mark Schneider is focused on research and development for technology optimization.

This is most clearly exemplified in the motto “start small and fail fast,” implying that disruptive digital solutions must be implemented within a small scope on a short time frame in order to determine viability of the solution before scaling. That’s where the Chief Information Officer enters. The Chief Information Officer’s role is to take these disruptive and customer-focused innovations generated and piloted by the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Digital Officer, and scale them into enterprise systems that are secure and reliable.

A Transforming Landscape

Today, nearly every industry leverages Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at varying levels of maturity. However, many industries that have adopted CRM are largely focused on the mechanical process automation rather than the true management of a relationship. As industries begin to understand the impact a CRM strategy can have on their business, Chief Digital Officers and Chief Information Officers must work together to execute CRM from the perspective of the patient journey, leveraging relationships internally in order to build solid relationships with customers externally.

These varying levels of CRM maturity often mirror the following continuum:

1. Static: In this stage, audiences are not targeted but rather are generated based on client and lead lists. Messaging is manual, generic and ineffective without the ability to personalize or track meaningful analytics.

2. Foundational: While the beginning of a CRM platform, this stage remains transactional as messaging is not customized, and automation and tracking are not robust.

3. Market Automation: This stage marks the transition from transactional to engaging, as audiences are segmented based on data derived from other enterprise systems. Messaging is personalized thanks to customized profiles, and automation reduces costs and required resources. Tracking enables further optimization.

4. Integrated Journeys: A 360 degree view of the customer now enables a well-defined pattern of interaction from acquisition to future engagement with the customer at this stage. Hyper-targeted audiences receive personalized messaging and fine grain tracking enables movement from one level in the purchase cycle to the next.

5. Journey Optimization: At the highest level of CRM maturity, analytics are the driving force to redefining journeys in order to refine and optimize the experience for the customer at every seamless step of their journey.

Healthcare in particular is at the very early stages at CRM maturity. At MedStar, we’re striving towards marketing automation and integrated patient journeys in order to enhance the experience of our existing patients and potential customers. This transformation is occurring as a result of a consumer-focused mindset, asking and answering the question, “If I was the patient or consumer, what would I need or want to see in my journey in order to feel like I have a relationship with the brand?” In turn, the Chief Information Officer is serving as a champion for the integration of CRM into enterprise systems.


The bottom line is that large and small organizations need all three representatives at the table to catalyze enterprise-wide digital transformation. A solid Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Innovation Officer partnership is the most effective way to drive a fundamentally different business strategy—centered on digitally enabling the best possible relationship with the customer through a personalized experience.

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