Too Old to Be Digital?: Answers

Recap: Wowza Products CMO Paulo Gonzales, 53, and CIO Bev Wilson, 48, are digitally savvy and keenly aware of how important it is to stay current in terms of how the company communicates and interacts with its customers and prospects. Even so, CEO Glenn Eichert is convinced that the company needs a senior leader whose sole responsibility is all things digital. Without discussing the new position with Gonzales and Wilson, Eichert launched a search for a chief digital officer (CDO) to bring in a forward-thinking 30-something who could ensure Wowza’s continued digital leadership. Gonzales and Wilson got wind of the situation and were both surprised and disappointed that Eichert would take such a big step without at least informing them—especially considering that it would impact them in terms of their responsibilities. They decided to approach Eichert together about it, but were torn about the best approach to take.

April Winner

Kevin McPherson, general manager, communication and marketing services, Xerox
Gonzales and Wilson should take the high road. They should meet with the CEO to discuss their results, how their results compare to industry benchmarks, and their future plans. They should communicate that they’re digitally savvy and they can more than keep up with digital transformation. They should discuss how they effectively collaborate and that doing so provides many benefits that having one person in charge will not provide. This approach should provide some doubts in the CEO’s mind on whether he’s taking the best approach and gives him a way to save face.

If this doesn’t work they need to look for a different company that appreciates their skills.

Other Responses

Steven L. Gurley, president and CEO, Pyrim Technologies Inc.
A very common scenario. Gonzales and Wilson should mentally prepare themselves to:

  1. Enthusiastically embrace this new chief digital officer (CDO).
  2. Look at this new hire as an opportunity to learn.
  3. Seek to objectively understand and internalize Eichert’s vision and goals for this role.
  4. Ask Eichert’s opinion on how he thinks they can best support the new CDO’s success.
  5. Meet with the CDO to understand his/her priorities because this person will have the CEO’s ear.

Gonzales and Wilson also should be prepared to follow the lead of the CEO and the new CDO. Like it or not, Gonzales and Wilson are responsible for making the CEO look smart, as well as  supporting his vision, goals, and direction. If they have given or give the CEO any reason to believe that their priorities are otherwise, they are doomed. Getting defensive is certainly not the way to go. The decision is made. Support it enthusiastically.  

One last thought: If the CEO is wrong in his decision-making with this situation, let the board deal with it. This is not a democracy.

Karen Allen, owner, Advance Printing & Mailing Inc.
I would advise them to take an honest approach; talk to the CEO honestly about their loyalty to the company and the level of competency they each have with digital, and then show evidence to back up these claims. They should also mention that the money the company would save in not needing to hire someone new in this capacity would allow them to upgrade their current technology.

Then they should tell the CEO, “Show us the direction that you want to go and let us try and show you a plan to get there before you determine that we’re unable to achieve your new goals for the company. We would be honored to work on a plan that would be not only satisfactory, but exceed your expectations. We may not be thirty-something but we’re experienced—you could say that we’re sturdy-something.”

Jeff Sawyer, online response
Gonzales and Wilson should look up Eichert in their Rolodex and fax him a mimeographed memo stating their concerns.

Peter Mendelson, CMO, Raiseworks
For CEO Eichert to arbitrarily decide that the digital team must now be led by a thirty-something is both disturbing and patently illegal. Disturbing because CMO Gonzales and CIO Wilson have demonstrated that their digital collaboration continues to improve the prospect and customer experience while aggressively driving the business; illegal because Wowza could be guilty of ageism and sexism as the CMO and CIO are both part of protected classes. Most important, this knee-jerk action could fundamentally derail the business, which is running well, and add an unnecessary expense.

Rather than arbitrarily bringing on a digital-savvy millennial to lead the digital team, why not hire a top-notch digital marketing consultant to do a brief engagement to make sure that Wowza is maximizing customer relevance and response, and driving sales growth and improving company profitability via digital marketing?

Lawrence A. Tillinger, Proprietor, SFLI
Gonzalez and Wilson should meet with Eichert to discuss Wowza’s budget. In the meeting they should say that they had heard about the CDO search and were concerned about how it would affect them, their responsibilities, their results, the company’s marketing technologies, new strategies, and budget constraints. They should support Eichert’s initiative, while requesting a concurrent increase in the budget for updating Wowza’s marketing technologies and testing of new strategies.

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