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The rise of the Chief Technology Officer

February 2, 2021, 11:31 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Some interesting new research out from IBM today shows how much the C-Suite has changed in the last decade. Some 3,000 global CEOs were asked to say who in the C-Suite would play the most crucial role for the organization in the next two to three years. The top answer—after Chief Operating Officer (57%) and Chief Financial Officer (52%)—was Chief Technology Officer (36%). Positions like Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Strategy Officer all fell into the single digits.

That’s a big change from similar—but not exactly comparable—surveys the company did in 2013 and 2015, that showed that Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Innovation Officer held the pole positions, after COO and CFO.

What happened? IBM’s Mark Foster said it reflects a change in the way companies think about digital transformation. Back then, “people thought it was all about the front of the business. It was very much around projecting the modernity of your business to the outside world.” But today, “digitization has moved right back into the core of people’s business…requiring a fundamental rethinking of the business.” As for the demise of the Chief Strategy Officer, Foster says in today’s world, “the CEO has to become the Chief Strategy Officer.”

Separately, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda plans to announce today that his company has completed the process to become a certified B Corp—joining the ranks of companies like Danone, Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia, which put social and environmental goals at the core of their operations. Maggioncalda said he was an economics major at Stanford in the 1980s, and then accepted the notion that companies should focus primarily on shareholder returns. But since then, he has concluded that “business as an institution has a role to play in moving society forward.” And given the desire of younger workers to affiliate with companies that give them purpose, “it is also really good business.”

Maggioncalda predicts more companies take the B Corp route because “you can attract, motivate, and retain top talent. It will become the basis of competition.”

More news below. And be sure to listen to this week’s Leadership Next podcast—Apple/Spotify—in which you get a special seat at our recent discussion with the likes of Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, GM’s Mary Barra and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

Alan Murray


Robinhood funding

Robinhood has raised another $2.4 billion from shareholders, on top of the $1 billion it raised last week, so it can cover the surge in collateral requirements that has been caused by the Gamestop-et-al frenzy. That means the stock-trading app has raised more since Thursday than it did in the preceding eight years since its launch. But what of its hoped-for IPO? Fortune

Rare earths

The U.S. Department of Defense has given Australian mining firm Lynas over $30 million to build a rare earth metal processing plant in Texas. The move appears to be an attempt to break China's stranglehold on the sector. Fortune

Google games

Google has shuttered the part of its Stadia gaming platform that developed exclusive games. That means the company is no longer competing with Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox, leaving it free to partner with them instead. Fortune

Nord Stream 2

The French government has reiterated its desire to see Germany drop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which is almost complete. The European Parliament wants the same. Opposition to the Russian pipeline is longstanding, and it comes from many quarters, but it's intensifying in the context of the mass arrests of Alexei Navalny's supporters. Deutsche Welle


J&J vaccine

How much of a difference will Johnson & Johnson's vaccine make? As Kat Eschner explains in this piece for Fortune, it's less effective than Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna's vaccines, but a lot easier to roll out: "Many public health officials are pinning their hopes on the one-shot vaccine. In today’s press conference, [Anthony] Fauci underlined the importance of achieving high levels of vaccination, even if some of the vaccines are of lower efficacy." Fortune

Tesla Germany

Elon Musk spoke to Fortune's Vivienne Walt about Tesla's under-construction Gigafactory near Berlin. He talked about targets, making Tesla's own battery cells or the first time, and why he thinks Tesla's German workers won't see a need to join the powerful IG Metall union. Also, here's a separate piece on the lizard-related environmental issues that have complicated the factory's construction. Fortune

Italy vs TikTok

Italy's privacy regulator has told TikTok to stop processing the personal data of users whose age has not been verified, which would effectively block all Italian users from uploading and commenting on videos. The move comes following the death of a 10-year-old user who apparently died while taking part in a viral challenge. Politico

Clubhouse guide

What do you need to know about Clubhouse, the buzzy app where tech elites, celebrities and investors hang out? Fortune's Danielle Abril explains: "The app is invite-only, meaning someone who wants to join must be invited by someone who’s already on the service. Once in, users can hop into any room where people are chatting, create a new public room, or create a room for friends or specific users." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.