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The Future C-Suite Roles: Navigating business transformation in an era of innovation

Navigating business transformation in an era of innovation

With the ever-increasing pace of technological change and shifting workforce demographics, is it any wonder that C-suite roles at large enterprise firms are changing too? Several new roles have appeared in the last few years that reflect these technological, economic, and social challenges, while several traditional roles are also evolving and becoming more prominent.

What are the key trends shaping the C-suite of the future that organisations should be aware of? To answer that question, this article focuses on some of the most dynamic and in-demand roles in this changing business landscape.

In particular, it explores how the roles of Chief Product Officer (CPO), Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Chief Growth Officer (CGO), Chief Culture Officer (CCO), and Chief AI Officer (CAIO) are evolving, using real-world examples from fintech, technology, financial services, professional services and private markets.

Chief Product Officers (CPOs): Pioneering Innovation

Chief Product Officers (CPOs) are at the forefront of driving innovation in today’s corporate landscape. They play a crucial role in shaping a company’s product strategy, ensuring it aligns with market trends and customer demands.

Alex Cormack, Group Managing Director at Sheffield Haworth, emphasizes the significance of CPOs, saying, “Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful organisation. Chief Product Officers are instrumental in identifying market gaps and driving product development to meet evolving customer expectations, and we are increasingly seeing our clients are evolving their leadership teams with these customer centric positions.”

A prime real-world example of the importance of the CPO is Amazon, which has had the same Senior Vice President of Devices and Services since 2010. Given that the CPO’s portfolio includes some of the most prominent devices launched in the last 13 years – Alexa, Echo, Kindle, Fire TV, Fire tablets, Halo, Ring, Blink, Day 1 Editions, Amazon Key, and Amazon Appstore, to name a few – this consistency is a great example of the positive impact a great CPO can have – not just on the bottom line, but on brand reputation and brand equity.

Chief Revenue Officers (CROs): Maximizing Revenue Streams

If innovation is vital to the role of a CPO, it’s also true for revenue. The last 20 years has seen a real shift towards subscription-based revenue models, from Salesforce’s revolutionary cloud-based CRM to streaming services that killed off the video rental market.

As a result, Chief Revenue Officers have come to the fore, in a role that marries strategy, sales, customer support, even pricing. It’s a role that bridges the gap between operations, finance, and sales, and has only grown in importance.  

Salesforce itself is a great example of the importance of the Chief Revenue Officer, having appointed Miguel Milano as combined President and Chief Revenue Officer since August this year. In this role, Milano is responsible for accelerating customer success “by leading worldwide sales and distribution of Salesforce products and services”, as his company bio says.

Chief Growth Officers (CGOs): Capturing Untapped Potential

Initially a role created by media agencies, today Chief Growth Officers (CGOs) have become increasingly crucial in several sectors, among them technology, software, and private markets. Many of our financial investment clients have adopted the CGO role as they look to identify more growth opportunities, whether through organic growth, M&A, or strategic partnerships.

The appointment in May this year of Amber Hilkene as partner and Chief Growth Officer at mid-market private equity firm Stanley Capital Partners shows the extent to which the CGO role is becoming increasingly influential at all levels within private markets.

Chief Culture Officers (CCOs): Fostering a Positive Workplace Culture

Attracting and retaining top talent is as vital in the tech, IT consulting, and fintech sectors as any other. But it’s also much harder and more competitive, which is why company culture is so important. It’s an essential part of a company’s value proposition to top talent in a market where high salaries just aren’t enough on their own.

Google is a great example of a trendsetter when it comes to making culture a strategic priority. Stacy Savides Sullivan has been VP, People Operations & Chief Culture Officer at the company for 24 years. With such an early and consistent commitment to the importance of company culture, is it any wonder that Google has so often been ranked as one of the best companies in the world to work for?

Helen Tudor, Managing Director and Global DEI Lead at Sheffield Haworth, adds, ‘The CCO role is integral in aligning the values and mission of the firm with ways of working. The CCO aligns purpose with processes and shows employees that their contributions matter to the organisation’s success. We are seeing this gain prominence in our clients, particularly in response to a more global workforce.’

Chief AI Officers (CAIOs): Harnessing the Power of AI with NVIDIA

Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to transform all industries, particularly fintech and tech. Chief AI Officers (CAIOs) oversee the integration of AI technologies, leveraging data-driven insights for strategic advantage.

Alex Cormack underscores the emerging trend of AI-specific leadership roles: “Generative AI is no longer a buzzword but a strategic imperative for firms to harness the technology for greater innovation and more streamlined processes. Chief AI Officers play a critical role in harnessing AI’s potential for their respective organisations.”

The CAIO is one of the newest roles in this list. Futurist Bernhard Marr argues that every company should have a CAIO, while key real-world examples include Gargi Banerjee Dasgupta at IBM, Mei May Soo at Dell Technologies, and Sulabh Soral at the Deloitte AI Institute in the UK.

While NVIDIA doesn’t yet have a CAIO – despite being a pioneer in AI and GPU technology – CEO Jensen Huang has in many ways adopted the responsibilities of the role and firmly established the company as a key player in the AI ecosystem.


These real-world examples from industry leaders demonstrate how the roles of CPO, CRO, CGO, CCO, and CAIO have already become integral to an organization’s success. As Cormack highlights, “The future belongs to companies that embrace change and innovation, and supporting our clients as they navigate new and emerging technology, business processes, and innovative work practices is a reflection of our commitment to staying ahead of the curve and supporting our clients with their human capital requirements”.

Incorporating these roles strategically can position organizations for long-term success and ensure they remain competitive in an ever-evolving business landscape.

About Sheffield Haworth

Sheffield Haworth is a global consultancy founded in 1993. We have a history of placing executives in high-impact roles year after year, giving clients a competitive advantage in a fast-changing world. Our vision is to be the leading global consultancy in people and transformational change. We specialise in executive search and interim, talent intelligence, organisation and leadership advisory and organisation change management.

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