As if there weren’t enough C-level jobs, now there’s the chief revenue officer. CROs merge the functions of VP of sales/marketing with those of a business development executive to oversee generation and acceleration of all revenue, says LaVon Koerner, founder of Chicago consulting firm Revenue Storm and a self-appointed CRO evangelist. “The CEO is not focused enough on these issues, and the other positions are too focused on their individual operational silos,” he says. “Someone has to get on top of this.”
Someone like John Kao, CRO at The TriZetto Group Inc., a health-care IT company. He says his responsibilities include all top-line issues, so he and the CFO are joined at the hip. “I make sure our deals are organized in such a way that we can see through the same lens,” says Kao. “It positions the CFO proactively, instead of reactively, and frees him to focus on the expense side and financial reporting.”
Some say the CRO craze is just the dying gasp of dot-com-era title inflation. “‘CRO’ mostly came and went,” says Bob Concannon, global technology practice leader at Boyden Executive Search. “I think it was a classic case of title creativity to attract key players who wouldn’t leave their SVP sales position for the same title at another company.”
Koerner takes such criticism in stride. “We’re in the same place that the CIO title was in the 1980s. It’s not surprising that there is early resistance.” But unlike CIOs, CROs may not last. Concannon says that even though CROs are above VPs of sales and business development, if companies can’t afford all three, the sales VP may be the last man standing.