What’s a chief collaboration officer? And why hire one?

Chief collaboration officer Suzanne Schröder explains
Suzanne Schröder
Stock image of people working together

A chief collaboration officer (CCO) is a senior executive in charge of…well, collaboration. Specifically, a CCO’s job is to improve the company’s efficiency by streamlining communication and workflows. Of course, this could mean any number of things, as collaboration dips its pen into everything from communication to company culture.

So it’s hardly surprising that people are wondering what a CCO really does – let alone why their board needs one. But trust us when we say: the role is trending for a reason. And here’s why.

Trending: CCO

The last decade has brought about some incredible changes to how and where we work. But despite our newfound processes and agility, despite using the best collaboration tools in human history, modern companies are more disconnected than ever.


Because there were also benefits – not just constraints – to having everyone in the office. Open information flow was one of them. We talked more. Shared more. We discussed challenges freely over lunch so everyone could hear, at the coffee machine, in the hallway, and even after work. It meant awareness of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, fostering relationships and collaboration between teams and departments.

That’s gone. Or at least severely weakened.

Studies found that 79% of employees reported working in siloed teams, while 68% claimed that a lack of visibility into cross-functional projects hindered their work. In addition, about two-thirds of C-level executives compared the challenge of knowledge silos to events such as economic and market downturns.

In other words, our new way of working presents some significant barriers to business collaboration.

And then the hero comes along

The good news? This is the natural way of things. Big changes leave gaps in their wake, so we adapt the way we always have. The company adapts. After all, we’ve seen this happen before. Not so long ago, we saw the same trends for unconventional roles such as chief information security officer (CISO) and the mysterious chief customer experience officer (CXO). Today, these roles have a seat on the boards of about 90% and 55% of large organisations, respectively.

Now, it’s the chief collaboration officer’s turn.

Reporting directly to the CEO, the CCO takes a holistic and detailed (and impartial) view of the organisation and its workflows. By seeing both the parts and the whole, they can make informed decisions when establishing their solutions, instilling best practices for communication and workflow.

This, combined with clear goals and accountability, provides a clear purpose that makes employees part of a journey rather than being just another cog in the machine. While this used to be part of the CEO’s job description, a CEO has a million competing priorities and, as we’ve established, business collaboration now demands a dedicated role.

Varying responsibilities

That said, every company is different. Every industry is different, every country, every branch, and so on, meaning the CCO’s responsibilities will vary immensely. Here are some – but far from all – examples of what they might look like:

  • Internal communication: one of the chief collaboration officer’s primary objectives, naturally. Communication needs to be open and in real-time, as this will affect everything else.
  • Modern workplace culture: we’re in a social revolution with hybrid and remote working, but we still want to connect with our work and its purpose. We want to belong. The CCO must make that happen. That means embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion to attract the best talent from all backgrounds on top of offering rigorous training and development programs for everyone.
  • Managing change: there’s some impressive collaboration tech out there, but there’s just so much of it. And rolling out new tech is one thing; getting everyone in the company to start using it is another. That’s where the CCO comes in. They make sure the company embraces the new tech and holds everyone accountable to the predetermined adoption goals.
  • Sustainability: how does a CCO impact sustainability? Easy. By reducing unnecessary resource duplication and ensuring that sustainability initiatives run throughout the entire organisation.

Identifying the best CCO candidate for your board

Any qualified chief collaboration officer must understand what an efficient business looks like on the inside. In addition, they need people skills. They must be as comfortable establishing relationships with executives as with warehouse temps; this is one area where excellent communication skills come in.

The good news is that your ideal candidate may already be working right under your nose! Looking to promote from within is a great start, as your candidates should already understand how your company works, what its culture looks like, and who its people are. And they should already know about the pain points – and how to solve them.

In addition, a good candidate should have a proven track record of successfully managing complex collaboration projects. And people. After all, change – no matter how good – is likely to stir the pot and raise tensions, at least for a short while, so the CCO must be able to handle these growing pains. Finally, the candidate should have an eye for how to structure teams, especially when it comes to creating a synergy of personalities.

And that’s it! Organisations, particularly large ones, looking to lose their shackles in this new era of work should add a chief collaboration officer to their board of executives – or risk being left behind by the ones that do.

Written by
Suzanne Schröder
Written by
June 7, 2023