In the digital era, companies are hiring chief digital officers to help keep pace with rapidly changing customer expectations. But creating new customer journeys requires know-how and resources from every corner of the enterprise. And there’s usually only one person with the resources to make all that happen.

My phone died on a recent trip, and along with it went just about my entire ability to operate as a person. In an instant, I was cut off from everything.

It’s only when you’re in a strange city trying to remember how to hail a cab with your arm instead of your phone does our staggering reliance on technology hit you.

Not long ago, preparing for a trip meant spending an afternoon printing out maps and directions for everywhere you needed to be. Folders stuffed an inch thick with plane tickets and confirmation numbers were a must. Well, that world has disappeared with astonishing speed. And now sticky doesn’t even begin to describe our connected lives.

Spending a few days without my phone turned out to be shockingly difficult. A Gallup poll recently reported that four out of five smart phone users say they keep their phone near them “almost all the time during waking hours.” And these are devices that didn’t even exist 10 years ago!

So what does this mean if you’re running a business? It means we’re way past the point where things are ever going back to the way they were.

Until recently, we’ve had solid pockets of unconnected innovation sprouting up here and there. Yet now it’s all starting to fit together. Hardware, software, and connectivity for sure. But more and more, it’s juicy new business models that can vaporize even iconic brands in an instant. It seems like no one is safe.

Many might agree that customer expectations are shifting more quickly and companies are having a hard time keeping pace. In the past, we could focus on the leaders in our industry and aim to beat them. Not anymore. Now the competition is every other great experience our customers have come to love.

In fact, we’re all being trained to solve any problem we have in 30 seconds or less with the device in our pocket. What used to be considered world-class service is quickly becoming an inconvenience. “Please listen closely as our menu has changed.” ow have companies responded?

Many companies have already named a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) as the key player to lead the charge. These new executives are in charge of things like building apps, running social media campaigns, shifting to mobile, or whatever it takes to drag a traditional company into the digital future.

However, a few years into the CDO experiment, some inconvenient questions are bubbling up. Who does the CDO report to? Who owns the customer? Who owns the P&L? Does the role stretch across products and channels? Getting good answers to these questions and others is showing to be tricky for a lot of companies.

So how do we find our way in a digital world without losing that special something that has gotten us to the top in the first place? Start with your customers.

Look at your company through the eyes of your customers. Yes, this requires turning things sideways and looking across functions, departments, and silos to see what they see and experience what they experience. I call this "Journey Thinking" because it is a mindset that forces you to see the things you’re missing today by only looking at your organizational charts and process flows.

These so-called customer journeys don’t start when customers walk in your door, virtually or otherwise. It starts before they even know about your product or service, when they begin to think about a need. Then it extends through the shopping and buying experience, all the way to the decision to repurchase – or not. In a perfect world, it’s a cycle of ever-improving interactions and positive, profitable relationships.

However, "Journey Thinking" requires you to assess many different customer touchpoints and each are often led by a different member of the C-Suite. It’s nearly impossible for any single executive to own the whole journey and to greenlight the investments needed to improve it. And this is the main reason that betting on the CDO alone is often a false hope.

What becomes apparent is that to bring new journeys to life, the CEO needs to be in on it. It requires ideas, resources, and know-how from every corner of the enterprise. In most cases, there’s usually only one person with the leadership, authority, and resources to make all that happen.

By no means am I suggesting the CDO role isn’t an important one. In fact, just the opposite. Any company embarking on this journey will need someone to spark the change and manage the transformation. However, achieving expected results may come much easier with the full support and vision of the CEO.

Here’s an idea: Perhaps all CEOs should attempt their next business trip without their phone. I promise it won’t take long to realize that digital is no longer an interesting sideshow, or something left for people wearing jeans and t-shirts to worry about. Have no fear. It’s still early in this game and it’s not too late to get started or reboot.

It just needs to start at the top. 

David Shrank is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP. He specializes in leading his clients on the journey of digital transformation, from early strategy development through implementation and execution. Leveraging 20 years of experience, he helps clients understand their brand promise and works with them to build omni-channel business models that deliver at every customer touchpoint.