What Is a Chief Strategist Officer? (Plus Skills and Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Chief strategist officers (CSO) are C-level executives who develop, communicate, and execute the company's strategies to enhance strategic initiatives, future goals, and financial growth. Working in executive positions such as chief strategist office can improve your leadership skills and show you how organizations operate. Understanding what these professionals do and what skills they need for the job can help you decide if this is the right career choice for you.

In this article, we define what a CSO does and the skills they use in their jobs every day.

What is a chief strategist officer?

Chief strategist officers, also known as chief strategists, are executives responsible for assisting chief executive officers with executing, developing, sustaining, and communicating the company's initiative. The CSO reports to the chief executive officer (CEO) or the company's board of directors when developing short-term and long-term strategic initiatives or when guiding companies through a process of business planning. They help guide new company policies and goals, establish metrics by which the company can measure progress, and work closely with the executive team to ensure adherence to the primary goals.

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Why do businesses need a CSO?

A CSO helps CEOs manage the intricacy of successfully running a business. CEOs and other senior leadership team members face continuously implementing and cultivating, and creating robust strategic initiatives to help a company achieve competitive advantages. Many organizations understand the complexity of strategic planning and recognize the need to find a professional to help the CEO structure and execute the strategic initiatives. Some organizations outsource help from strategy consultants so that they don't have to commit to a full-time position within the company, allowing them to access valuable talent and insight for a significantly lower investment.

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Disadvantages of outsourcing business consultants

If you want to structure and implement strategic initiatives, you require confidentiality and security from the professionals tasked with those duties. Here are some possible disadvantages of outsourcing your company's strategic planning:

  • Privacy concerns: As strategies are secret plans and a conversation for top management teams, they often involve the company's weaknesses and strengths, competitor strategies, evolving trends of social, technological and political situations, available opportunities, and threats to develop strategies. Sharing such critical information with a consultant who is not part of the company can be risky, as the consultants can disclose the information to competitors.

  • Availability problems: Companies may hire a CSO to help develop long-term goals and strategies for the organization, but the CSO may not always be available. Since they don't work as a salaried employee, they can take other contracts and work that might prevent them from helping the company throughout the process of executing their primary strategies.

  • Misalignment of values: Outsourcing work can sometimes carry the risk of hiring someone that doesn't necessarily align with the company's values. Since company values are what drive the company's progress and create its public image, it's important for a company to find the right CSO that aligns with its values and can help the company progress in the right direction.

  • Increased long-term costs: While outsourcing can save a company money in the short term by eliminating the need to hire a full-time employee, if the company consistently hires new strategists, it can potentially increase long-term costs for company strategies. If strategists aren't discreet and share information with competitors, it may also affect the company's financial health by giving competitors an advantage.

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The difference between CSOs and chief marketing officers

While CSOs can share similar responsibilities to chief marketing officers, or CMOs, it's important to understand that despite frequent comparisons, these two positions are unique. While both positions help the company develop strategies to reach customers, establish market dominance, and increase the company's success, the CSO is more focused on strategies that benefit the company as a whole. The marketing officer focuses more on how to improve the company's marketing efforts and tools to better reach the customer and increase revenues and profits.

Some businesses may combine these roles to save money, making the CSO the chief officer of both marketing and the company's administrative strategies. Since CSOs typically have training and skills in marketing, combining these roles can increase efficiency and potentially make the marketing and strategic planning processes more effective.

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The job description of a CSO

If you're interested in becoming a CSO, it's important to understand what they do, where they work, what training and education they need, and what skills they use. Here is a summary of each, so you can better understand the role of the CSO and what you might do in this position:

Responsibilities of CSO

A CSO is responsible for several duties within an organization. Most of the CSO's jobs involve creating, developing, and communicating strategies. The CSO is also responsible for developing the visions of a company and sustaining implementation efforts. The roles of CSOs vary with companies, but here are the common responsibilities:

  • working together with the board of directors and CEOs to develop inclusive strategic plans

  • collaborating with CFOs to establish a capital plan according to organizational strategies

  • identifying strategic threats and risks

  • analyzing changes in market shares, product performance, competitive intelligence and market dynamics

  • identifying crucial strategic partnership opportunities, potential joint ventures, acquisition and mergers targets and essential capital projects

  • setting suitable metrics for measuring the progress and performance of an organization

  • communicating strategies to employees and top management

  • handling executive divestitures and divestments

  • monitoring business initiatives execution plans

  • working with consultants, special committees and executives to execute strategies

  • developing training and formulating development plans

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CSO skills

CSOs need several key skills for the position. While specific technical skills may vary between different industries, here are the basic skills for strategists:

  • Planning skills: Since CSOs plan the company's strategies, they need strong planning skills, such as long-term thinking, time management skills, and strategic thinking skills. They understand how certain strategies can benefit companies long-term and what effects implementing those plans might have, and how to react.

  • Interpersonal skills: CSOs work closely with other people in the organization, so they need strong interpersonal skills. These can include things like verbal and non-verbal communication skills, active listening skills, writing skills, and general respect and compassion for other people.

  • Leadership skills: CSOs also need strong leadership skills to help guide the company's executives. They use skills like mentoring, coaching, communication, integrity, and project management to achieve cohesion among the company's executives and other employees.

  • Business management skills: CSOs also typically have strong business management skills. They understand how businesses operate, how to plan for success, and what challenges a company might face during its progression.

  • Analytical skills: CSOs also typically have strong analytical skills, being able to analyze a situation, determine cause and effect, and plan for future iterations of the event or challenge. These skills help the CSO create more effective long-term plans and account for all variables.

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Educational requirements

Becoming a CSO involves certain requirements for education and training. Since you're helping a business plan its long-term strategies for success, employers typically expect a certain level of expertise in business management and strategic planning. Here are some common educational requirements for CSOs:

  • Bachelor's degree: Most employers require CSOs to have at least a bachelor's degree in business management or a similar field of study. A bachelor's degree shows an employer that you understand the fundamentals of business management and planning.

  • Industry experience: Many employers also expect a CSO to have at least some experience in their respective industry, with key technical skills to show proficiency with industry-specific processes or needs. This can be business management or leadership experience, and employers typically ask for between two to five years of experience for new strategist officers.

  • Technical certifications: While technical certifications aren't necessarily a hard requirement for the position, they may help prospective strategist officers gain an advantage in the hiring process. There are many certifications to consider, whether they're management or leadership certifications or industry-specific technical certifications.

Work environment

CSOs can work in a variety of environments, depending on their specific industry. Typically, a CSO works in an office environment, communicating with the company's executive team, completing paperwork, and performing important research. Some CSOs might visit company locations or meet with other company leaders, requiring travel.

Salary information

A CSO can earn an average salary of $57,257 per year. Depending on your skill level and expertise, employers might offer higher starting wages, or you can earn bonuses in certain positions by helping companies achieve their goals. Typically, more educational credentials mean a higher salary, so consider a graduate degree if you want to earn more.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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