Wanted: Chief Digital Officer

McDonald’s, Starbucks, and L’Óreal have one particular thing in common: they are among the few global multinationals to appoint a Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” (Winston Churchill)

History has shown us that Churchill was pretty right, when saying this. This is also the case in almost every business environment. To be succesful you must always react positively and proactively to game-changing trends. Many of these trends are happening right now: the cloud, (big) data, mobile & apps, social, and many more.

Because of this major changes, many businesses are separating the traditional IT function and digital technologies. A CDO is appointed to manage this change and also to create and manage an organization’s digital strategy, while the CIO is retained to focus on IT. But this is just the beginning.

When this CDO role will develop in the future it will focus on taking firms digital first for customers. This involves working with all data available in the business. In this way, digital is a superset of data, technology, information, and also in some ways marketing. A natural evolution which can be expected is that the CDO is likely to use all this information to make changes to interactions in supply chains, modernizing the way of work, and so on.

When this happens, the CDO is becoming a true leader with influence on business strategy and performance. More than a CIO before and even taking away strategic influence from a CIO. “The CDO role is fulfilling promise that CIO’s have often aspired to,” said Dave Mathison, organizer of the CDO Summit in New York last april. “While CIOs often struggle to fit the idea of business leadership into their roles, the entire mission of a CDO is leadership. In my view, the next generation of CEOs will come from the CDO role”.

It often seems like the CDO is an alternative to the CIO or CMO, but that’s not true. In most cases the CIO comes from a technological and data background, and the CMO has more with communications. CDO’s truly are of the native digital generation, realizing there is no such thing as social media – all media is social. Everything nowadays is digital in some way. Especially in commerce and retailing industries

Developing and executing a profitable business strategy, based on IT, using Marketing will be the role of the CDO. This is a combination of someone with digital acumen but who is also a seasoned general manager. Several competencies are required for this position:
– Setting strategy;
– Executing for results;
– Building relationships and using influence;
– Leadership;
– Demonstrating cultural sensitivity.

While it may take a while before the majority of firms introduces a CDO, there is an increasing demand for someone to take charge of digital transformation and digital strategy. Firms that realize too late that they need a leader who can manage their digital transformation and empower the wider business to use digital technology to innovate, will throw their future into jeopardy.


Grossman, Rhys & Rich, Jana (n.d.) “The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer”. Retrieved from: http://www.russellreynolds.com/content/leadership-and-talent-rise-of-chief-digital-officer-CDO

Grout, Steve (2014, June 12) “The rise of the chief digital officer”. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/jun/12/chief-digital-officer

Nichols, David (2014, August 18) “How the cloud is precipitating the reign of the CDO”. Retrieved from: http://cioblog.ey.com/2014/08/18/how-the-cloud-is-precipitating-the-reign-of-the-cdo/

Nichols, David (2014, August 25) “How the CDO’s remit will evolve”. Retrieved from: http://cioblog.ey.com/2014/08/25/how-the-cdos-remit-will-evolve/

Nichols, David (2014, September 1) “CIO or CDO? Do you fit the bill for the C-suite’s latest role?”. Retrieved from: http://cioblog.ey.com/2014/09/01/cio-or-cdo-do-you-fit-the-bill-for-the-c-suites-latest-role/#more-688

Woods, Dan (2014, April 14) “Don’t Let A Chief Digital Officer Steal The Best Part Of Your Job”. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danwoods/2014/04/14/dont-let-a-chief-digital-officer-steal-the-best-part-of-your-job/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: