The Chief Digital Officer

Are Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) replacing Chief Information Officers (CIOs)? Maybe not, but the number of CDOs is certainly rising, and, according to Gartner, twenty-five percent of companies will have a CDO within the next two years.

Why? Well, a study from Capgemini Consulting indicates that digital initiatives provide nine percent higher revenue, twelve percent higher market valuation and twenty-six percent higher profits – no small feat in these economic times.

The role of the CDO is a relatively new position; in fact, there is no set job description. They are not typically part of the IT department, and their presence is often directly tied to a CEO’s desire for a cultural change in an organization. While the CIO is still important, the CDO is delivering something that the CIO can’t necessarily deliver. It seems to us that the role of the CDO (not to be confused with a Chief Data Officer, a role cropping up in some organizations as a direct response to an increased focus on big data) is intended to focus on an organization’s digital offerings – more associated with transformation and growth than running the business.

On one hand, CIOs can take action to prevent the need for a CDO – setting up digital technology and making strategic changes that a CDO might otherwise handle. However, sometimes CDOs are brought in because a CIO just doesn’t have the necessary relationships within a company to drive change – through no fault of their own.

Because the CDO’s role varies depending on the company, the relationship between the CDO and CIO varies as well. Regardless, if a CDO is brought on, the CIO should accept the change and work together, where possible, rather than resenting the change and losing authority over time.

A partnership with a CDO can provide a new pathway for the future, opening up new opportunities and lines of revenue for IT. A smart CIO can make changes now to prevent the need for a CDO, but ultimately, a mutual partnership can enhance an IT department, as well as the organization as a whole.

For more on this topic, check out “New Chief in Town,” in the March 2013 issue of CIO magazine.

What do you think of the CDO position? How do you think a CIO can adjust to the presence of a CDO?


Mike Harris
DCG President

Written by Michael D. Harris at 08:00
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"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
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