What Does a CDO Do?

Your board of directors is incomplete if you don’t employ a Chief Digital Officer. Right? Coming from tech startups, this sounds odd to me. For us, digitalization is the air we breath.

So what do the companies need a CDO for?


IIC Partners published a global survey last September. According to the Rise of Digital Leadership:

  • 1/4 of companies employ a CDO currently.
  • 1/3 of companies plan to hire a CDO in the next two years.
  • From that we can calculate that 50% of businesses will soon have a CDO

From the survey, the CDO’s responsibilities are:

  • Ensuring digital assets work across business units
  • Articulating the strategic vision to other leadership teams
  • Championing increased value through use of digital transformation

The premise seems to be that digitalization is complex and significant enough to require a specific function, on par with CFO, CMO, and CIO. Digitalization enables a business to build new capabilities and move quickly. McKinsey’s Markovitch and Willmott write that Customers want a quick and seamless digital experience, and they want it now.

Most definitions of CDO’s role seem to focus on business transformation, and digitalization affecting all business functions. To me that sounds just like the good ol’ business development manager. And maybe it is: CDO is non-permanent role. When digitalization is integrated into business, there won’t be any particular digital strategy, but just strategy in the digital world.

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