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The Rapid Rise of The Chief Digital Officer

Let's start with the definition of a ‘ CDO’... From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "The CDO is not only a digital expert, but may also be a seasoned general manager. As the role frequently is transformational, CDOs generally are responsible for the adoption of digital technologies across a business. The CDO is responsible not just for digital consumer experiences across all business touch points, but also for the whole process of digital transformation."
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So why the rapid rise of the CDO’s?

It seems like almost all major businesses and governments have a ‘ digital transformation’ agenda and are making it one of their key strategic pillars.  This is occuring across the the business landscape from Telecos to banking. And over 50% of companies who do not yet have a digital transformation strategy, plan on adopting one within the next year.

The CDO is filling a gap that often exists between traditional CMO / brand marketers that have learnt their trade in the days in the age of 5 P’s, award winning TV ads and a heavy reliance on ad agencies, and CIO’s who were sometimes deemed to be great technology strategist, but lacked the ability to implement complex enterprise wide projects on time and on budget.

The CDO is appointed on the grounds that they are part of the rare breed that understand all forms of digital marketing (mobile responsive sites, apps, programmatic media buying, social etc) they understand the next generation of customers ( digital natives ) and are credible with hard marking IT teams (are fluent in latest tech). They are expected to a record of executing on-time, every-time, and be an inspiring public speaker, who can take staff, the media and shareholders along their transformational vision.  Based on this lofty brief, you can see why the demand for CDO’s outweighs the supply.  

Why will this role need to evolve or run the risk of being less relevant?

  • The next generation of CMO’s will be digital natives, and have an intimate understanding of digital ecosystem
  • A recent salesforce survey predicted that by 2021 75% of marketing budgets will be on digital with only 25% on traditional - so all CMO’s will need to be CDO’s.
  • Eventually organisations will complete their digital transformation and be fully digitised businesses, making chief digital officer seem like the CEO, an outcome that most CEO’s will be keen to prevent    
  • Continued convergence of CMO’s and CIO’s; a battle that is still be played out


The Chief Digital Officer has the potential to suffer the same fate as the ‘Change Agent’ or ‘Change Manager’ of the past. Eventually ‘change management’ skills became a prerequisite of all executives and senior managers, which resulted in the demand for this specialised role to declined over time. Senior Managers that didn’t have these ‘Change Management’ skills faced extinction and the same will apply with digital skills. Based on this logic, It is likely that we will see a resurgence of CMO’s and CIO’s as the next generation reclaim the digital agendas. Fast forward five to ten years and  digital transformations plans of most companies will be complete, making the seemingly special word ‘digital’ superfluous at the CXO level.

Bugwolf helps digital and delivery teams release software faster with more confidence by unblocking the software testing bottleneck and increasing testing coverage.
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