CDOs are 'the orchestrator within their company'

CDOs are 'the orchestrator within their company'

Executive Grapevine
Executive Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd


CDO, or Chief Digital Officer, is becoming a must-have role yet the nature of the job is changing – providing a challenge for Search firms tasked with hiring people under this designation.

With digital transformation at the forefront of organisational strategy, 87% of organisations have seen hiring for this role become a business priority. According to research by the IDC, it’s become the organisational must-have.

Whilst the remit of a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and CDO often overlap, Chris Curran, Chief Technologist for PwC, believes that “CDOs are no longer just the digital czar — they are the orchestrator within their company.”

This is due to the shift in digital encompassing emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, rather than solely focusing on digital marketing methods such as social media and mobile apps, Curran tells Digiday.

With headhunters tasked with hiring for the role, its important the understand the changing remit of those who will accept the position.

Louisa Wong, the first CDO for Dentsu Aegis Network, notes that 70% of her time is spent on providing strategic consultancy for clients, helping them understand how technology and data transform not just digital but also all the media formats. “You need to understand the data and new technology not only from Facebook and Google but also from Oracle and IBM,” she told the publication.

Ryan Bulkoski, Partner of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles said that CDOs have become more business-oriented, and some even report directly to CEOs.

He said: “CMOs are more about branding, PR and marketing communications, while CDOs are focused on user experience, user interface as well as product management and development. Sometimes, we see CDOs even own engineering resources.”

Bulkoski added that when companies hire a new CDO, functions like digital marketing, digital analytics, social media and user experience design may shift to the CDO – not the CMO. The complexity of the CDO role makes it harder to fill. Michael Adler, Senior Managing Partner for executive search firm AC Lion, added that the biggest challenge, when looking for CDOs, is determining if those candidates have the balance of strategic and executional abilities. “A lot of C-level executives don’t have the ability to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty,” he said.

And Curran has a warning for the firms tasked with finding CDO candidates: as they are likely to come from startups or entrepreneurial companies they may view bigger businesses as moving slowly. They may also be younger than most people on the senior team - so be prepared for questions if they've come from a non-traditional background, warns Curran.

About Heidrick & Struggles Ltd

Heidrick & Struggles is a provider of senior-level executive search, culture shaping and leadership consulting services. For more than 60 years, they have helped clients build leadership teams worldwide. Today, Heidrick & Struggles leadership experts operate from principal business centers in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

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