New kid on the block: Chief Digital Officer

The CDO role is changing dramatically. While the position isn’t exactly new, what’s required of the average CDO is! Gone are the days of being responsible for introducing basic digital solutions.
The Chief Digital Officer is now a « Chief business transformer » and has a mission to coordinate and manage comprehensive changes that address everything from updating how a corporation works to building out entirely new entities.
CDOs remain mysterious and intrigue certain companies. Only 40% of the French CAC 40 has officially reported that they have recruited a CDO in their business. What about the other 60%? How to find your next Chief Digital Officer and what are their exact missions?


1. What is a CDO and why does the role matter?

Consumers are demanding fresh information and the ability to buy whenever, wherever and however they want has created numerous challenges in all sectors.
More than 200 million iPhone and Android smartphones now are in consumers’ hands, and demand shows no sign of abating. Some 41 million apps are downloaded every day, and social networking is expanding on a geometric scale. Consumers are leveraging their digital resources and it’s no surprise that companies are seeking to recruit digital talents.
It’s not surprising that the number of people in CDO roles doubled from 2013 to 2014 and is expected to double again this year (study conducted by Gartner). A true CDO owns and drives, digital strategy across an entire organization and helps it extract value for the business. Traditionally, startups and smaller enterprises have an edge because they have fewer traditional boundaries.
Thinking digital is in their DNA, which leads to an intuitive understanding of digital technology across every member of the team.

2. CDO’s Hall of Fame

On Linkedin, we have already found over 1400 CDO profiles, but many more digital operating executives lurk right beneath the SEO surface, especially in larger corporations, with titles such as “Chief of Digital Transformation”, “Head of Digital Strategy”, “VP Digital Marketing” or simply “VP Digital”.
Couple profiles that have caught our attention:
  • Jonathan Webster – Chief Digital and Transformation at Lloyds Banking Group in London
  • Daniel Heaf – SVP Digital Commerce at Burberry, London
  • Ian Rogers – Chief Digital Officer at LVMH, Paris
  • Helene Tixier – VP Global Digital and Multichannel Strategy at Sanofi Pasteur, Lyon
  • Lubomira Rochet – Chief Digital Officer at L’Oréal, Paris
We are at the beginning of a new era for social Internet innovators who are re-imagining and re-inventing a web of people and places, looking beyond documents and websites.

3. Does your company need a CDO?

Here is a handful of questions that will help you determine whether a Chief Digital Officer would be helpful to your business:
  • Do you have a roadmap for converting offline solutions to digital, or to develop new and unique digital products and services for your customers?
  • Do your customers engage with you online?
  • Do your customers engage with your competitors online?
  • Do you have a comprehensive digital strategy?
  • Does your online presence allow for two-way communication with customers and potential customers?
  • Does a Google search on your company name bring up information that is in line with how you want customers to view your company? How does that compare to what they see when they search your competitors?
  • Is digital interaction central to your company’s growth and future success?

4. What does the future hold for the CDO?

The exact role of a CDO varies from organization to organization, depending on its level of data maturity.
One thing we see is the role of the CDO is evolving. If the data capacity and the competence is not in place, that needs to be the first step the CDO takes, but once that’s done, the CDO will not go away.
The role will transform and continue looking at the analytics side of things and advocating the importance of data. CDOs will then move on to focus on cultural transformation.
CDOs who prove their ability to manage change and transform their businesses almost certainly will lead the way in the rise of the Digital CEO.


In Conclusion, as the digital age scrambles the traditional corporate structure, CDOs must not only launch the business on its digital trajectory but also help it evolve.
The role requires a “bifocal” approach: achieving the near-term imperative of getting things moving quickly while setting in place the long-term conditions of success so the organization can compete digitally.


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