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With the unstoppable rise of digital enterprise comes many opportunities and also many challenges for any business.

What is a CDO?

The CDO's task is to ensure the business is making the most of these opportunities, and facing the challenges head-on. It's an extremely important role, no matter what the nature of the business. In some sectors, digital will be the fastest-growing revenue stream. In traditional media companies, the CDO may oversee the transition to a digital-first proposition, ensuring it capitalises on its products while maintaining its core brand values. While  (Chief Information Officers) usually come from tech and data backgrounds, and CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) from communications, CDOs are usually from the digital native generation i.e. they've grown up with digital. As such, they're ideally placed to see the business through digital-tinted lenses.

What do they do?

The CDO is often second only to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), so it's a very senior position. Indeed, in many cases the CDO is in an ideal position to succeed the CEO, as they will have picked up the operating experience, management expertise, strategy and vision. Whereas before, digital was seen as one side of a business – and often a separate enterprise – nowadays digital proliferates all areas of most businesses. Having a good CDO is crucial to achieving and maintaining digital growth.

The CDO will be the one setting the strategy and adapting to a constantly shifting digital landscape. They'll also build relationships within and outside of the organisation, recruit top talent, lead teams and be diplomatic when resolving potential tensions between different parts of the business.


Analyst firm IDC estimates that by 2020, 60 per cent of CIOs in global organisations will be replaced by CDOs for the delivery of IT-enabled products and digital services. The CIO is traditionally responsible for technology policy, procurement, budgeting and more, so there is some crossover between the two roles. However, most CIOs don't have time to gain the expertise in areas like cloud technology, mobility and other digital technologies. Which is where the CDO comes in. CIOs are faced with two choices: upgrade their skills to effectively take on the role of CDO, or risk their position becoming redundant.

The CDO is a vital role, and one no business – big or small – should be without.