To CDO or not CDO, that is the question.


It was predicted last year that 25% of organisations would appoint a Chief Digital Officer by 2015. Yet very few jobs with that title are ever advertised. Currently only 5 out of 1.7 million jobs advertised on LinkedIn are specifically for Chief Digital Officers. Some jobs will be CDO by another name while others will be internal appointments but surely not all. Not enough to meet the projection at any rate.

I heard of one Government agency that hired a Director of Digital. This sounded promising but the role turned out to be more like that of a webmaster. By including the word Director in the job title they were able to include a car in an otherwise average salary package. 

One theory is that many organisations don't feel comfortable with the "C" in CDO and are hiring them but calling them something else. I heard of one bank that created the role of Executive Manager Digital to essentially do the same thing as a CDO. 

By avoiding the "C-word" altogether and calling the role something else, it takes some of the pressure off the hiring company and offsets resistance from C-level execs who don't think digital should be that important. I think they should be encouraged to reconsider. 

Many companies think they need a CDO, but don't know what to call the role or who it should report to. Sometimes the search for a CDO is not treated with the same degree of diligence as a search for a CIO or a CMO. This approach has resulted in some less than successful searches.

Recruiter insights tell me that there is a lot of activity going on inside companies. They are making senior appointments to address perceived threats, challenges and opportunities around digital disruption, digital transformation, digital leadership and digital strategy. However these roles are often not advertised or are not called Chief Digital Officers. 

Yet the CDO job title does need to establish itself. Otherwise there won't be the healthy flow of new recruits that provide the "outside-in" perspective that effective digital strategies demand. Instead the "inside-out" perspective will prevail and this could be disastrous. 

Some companies find themselves in a Catch 22 situation where they need a Chief Digital Officer to tell them what a Chief Digital Officer needs to do. Perhaps this could become the first role in history where applicants write their own job description and the writer of the best submission gets hired.

Kieran O'Hea - Practice Leader, Former Chief Digital Officer, City of Brisbane.

Comment