Editor's Pick

The Need of a Chief Digital Officer: Yay or Nay?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Chief Digital Officer? We have been taught in our schools that the world of business is a dynamic space. Not only have we studied that now but have witnessed this and consider it as a proven fact. The key reason to this is the customer demand. The one thing that the customers need in today’s world is comfort.

From exploring to buying the right cloth, the customer needs comfort. This dynamic space has witnessed a great deal of digitalization. This digital revolution is transforming every business from Human Resources to Sales.

This aspect has come to a level that companies have made a separate post in their hierarchy and have been chasing such specialized humans who only focus on the digitalization of a particular brand. The post is known has “Chief Digital Officer (CDO)”.

When we search for this term, what we gather from it is and what the Forbes has discovered is that it comprises of an individual who helps a company, government organization, or a city to grow by converting the conventional businesses to digital ones and monitors the dynamics of the digital space with an eagle’s eye.

Emphasizing on the word “Chief” the post of the Chief Digital Officer belongs to C-suite level, in the organizational hierarchy.


The need of a Chief Digital Officer is increasing and shall be the most important aspect of a company in the coming years. As of now, only about 6% of the companies have hired a Chief Digital Officer.

However, it has been predicted by Gartner, a research firm, that the peak for this shall peak by 2019 and about 90% of the companies shall start hiring such specialized people. Gartner analyst Mark Raskino, in an interview said, “Companies struggle with digital transformation because the scope of change is massive and often very disruptive.

However, the CEOs are under great pressure by the board and external stakeholders to drive the digital force.” Elaborating on this point, it is witnessed that coping with such needs and demands is becoming stressful for the company CEOs and core members.

Shifting from a traditional analog to a world of digitalization is seeming to be a difficult task for the companies as and when it is becoming an inevitable necessity for the business world, especially for the top-notch brands in the fashion industry.

The customers demand their brands to be not only at the most porch streets of the big cities, like the Oxford Street of London, but also to exist in the digital space as well, like on the internet and in their electronic devices. The basic responsibility of a CDO shall be to create the exact same showroom in the digital space that exists on the street.

This post comes with more on the shoulders of the person entitled to it. A CDO shall have to develop and administer the digital project portfolio, being innovations for the digital space on the table, etc. As simple it looks on the face of it, as harder and technical it gets in real. This requires a very skilled and technical mind with an ability to multitask.

The CDO requires to communicate with every department of the company so as to set them up on the digital space. The departments of e-commerce, marketing, designing are the crucial contacts to the CDO. However, there exists to be a clash between the CDO and various Chief Officers, such as the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

This happens solely because the various other departments get a hang of the new system enforced by the CDO and things tend to speed up which leads to emerging of responsibilities. The only task that is left for a CDO is to monitor and supervise the digital space. However, that also is curbed when all the departments come into form and sync in with the change and the new system.

There are companies which are yet not satisfied with the idea of digitalization and digitally marketing the same space for the customers. “In my opinion, businesses aren’t yet ready to leverage the power of digital because of their silos.”, says Andt Pickhardt, former chief manager of Lidl, part of Schwarz Group.

In other words, the companies are not ready to get out of their comfort zone and get a start in the digital world. However, on the other hand, there are companies, which are ready but are struggling with setting up a separate department solely because this is something very new to not only the business world, but also the world in itself.

For instance, Xcel Brands CEO Robert D’Loren claims that Kate Twist, the Chied Digital Officer is without her own team so far, but has several groups of indirect reports in the e-commerce and marketing departments.

This shows that a CDO has many balls to juggle around to gain a sense of the digital space. She ought to connect with various departments considering her function is new and is taking time to settle.

Where on one hand, having a digital space is becoming an inevitable need for the companies and things are getting settled for the same, it doesn’t seem to be a pleasant argument, on the other hand.

It seems to be that this is a very temporary phenomenon. The grand post of “Chief Digital Officer” won’t be so grand and will be lost gradually as we get close to a more dynamic business world. The major reason of a CDO extinguishing soon enough is because there will always remain a clash with the various Chief Officers.

The space that is being created by the CDO will eventually be handled by the various the various other departments. Even if the companies aren’t very satisfied with this idea, the dynamic world and the demands of the customer will force them to switch to a fast-going environment and in the end, every department will have to settle for the majority.

Robert Fecteau, CIO of SAIC said in an interview, “Efforts to separate job responsibilities of the CIO like these serve to dilute the authority, the budget and the scope of the CIO’s responsibility”. The sole problem of overlapping of duties and responsibilities is what threatens the position of the Chief Digital Officer in the business world.

However, in the end, it all lies in the eyes of the dreamer. If the dreamer dreams big of something and continues to work towards it, the results show it all. Similarly, it might not be the end if the CDO tends to walk that extra mile to make its stand permanent.