Chief Digital Officer: The OnTrend Job Title, How do you get There ?




Written by

Andrew Peters | Digital Marketing & Technology

In 2015, a PWC study reported that only 6% of the top 1500 companies had appointed a CDO. However, the study also noted that since 2011 the amount of CDO’s appointed, has been growing extremely rapidly, with the number of CDO’s employed by large corporates expected to double in 2016. 

Gartner has reported that the power of data, in driving effective business decisions, is driving the creation of integrated digital strategies, across the whole business. Their prediction is that 90% of large organisations will have hired a CDO by 2019. So globally the search is on for Digital Leaders.

This role reflects the heart and soul of a much bigger transformation that is occurring across society. There has been an explosion in mindfulness, health awareness and flexible working building for a while. Many people are seeking greater authenticity and transparency from companies and government.

By building the Digital IQ into the DNA of a business, Digital leaders can reflect this long term sustainable change, by developing products and jobs with passion and purpose, that actually help to shape lives for the better! 

After 17 years in the interviews chair, one thing has become evident in the recruitment of digital expertise : new job titles are emerging at an ever faster rate, that we have no previous history of. For Example, Westpac has recently recruited a Senior Manager of Digital Futures.

The CDO is not coming from a linear and clearly defined career path, they can be a specialist in a number of key areas or the they can be a “ jack of all trades and master of none “ and just sometimes, only Masters of the Universe need apply, as the role is loosely defined as a mix of the Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Information officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Data Officer and Chief Technology Officer, who has the charismatic presence of the CEO !

We never said it was an easy gig, but anything worthwhile requires effort and refinement!

There is a real opportunity for CDO’s to drive the soul and purpose of a business, increase customer and employee engagement, build authentic and transparent processes and harness technology to automate or enhance the lives of all who interact with the company. It is a fantastic job to be involved in or working towards and from what I’m seeing in the Ozzie market place, the future is bright for Digital Leaders.

The CDO job, is increasingly in high demand, job seekers love the allure of innovation and disruption in the growing tech space. Companies know they need to adapt or die, as for the first time the consumer are driving and experiencing new technology before the corporation. 

Many however are unsure of how to get there, what skills are needed, and what their career path needs to look like, to get them there. 


What does a CDO do and what core skills do they need? 

There is no consistency across companies for what a CDO actually does and this makes it imperative, to define what business problems the CDO is expected to solve. A Digital savvy business embraces digital leadership as a powerful enabler, integrating into both physical and digital customer experiences and not as a stand-alone function buried in IT or Marketing. 

The CDO can be a highly influential role, with a huge opportunity to impact the success of a business. It is often a dynamic and fluid position, operating within, constantly changing and competitive environments, where the ability to influence, non- digital savvy stakeholders is a key skill. Genuine enthusiasm and passion for the possibilities and limitations of technology is a must. The CDO needs to have their “ head in the stars but feet on the ground “ and their heart centred on the customer. 

Often working across multiple areas of a business the successful CDO is a highly balanced individual, able to fuse creative, innovation and the drive to try new things with the commercial awareness to monetise and bring to life, digital assets that a customer engages with. 

The role is probably the least defined in the job market and many companies are still evolving what digital leadership looks like. However, there are some core skills that are regularly sought by the market in Asia Pac. 

  • A core ability to adapt and change and work in a fluid, unpredictable environment where there is no previous blueprint, but still aware of the limitations of structure
  • An ability to test, refine, measure new initiatives, maintaining an agile approach to process and product improvement
  • An understanding of digital marketing, marketing automation, Tech innovation and trends, relevant to their industry
  • An ability to derive meaningful insights from data 
  • A strategic thinker who drives harmony & collaboration with the CIO and CMO, but who drives change & disruption in process and customer engagement
  • Strong project management, change and transformation skills that cover change to process and as well as customer & employee behaviour
  • A clear and courageous thinker who can generate enthusiasm for the digital enterprise and bring multiple stakeholders along on the digital journey

However, a significant challenge with the position, is often a lack of authority to make the decisions necessary, to deliver on the high expectations of the role. Does the company know the context in which they want digital transformation to occur ? Do they want a digital disruptor or a digital tweaker, get that clear at the recruitment stage and it will be an enjoyable journey for all. 


Where are the Chief Digital Officer jobs?

CDO’s have emerged mostly in B2C, but B2B is starting to wake up to this role and it’s potential. A quick search of LinkedIn shows that Australia has been an early adopter of the position in Asia and continues to eagerly recruit CDO talent. 

The top seven industries where CDO’s are currently employed in Australia: 

The spread of where CDO’s are employed across the Asia Pac region is listed:


What is the career path to get there? 

Deloitte’s report The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer: Key considerations for driving digital growth from the C-suiteviews CDO’s as fitting into one of three categories; Ex-agency, Digital Transformation Specialists, or Technologists. 

 Most CDO’s have found their way to their current role through a technology or marketing background, however most still come from the sales and marketing function, predominately because they talk the language of the customer and are closer to the customer experience. 

Technology leaders who have embraced the cloud and developed their people leadership and commercial management skills can position themselves as strong contenders for digital leadership positions and need to do so. The CIO is at risk of losing budget and scope to the the CMO or CDO who are increasingly driving strategic decisions across technology investment. 

Aspiring CDO’s have the advantage that the job and it’s responsibilities are constantly evolving and those from program management, product, strategy and consulting backgrounds, have the option to compete with the more traditional technology and marketing profiles. 

The role is multifaceted and can have a very different focus, depending on industry and where the company is on its digital journey, so the field is wide open for progressive and adaptable candidates to develop their digital value proposition and pursue. The most integrated job title in the Boardroom. 

Want to know more about CDO roles and how to get there? Reach out to discuss your career path!