Who are They? Why are They Important?


In the digital transformation era, businesses are struggling to attain sustainable growth. According to a Gartner report, 89% of board leaders believe digital elements are crucial to all business growth strategies. However, only 35% of the companies are prepared to embrace digital transformation. Even though organizations have Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), they are unable to keep up with the rapid changes in digital technologies. Hence, a new leadership role has emerged in the past few years—Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Let’s explore what a CDO does, , the necessary qualifications to become one, their day-to-day responsibilities, career paths, etc.

In this blog, you’ll learn:

  1. Who is a Chief Digital Officer, and why Does Every Company Need One?
  2. Chief Digital Officer: Roles and Responsibilities
  3. What Skills and Qualifications are Required to Become a Chief Digital Officer?
  4. What are the Challenges Faced by Chief Digital Officers in Their Role?
  5. How Does a Chief Digital Officer Collaborate With Other C-level Executives?
  6. How to Become a Chief Digital Officer?

Who is a Chief Digital Officer, and Why Does Every Company Need One?

A Chief Digital Officer is a C-level executive whose primary role is to achieve the digital goals of a company and make an organization data-driven. An interesting aspect of a chief digital officer role is that they integrate disruptive technologies, such as AI, machine learning, and cloud computing, into companies’ technical infrastructure. A CDO does not have a defined role as they are expected to collaborate across various departments, which requires versatility.

Deloitte defines a chief digital officer as a “catalyst and driver of change, bringing a new culture and mindset, and new ways of working to the enterprise, that would otherwise not have happened, or would have happened too slow.” This definition clearly explains the importance of a CDO in every organization. They are the key drivers of digital change to help the company navigate through various challenges and embrace the latest innovations to gain a competitive advantage.

Chief Digital Officer: Roles and Responsibilities

The following are some of the key Chief Digital Officer responsibilities:

  • Initiate, conduct, and accelerate digital transformation in various industries
  • Analyze an organization’s goals and understand the digital landscape
  • Oversee the implementation of digital processes within a company
  • Drive digital innovation and change management within a company
  • Set up and implement effective data governance policies within an organization

ALSO READ: What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Digital Transformation Manager

What Skills and Qualifications are Required to Become a Chief Digital Officer?

A CDO must be up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends transforming businesses. The following are some of the key technical skills for a Chief Digital Officer:

  • Digital strategy: This skill involves planning and implementing strategies to integrate digital technologies and achieve business goals
  • Change management: A CDO must be adept at facilitating smooth digital transformation within a company
  • Cybersecurity: Digital transformation involves the use of data for making business decisions. Hence, a CDO must be familiar with advanced cybersecurity skills and tools to ensure maximum data protection
  • Data analytics: This skill involves analyzing data collected by digital technologies to make effective business decisions
  • Digital design: It refers to the ability to design a robust digital structure for an organization
  • Digital product management: It involves managing the lifecycle of a digital product, which includes developing, delivering and modifying the products
  • Digital project management: This skill requires planning, managing and delivering digital products like websites and mobile app development
  • Data Monetization: A CDO should be skilled at leveraging data to generate new business models or revenue streams for an organization

In addition to the above, a CDO also requires soft skills such as:

  • Communication
  • Strategic thinking
  • Ability to inspire and motivate others
  • Problem-solving
  • Effective decision-making
  • Innovation
  • Adaptability
  • Storytelling

A chief digital officer is expected to have a master’s degree in data analytics, computer science, business administration, or information technology.

ALSO READ: What is Digital Transformation, and Why is it important?

What are the Challenges Faced by Chief Digital Officers in Their Role?

CDOs face intense pressure to achieve digital goals because of highly competitive business environments and high growth demands. These include:

1. Change Management

Change management is one of the greatest challenges in a CDO’s role. People at workplaces are often rigid to changes that affect their day-to-day working style. Hence, companies often face resistance from employees, making it difficult to achieve the digital goals of the company.

2. Decentralizing IT

A decentralized structure delegates decision-making authority to people, even at lower levels within the organization. It promotes transparency and enhances productivity by enabling companies to make decisions quickly. However, decentralization requires a robust and extensive infrastructure. For example, more people within the organization will need laptops or other tech devices. They will also need more IT support to carry out various functions. Evidently, procuring resources and training the employees to adapt to decentralization is a significant challenge.

3. Lack of Talented Resources

The digital skills gap is one of the most fundamental challenges CDOs face. Only 7% of people in India possess basic digital skills, while only 8% have advanced digital skills. Hence, a chief digital officer faces challenges in building an efficient team.

How Does a Chief Digital Officer Collaborate With Other C-Level Executives?

A CDO has a cross-functional role. They act as the company’s central leader for executing digital change. However, they work in close collaboration with other C-level executives for seamless integration of digital technology within the organization.

They also engage in knowledge-sharing, brainstorming, and educating other C-level leaders about the industry’s best digital practices and latest digital trends. To sum up, they help build a robust digital ecosystem.

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How to Become a Chief Digital Officer?

The role of a CDO has gained massive popularity in the last few years. You must have a variety of skills that complement your responsibilities.  An ideal CDO is someone who has strong leadership skills coupled with technical experience.

Here’s how you can become a better CDO for your organization:

  • Stay updated on the latest digital technologies and industry trends such as data analytics and cloud computing
  • Enhance your leadership skills and business acumen to understand various challenges faced by the business. Prepare digital strategies that align with the company’s goals.
  • Pursue certificate courses related to digital transformation technology and leadership. Also, continue to upskill and gain in-depth knowledge of the industry.
  • Understand your organization’s core business processes and the associated technical solutions

How Can Emeritus Help?

As mentioned above, you need to continuously upskill and stay up-to-date to be at the top of your game. Emeritus’ online leadership courses offer practical leadership training and teach the latest leadership skills required to become a Chief Digital Officer. Moreover, you also get to learn about various leadership theories and insights from industry leaders. Check out Emeritus’ online leadership courses to nurture your chief digital officer career path today.

By Sneha Chugh

Write to us at [email protected]

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