CDOs Wanted: Study Shows Their Rising Influence

The study puts to rest rumors that the post is short-lived and instead points to a growing influence. 

Yes, chief digital officers, you are wanted. A recent Mindtree study showed the high relevance and staying power of the chief digital officer (CDO) position.

Entitled "Chief Digital Officer: A Champion of Change", the study noted that contrary to a widespread belief that the CDO position has a short shelf-life, many saw their CDOs as effective change agents and champions for DX.

The survey is unlike others that collate opinions from C-level executives. Mindtree's study included data from 323 global business and IT professionals in the U.S. and U.K who work under a CDO.

The reason for the inclusion is that they play a significant role in executing the vision of the CDO. This gives them a valuable perspective on the effectiveness of the CDO as a leader.

The survey found that CDOs have been effective in championing many business-driving digital initiatives. These include giving customers seamless digital experiences (27%) and creating new business models (20%).

Three main key observations based on the results include:

  • The CDO role has a clear purpose and is gaining in relevance. When the CDO role was first created, many thought it was ambiguous and whose functions could be distributed among different members of the C-suite. But Mindtree's survey found today's business and IT professionals see a clear need for the continuance of the CDO position. Seventy-four percent stated that their organization's CDO has clearly defined responsibilities, and 81% agreed that these responsibilities are differentiated enough that a dedicated CDO position is needed. The CDO role is also becoming even more relevant compared to when it was first created (76%).
  • Tech-savvy CDOs have a DX success edge. Almost 70% of respondents said their CDO comes from an IT background. Eighty-four percent of respondents in organizations whose CDO came from an IT background said their company had made "significant" digital progress since the CDO role was created. Seventy-three percent whose CDO had a non-IT, business background, answered the same.
  • Siloed initiatives and talent gaps are key CDO hurdles. About a third of respondents (32%) named change-resistant culture as the most significant obstacle CDOs faced. When asked what the CDO needs most to be successful with digitizing the business, 38% of respondents said it will require more collaboration across business units, combined with an infusion of new talent with skills aligned to in-demand technologies.

"As enterprises make progress with digital transformation and discover new possibilities to reinvent their businesses, leaders across industries are making long-term investments in organizational capabilities and leadership," said Sreedhar Bhagavatheeswaran, senior vice president and head of digital, Mindtree.

"We're not surprised that the CDO role is not seen as a limited duration project or initiative leadership role, but much more of a long-term change agent," he added.