The Birth of the Chief Digital Officer
Blog written by: Simon Whelan. Simon is a Senior Recruitment Consultant in the Digital Space.
The digital space is unquestionably one of the most rapidly expanding areas of the business world, in terms of prominence and resources. Starting off as something not wholly embraced by businesses but given tokenistic credence, digital has fast become a critical factor to a company’s success. Digital in Australia Australian businesses may not yet be utilising the power of digital to its full potential, however this is certainly changing. Many companies understand it is not something to ignore, yet there is still a hesitancy to invest time and money into something that is perceived as new and often not fully understood by senior executives. Some of Australia’s major corporations have announced plans to reduce their traditional marketing budget in lieu of a heavier reliance on digital marketing, which is proving to be far more cost effective. Procter & Gamble have proclaimed they will be cutting $10 billion from their print media and television budget to re-invest the money in digital and mobile advertising. This clearly demonstrates the degree of the power shift that is occurring in the marketing right now.
Another testament to the importance of digital in modern business comes from the US, who is arguably the biggest trend setter when it comes to digital and social media. US businesses are starting to create new executive level roles to take charge of the digital space. The title of CDO (Chief Digital Officer) is starting to become more commonplace for larger corporations. Leading information technology researchers, Gartner, have predicted that within two years, 25% of organisations in the US will have a CDO.
What is a Chief Digital Officer? A Chief Digital Officer controls a broad remit of digital applications and the entire online business unit, including e-commerce and social media. They act as a conduit when integrating digital strategies with the functions of the broader organisation. The dilemma for many early adopters of digital strategies was the silo created by having digital professionals sit within the marketing department without any communication to other departments. The digital function was often lost on the business at large, where other departments were ignorant to the strategy and ROI of digital. The mistake people commonly make is thinking that digital only forms part of marketing. The reality is that digital permeates through all business activity – including marketing, sales, procurement, HR and finance. This is why the role of CDO has become crucial to bridge the gap between these departments. The CDO not only ensures greater communication between departments but also a direct line of communication to the CEO. Chief Digital Officers are not easy to find, let alone attract and retain.
CDO candidates need to have a broad range of skills, from technical smarts, to marketing, to general management and leadership skills. Because of the transitory nature of digital and social media, good CDO’s need to demonstrate their knowledge of what the next approaching digital trend will be, thus ensuring that the company can adapt, include or avoid the next big trend. These well-rounded, senior individuals will become prime candidates for CEO succession planning.
The increasing demand for CDOs combined with the scarcity of candidates that fit the brief has resulted in a dramatic rise in the level of remuneration offered. Talented CDO’s are often compensated twice as much as their precursors. This is also due to the ever-increasing reliance on digital and the increasing seniority of the role.