Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

The Meteoric Rise of the #CDOCareer

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On April 27, 2016, I will join Chief Digital Officers from some of the biggest organizations in the world as they gather in my hometown of New York City for the CDO Summit.

As I prepare to address this audience of business and IT leaders, I find myself astonished at how the role and work of the CDO is reshaping strategic leadership at incredible speed. Does your business have a CDO today? If not, check again tomorrow.

That's how fast the digital marketplace is re-organizing how we work and lead.

In recent years, Harvey Nash completed several surveys that explore the CDO job and responsibilities. Let's focus here on one standout element of the findings: how fast the role has grown. Like me, you may recall how quickly the CIO role was growing and expanding just 10-15 years ago. Now, in comparison to the rise the CDO, that growth looks like it was happening in slow motion. Just look at the data.

Fast & Furious: The Rise of the CDO
It's easy to remember a time before the CDO role. It was practically yesterday, but now CDOs are cropping up everywhere. According to Harvey Nash's IT survey data, the introduction of the CDO role into organizations is occurring at a much faster pace than the introduction of the CIO--a technology role that was emerging a decade ago. In 2005, 11 percent of organizations reported a CIO at the top of their IT management structure. A decade later almost half of all organizations (44 percent) had a CIO as their top IT hire, which is an average three percent growth annually over 10 years.

CHART - Percentage of organizations with CIO as top IT Exec grew four-fold in a decade


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2005-2014 % respondents indicating CIO: What is your job title? (2014 Harvey Nash CIO Survey)

Now, let's compare that to the CDO. In 2014, seven percent of organizations reported hiring a CDO. By 2015, this number increased to 17 percent. An additional five percent of organizations were reportedly planning a CDO hire near the end of last year, showing how quickly businesses are accepting the need for leadership expertise in the digital marketplace.

I am seeing this every day in my IT solutions, outsourcing and talent engagement work at Harvey Nash. Just the other day, the CEO of a small-size business asked if Harvey Nash could provide interim or outsourced CDO support to their organization. The company couldn't afford to recruit and hire another C-level executive but understands how imperative it is for their organization to work with an experienced business and IT leader to define and shape their digital strategy. I am seeing this same remarkable sense of urgency around CDO leadership across businesses of all sizes and industry. They are worried about being left behind in a marketplace of digital tools, social engagement and millennial talent. Based on what I am seeing and Harvey Nash data is reporting, the expansion of the CDO role is only just getting started.

Remember, a deep and sometimes controversial look at this role will be a part of my CDO Summit keynote: "The Rise of the CDO: Our CEO of the Future."  Perhaps the fast-growing CDO role finally offers businesses that critically needed bridge between business development and business operations?  Be sure to check out the CDO Summit and use the following code for a 20% discount when registering: CDOSHarveyNash.  I'm looking forward to seeing you there.