Long Live the CDO

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 2/14/2014 | 23 comments

Sara Peters
Chief Digital Officers already make more money than CIOs, but they're not satisfied with that, oh no. Next thing they'll do is make all CIOs assimilate or die.

You want to survive? Become thine enemy. Prepare yourself to fight to the death, or become a CDO now, because chances are, only one of you is coming out of this fight alive.

You will be upgraded. You will become like us. Delete! Delete! Delete!
You will be upgraded. You will become like us. Delete! Delete! Delete!

Okay, I'm being a bit overdramatic.

Or am I? Gartner predicted that by 2015, 25% of organizations and 20% of governments will have a chief digital officer. Although the CDO job description will differ from the CIO job description a bit -- the CDO focusing more on the customer-facing IT -- they won't be all that different:

    As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2017, more than 60% of government organizations with a CIO and a chief digital officer will eliminate one of those roles…

Yikes! One of them will be eliminated? Which one? According to Gartner research director Rick Howard:

    Most likely, the chief digital officer role will be absorbed by, or become indistinguishable from, the CIO role.

Whew. Okay, the CIO will absorb the CDO. That's a relief… But wait!

    In a minority of organizations, the reverse might be true, mostly due to the negative connotation of the CIO as a "role of the past."


So, in this CIO-vs.-CDO battle for survival, CDOs have quite a bit going for them, not the least of which is that they're not CIOs… but maybe they can be CIOs. As David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner stated:

    The Chief Digital Officer plays in the place where the enterprise meets the customer, where the revenue is generated, and the mission accomplished. They’re in charge of the digital business strategy. That’s a long way from running back office IT, and it’s full of opportunity.

That sounds a lot like the way many of the CIOs on E2 have described their own work. Perhaps the best way to avoid redundancy is to show your organization that it doesn't need an additional person to focus on the customer-facing side of IT, because you've got it covered.

Conversely, if you're already overwhelmed by your work load and would appreciate some help, a CDO might be a good ally. In that case, you'll put yourself in the strongest position if you are a part of the process of adding a CDO to the staff. Map out clear demarcations between your role and that of the CDO before that person takes the job. Don't expect, though, that the CDO will report to you. Most CDOs report directly to the CEO. If you want the help, but not the competition, perhaps add a position for a digital officer -- without the title chief -- who reports to you.

Or, simply become a CDO yourself. Sure, I've been painting this situation like the CDO could be the CIO's mortal enemy, but it needn't be that way. If you're already a very innovative, business-savvy CIO, the title change will come very naturally to you. There are good reasons to make the shift.

First, CDOs are paid more than CIOs -- which might indicate that their organizations value them more. According to the Chief Digital Officer Talent Map, released by the CDO Club, "Salaries of CDOs are found in the $250,000-$500,000 range, and up to $700,000."

In comparison, Salary.com estimates the median salary for a CIO in the US is $241,164, and Executive Insight (whose survey was slanted towards CIOs in healthcare) estimates that the average salary for CIOs is only $133,436. On the other hand, there are some CIOs making these base salaries who are also getting seven-figure bonuses. Ron Griffin, CIO and senior vice president of AutoZone Inc., for example, only makes a modest $84,615 salary, but the Wall Street Journal says his perks and bonuses amount to an additional $2,654,716.

The CDO position also provides a springboard to bigger and better things. According to the Chief Digital Officer Talent Map, 28% of the former CDOs interviewed had moved on to the CEO position, 14% became president, and 18% took other roles in the C-suite.

There is also plenty of room for more in the CDO pool. Although the CDO Club reports that the number of CDOs has "doubled every year since the first CDO, Jason Hirschhorn, was hired by MTV in 2005," there are still only about 500 of them in the world.

The CDO club shouldn't be too difficult to join -- and the club would benefit from some more diversity. The current cohort of CDOs is 91% white, 80% male, and more than half 40 or older. Of them, 88% are located in the US, and of those 57% are in the Northeast.

What do you think? Are you interested in the CDO position yourself? Do you see the CDO as a potential ally in your mission to implement new innovations? Or do you see this small group of CDOs as a small but powerful group of invaders, bent on either assimilating or deleting you? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, cover your bases by changing your title to "Chief Digital Information Officer," and try to avoid situations like this:

— Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief Circle me on Google+

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The_Phil   Long Live the CDO   3/18/2014 7:38:33 PM
Re: To err is human...
Hmmm. That's an interesting role breakdown. But the more I think about it, the part about using 'digital tools' makes me feel like that encroaches upon the CTOs playground... Do the CDO & CTO work hand in hand on this aspect? What do you think?
shjacks55   Long Live the CDO   3/16/2014 1:08:15 AM
Re: To err is human...
So CDO is digital and CIO is analog; with a dial on their face? What if your industry still require paper filings, can a CDO still control that since it isn't digital?

CDO is kind of meaningless. CIO: most large companies thrive on the flow of information. CSO? Chief Security Officer seems more appropriate for the NSA after Snowden.

Funny that no one mentioned Chief Technology Officer. Overseeing the company's technology, it would seem to be a superset of CDO. Maybe CDO is for compaies too small for a CTO or CIO?
LuFu   Long Live the CDO   3/1/2014 12:34:23 PM
Re: To err is human...
@Sara - Good point - but that would mean trying to find a "Man for All Seasons"
Sara Peters   Long Live the CDO   2/28/2014 12:42:06 PM
Re: To err is human...
@LuFu  "Does that mean the main difference between the CDO and CIO is that one relates to customers as human while the other as data?"  Hmm. That's intriguing. What that says to me is that if the CIO can do a great job relating to their customers as human, then maybe nobody will think it's necessary to bring in a CDO...

Sara Peters   Long Live the CDO   2/28/2014 12:38:33 PM
Re: Long Live the CDO
@SunitaT  "Companies dealing exclusively in IT may prefer CDOs and companies that need IT only for supporting their other business may go for CIOs." It's interesting you say that, because Gartner says the opposite. They say that tech companies don't need CDOs, because they'd be redundant.

Sara Peters   Long Live the CDO   2/28/2014 12:35:19 PM
Re: To err is human...
@The_Phil  "So what's the difference between the CDO & CMO if it relates to interacting with customers on a positive note?" I think it depends upon the organization, but if I were organizing them I think the CMO would be focused on marketing -- digital and non-digital -- and the CDO would be focused on the digital tools provided to the customer.

Sara Peters   Long Live the CDO   2/28/2014 12:29:12 PM
Re: CDO as right hand man
@kstaron  I think you're right, that a CDO could be a good right-hand man to the CIO... but I think it could also work the other way around. What do you think?
Sara Peters   Long Live the CDO   2/28/2014 12:26:18 PM
Re: Long Live the CDO
@zerox Yes, the Chief Data Officer is another mysterious person. But from what I've read, it sounds that the chief data officers are more about, well, data, and data privacy compliance. Sounds like it would require a different style of person.
kstaron   Long Live the CDO   2/27/2014 2:28:36 PM
CDO as right hand man
To me it seems a CDO would be a right hand man type of person to the CIO. The CIO handling all things information and the CDO focusing on the digital portion of that. At least, that's how I would frame it if I were a CIO.
The_Phil   Long Live the CDO   2/20/2014 10:06:38 PM
Re: To err is human...
From a collective standpoint, I agree with you. But on another level, when talking about the person in the organization with such a title, they're the one's that are supposed to set the tone for everyone else.
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