What is a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)?

What is a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)?

Chief Digital Officer CDO

A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is responsible for all digital topics in an organization. That means that the CDO is the leader of the digital transformation of a company. Consequently the CDO is conducting the internal digitalization and external digitalization.

How to become a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)?

Well, basically there is no education to a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Many graduated in marketing, business administration and computer science. What helps a lot is reading the contents of this website.

Characteristics of a CDO

A Chief Digital Officer should see the opportunities (enabler). Risks and problems should not be in the focus that much. Progress and future are seen positivley by the CDO. That is the reason why the CDO topics are seen more in marketing than in technology. Based on the point of view, there can be pros and cons in the corresponding technology knowledge of a CDO.


  1. Define and implement digital strategy
  2. Implement agile company culture
  3. Start-ups
  4. products

Define and implement digital strategy

The digital strategy has tob e defined by the CDO. Some say, it is more a strategy in a digital world. However, it is important, that the mission oft he company is clear. The BusinessTech-Company offers the Digital Capability Model for this.

Implement company culture

Digital companies like e.g. FAANG are usually pinnacle in working very agile. This is also summed up into the term New Work. This means, that the self control of a single employee is raised, hierarchies are flat and the working style is agile. The CDO has to implement this working culture.


Many companies invest in start-ups. Because some start-ups support the own business model, are completely against the own business model or are just a investment.The task oft he CDO is, to select the start-ups based on this ideas.


It is essetial, that own products get digital. So the external digitalization can be implemented. In case of hardware, this means to go more into the software direction in order to make them smart. Furthermore, digital twins are an option. Basically there is a need to challenge the own business model via the business model canvas regullarly.


As mentioned in the beginning, the CDOs are responsible für the digital transformation, the internal digitalization and the external digitalization. Often the CDOs are part of the C-Level. However the CDO should be with enabled with appropiate competencies.


CDOs should decide freely, how to conduct the digital transformation. Therefore the support oft he CEO is crucial. Additonally there is the need of support from HR department and workers council. Furthermore employees are challenged to live the new way of thinking. For digital natives this way of thinking is foudation of their work life.

CDOs have to be involved in product development from the beginning. Here they can advise in order of new opportunities. Maybe here fits in a start-up where the company is already invested in. Or a new start-up can be a solution. In the product development thoughts, the CTO needs to be involved. As he is finally responsible fort he technical implementation and the technical capabilites.

The CIO has to support the CDO in ordert o provide the best possible infrastructure and tools as internal service provider.

It is essential to work with the CMO very closely. Very often the innovative, digital topics are seen more as a marketing tool? Here it is crucial to present proven real-life solutions. Otherwise it is possible that the trust in the future digital products are lost. Finally the NPS is a very important KPI in the digital World. A lot of abstimungen are necessary with the CMO to measure this KPI and to raise organically.

In many companies with huge hardware – and therefore logistics efforts, digital supply chain is a big topic. Here the CDO should be involved in a very early stage to gain the biggest value add. The collaboration with the Chief Data Officer is needed. Because usually the Chief Data Officers ist he gatekeeper of data. Very often these date were created via big data approaches. Consequently it is important to extract the mose significant data and gain some lessons out of it.

What skills are needed for a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)?

Key skill is curiosity. Furthermore analytical and strategic thinking may help. Many say, hands on is very important. Additionally successes in the bay area help a lot. Another big advantage is experience in digital companies and start-ups. Some are looking for experiences in C-level roles.

Challenges of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

The main challenge of Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) is primarily the cultural change of an organization. In a digital world, working is quite different than in an industrial society. Often, the cultural change is characterized with confrontations, as the DNA of a company should be changed as well. As a result, Change Management is a big topic.

The new working behavior in a digital world is called New Work. Here agile work concepts like Scrum helps a lot.

Furthermore a CDO should select the best fitting start-ups investments to the company. For that reason some companies installed an accelerator, incubator, hub or venture capital branch.

Equivalents and other roles

Some companies do not have this special role. Therefore following equvalents can be found:

If there is no CDO or equivalent in place, following roles have to take over this responsilities:

For a complete list, please see blog post CDO job titles.


Support for digitalization, digital transformation can be provided by the BusinessTech-Company.

Measuring Success as a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

Like all innovation jobs, it is hard to define the success of a Chief Digital Officer. There are some metrics that define the digital maturity of a company. Nevertheless it is very important, that the cultural change is ongoing.

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