Digital Business: Seize the Opportunity

Enterprises hire Chief Digital Officer’s (CDOs) to lead a digital transformation, but “digital” has various definitions. It could refer to customer engagement through digital channels, or it could mean creating a full-scale digital business. Thus, the requirements for CDO positions reveal a lot about the enterprise’s overall vision for digitalization.

This vision presents challenges and opportunities for CIOs, who must work with the CDO on whatever digital transformation the enterprise plans. Recent Gartner research by Ken McGee, Vice President and Gartner Fellow, uncovered three trends that will require CIOs to act now.

The hiring of CDOs from outside the organization will drive manufacturing CIOs to develop rapid-response IT organizations

CDOs joining from other companies will have different ideas, styles, techniques, priorities, service expectations and so on compared with CDOs appointed from within the company. If CIOs want to play a major role in digital business, they should create a strategy that will help the new CDOs achieve their mission. In particular, CIOs should create a mechanism for executing digital business projects. Doing nothing will likely prompt CDOs to have the in-house IT group compete with an outsourcing vendor for digital business solutions.

CDO focus on managing cultural change will inspire CIOs to devote more staff to digital transformation projects

CIOs who support the CDO will have to extend the timelines of highly transformational projects involving the deployment of new business practices and new IT capabilities. No longer can the CIO consider a project completed when the last device is installed, when the last new applications are turned on, or when the last antiquated piece of IT equipment is powered off and discarded. CIOs should expect their teams to remain engaged until the new behaviors become firmly established. This extended involvement will become common practice because digital business will require more transformative projects.

The expanding number of CDO job titles makes it necessary for CIOs to help the CEO clarify what “digital” means for the enterprise

Gartner research indicates that enterprises continue to hire CDOs at a high rate. However, “CDO” is not the most common title for this role. Only a small percentage of searches for the role are actually specified with the precise title of “chief digital officer.” CIOs should advise CEOs to specify the job description precisely in their drafts — without using the word “digital” — regardless of the title ultimately published in the job advertisement. This omission will force CEOs to articulate what they really want from a CDO, rather than relying on an overused, ill-defined concept (“digital”).


Join Gartner at the CIO Peer Forum 2016 for an in-depth look how digital business can provide a competitive edge in a keynote presentation, Digital Business, Seize the Opportunity, by Ken McGee, VP and Gartner Fellow on April 21st, followed by a Gartner workshop, Powerful Digital Business Innovations. Led by Gartner Executive Partners, Robert Dreyer and Olivier Erhard, this workshop will focus on three elements, including how value and success of a digital business opportunities are determined.


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