Five facts you should know about Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) in India

Digital transformation, the phrase used to describe the change needed by enterprises to compete in the new digital era, often implies very specific and different things. Yet, there’s a growing consensus that some sort of adjustment is needed by businesses to remain relevant.

The discourse around digital transformation has—almost from its beginning—been accompanied by an intense debate on who should lead this change in the organization. While tech (CIOs) and marketing (CMOs) have been the major claimants, many large organizations have also gone for people who have been from the core business and understand the business processes very well.

A designated Chief Digital Officer (CDOs) has been one of the major responses to this need.

While exact roles vary, the broad brief for the CDOs is to create changes in business processes to optimize them for the new digital regime. Often, that includes proactively looking for disruptive changes that can be initiated using new ideas and new tech-leveraged solutions.

How mainstream it has become? Going by Gartner’s prediction in 2012, by the end of 2015, one in every four large companies should have had a designated CDO.

What is the reality? CIO&Leader had, in October last year, researched the Indian CDO landscape and presented some basic trends[1]. Since then, there have been some changes and the ‘realities’ presented here are based on that updated data.

1. You have not fallen behind

Do not go by the big numbers. Every one out of ten companies in the US would hire a CDO by 2016, claimed a media report adding that in India, that number would be double in India. Other such forecasts and predictions also give such superlatives.

They are absolutely misleading. Data suggests that there are not more than two dozen CDOs in large Indian businesses. This is not including the CDOs positions in the following type of companies:

  • digital native companies (such as e-commerce and online businesses) which are largely ornamental or
  • advertising/marketing/PR/social media agencies where the role of the CDOs is to sell ‘digital transformation’ than drive it
  • very small companies

Do not go by LinkedIn search. It may throw up some 500 results but most of them belong to the three categories mentioned above.

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