Will today’s Chief Digital Officers become tomorrow’s CEOs?

Good conversation today with David Mathison at Chief Digital Officer Club http://cdoclub.com/ . One insight that surfaced is that CDOs are starting to be elevated to CEO roles. Its way too early to call this a trend, but there are a few reasons to think that it might become one:

1. CDOs have the right pedigree. Most CDOs were previously business people, not functional heads (e.g. CIO) who might lack the diversity of experience needed to qualify for a CEO role.

2. CDOs are increasingly powerful actors in their businesses. Digital business growth is outpacing non-digital  business growth in most sectors, and CDOs are gaining share of profits – and share of mind – within their organisations as that shift happens.

3. CDOs need both strategic and operational capabilities. Digital is driving major structural upheaval in in many sectors, and CDOs are getting good experience developing strategies in an unpredictable world. But CDOs also have to manage multiple day-to-day issues, such as dealing with negative sentiment in social  media.

4. CDOs need to be extraodinary people leaders . Great digital talent is in great demand, and only folks who are inspiring magnets for diverse talent can find and retain the best.

5. CDOs represent the future. Nearly every enterprise that I work with is digitising its business system at pace. But this process will take many years to play out. CDOs understand how to drive that transformation.

So CDOs have an ideal platform to be the next generation of CEOs….but they’ll need to use their time in the CDO role to build out the additional skills needed for the CEO role, such as management of external stakeholders and re-shaping the business portfolio.


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