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Chief digital officers tipped as key to future business success

Almost half of Australian businesses surveyed already have a chief digital officer but the new role must be better articulated to avoid conflict with existing CIO responsibilities and promote acceptance…

A new study shows that the ever-increasing importance of digital technology within businesses has given rise to a new breed of technology professional – the chief digital officer. IT management solutions provider CA Technologies surveyed 100 Australian C-level executives of organisations with more than 100 employees and found that believe that the role of the CDO is becoming more important to their business – a move that is likely to see many of the technology-based roles traditionally held by the CIO becoming the responsibility of the CDO, the study noted.

With digital becoming the cornerstone for businesses that want a way to deliver services to their customers in a faster, more engaging way, business leaders are not only embracing evolving digital technologies but also appointing the CDO to manage them, with around 45 percent of Australian organisations currently having a CDO and a further 14 percent reporting that they expect to fill this role in the next few years. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said that digital technology is a strategic element of their business and highlighted ‘customer engagement’ (22 percent) and ‘increasing market share’ (21 percent) as the key reasons.

Inevitably, however, the survey results also show that this has led to business executives being confused over where the responsibility for certain tasks lie. When asked who they would turn to for advice on ‘mobile’ and ‘app development’, the responses were closely divided between CIO and CDO. This suggests that the CDO role is currently neither properly articulated nor understood.

That said, 37 percent of those without a CDO said they feel that the effect is a lack of responsiveness, leading to the company being slower to market and 19 percent highlighted ‘missed business and investment opportunities’ as a consequence of not employing a CDO. The CDO role, therefore, is likely to take on more significance in the coming years and with that understanding of it should improve.

“It’s clear from this research that if businesses stick with the status quo and don’t prepare themselves for a digital mind-shift now, they’ll fall behind. Worse still, they may lose market share because the services they provide to their customers aren’t being deployed in a fast, engaging way. That’s where digital can help,” said Bill McMurray, managing director, CA Technologies Australia & New Zealand.

“As we see CDOs becoming more involved with their business colleagues and in business strategy, the ability to communicate the value of new technologies will become even more important.”

This article was originally published in iStart Technology in Business magazine