Numbers of Note: CDOs and digital spins

New studies re-iterate the imperatives of digital-centric operating models for today’s organizations

Pratima Harigunani
New Update

INDIA: The rise of the CDO office has become an integral part of industry’s buzz in the last two years, propelled by the inevitable embrace that almost every enterprise will sooner or later resort to in order to survive in an era of rampant consumerisation of technology powered by digital renaissance.


From uberisation of many old-economy industries, influx of mobile wallets, the world folding itself to the blanket of IoT, to the rampant imperialism of smartphones/apps in every part of modern life; we can see how customers have changed; in turn, forcing enterprises catering to them to re-invent themselves briskly enough.

A latest study from Accenture Digital, “Organizing for Digital Success,” gleans out new learnings from what it calls 200 of the most successful U.S. B2B digital executives who have done to set their businesses apart in the digital age.

It is surprising to note that three out of four organizations don’t identify themselves as a leader in digital. In terms of the ‘what’ those digital organizations are trying to achieve, digital traffic seems to be more valued as a KPI at 40 per cent than the number of units sold at 30 per cent.


Organisations are facing customer retention (37 per cent) and acquisition (36 per cent) as the most critical challenges.

The study also reveals that when it comes to structure, a Digital-centric operating model works best for the 30 per cent of digital organizations while the executive made responsible for the digital growth/transformation varies as follows: CMO (24 per cent), CDO (15 per cent), Senior Digital Executive (14 per cent).

Gartner has also augured that thrust on competitive advantage and improved efficiency through better use of information assets is engendering a strong increase in the number of chief data officers (CDOs). It even predicts that 90 percent of large companies will have a CDO role by the end of 2019.


CDO crown, and some thorns

When businesses demand a better return on their organizations' information assets and use of analytics, it becomes a logical step to create an executive position — the CDO— to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from industrial-scale collection and harnessing of data: Gartner's analysts had spelled out the prognosis.

This prognosis becomes more interesting. As the research firm pointed early this year, CDOs will face a number of challenges, so much so that only 50 per cent will be successful by the end of 2019.


Yet, the CXO-level confidence and time-windows for transformation can waver in these unpredictable times. Some 47 percent of local C-level and other service provider decision makers, as per Accenture’s report, predict that it will take their companies more than five years to transform. Another recent study that IDC undertook for Amdocs saw service providers in Asia Pacific (APAC) believing they are not transforming fast enough to meet the demands of today’s digital era.

Irony of ironies

This survey also pointed that 33 per cent of service providers in APAC still do not have a digital strategy in place. Note that even if 90 per cent of local respondents underlined the importance of having a chief digital officer (CDO) to lead and drive such a strategy, there were merely 29 per cent who cited having one. To top that, as many as 85 per cent of the industry was seen as still executing digital transformation projects in the form of stand-alone initiatives. There was absence of alignment to a broader technology roadmap or business strategy.


Challenges are manifold like how the CDO role will be new in most organizations and most new CDOs will be learning on the job, thus confronting the onerous part of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that tie the activities of their team to measurable business outcomes.

Gartner had emphasized how the confluence of high expectations and limited knowledge around information management by business users might make things tough for CDOs to get the budget and commitment from the business they need to make their plans a success, thus insinuating at the political shades of the role too.

CDOs, on the parallel, could also be seen grappling with high levels of change resistance, like from the IT department and conflict over the control of information assets and their governance. CDOs won’t have it easy, but that’s the way forward, paved with digital opportunities.

Like IDC gathered from APAC assessment, ensuring capabilities of an omni-channel experience across services is the most critical part for service providers’ survival in the digital age. This is visible when business agility was ranked second in terms of service providers’ digital transformation business priorities in the next 12 months by 57 per cent of respondents, and revenue from existing services ranked as first by 71 per cent.

A successful CDO would be one that would be able to work with the CIO to lead change and overcome resistance while inking new digital transformations with ease and without hiccups.

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