Chief digital officer (CDO): Are CIOs ready for transformation

Enterprise chief information officers (CIOs) are getting ready for transforming to the role of chief digital officers (CDO).

“It started happening in some of the developed geographies. Transformation from CIOs to CDOs is happening in India as well, but many are not yet ready for the title change, but have already accepted new responsibilities and challenges,” said Rajesh Janey, president, EMC India and SAARC.

Expecting the CIO to be the prime mover in digital is a fairly sudden and major change of expectation and emphasis.

Digital is strongly associated with innovation, in front of and for the customer. The 2012 CEO survey of Gartner found CIOs were low on the list of perceived innovation leaders. Over the last decade, CIOs and the IT function in general have often been tasked as IT cost managers and service quality assurers, but not as strong innovators or business strategy contributors.

Rajesh Janey, president, EMC India and SAARC

“The sudden shift in expectation is likely to lead to some disappointments and we expect that in turn to lead to some churn in the role,” said Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

IDC India says digital data is growing fast driven by increasing digitization across business and government; and a steady rise in capitalization of the social and mobile phenomenon by everyone. It’s full of untapped potential and once unlocked it promises to inform us in ways that can improve lives, find remedies to incurable  diseases, redefine industries, discover new markets, help solve local community challenges such as hunger and poverty – the possibilities are endless.

In some organizations, if CIOs are not ready to accept the pivotal role of CDOs, CMOs take up the additional task. This is because CMOs would like to map customers.

Two years ago the Gartner survey found that many CEOs seemed set to hire a chief digital officer (CDO). The 2014 survey found that a quarter of the survey respondents say they now have a CDO. Adding in other VP and senior levels of digital leaders, and those respondents that plan to make an appointment this year and next, it appears that half of these companies will have a designated digital leader title by the end of 2015.


CEOs see digital as a team game and the CIO still has the highest visibility. When Gartner asked CEOs who they would allocate relative responsibility for leading digital innovation and change over the next two years, the CIO came out on top and that’s particularly true for those who allocate more than a quarter of responsibility to a single person. However, many other roles are heavily involved. CEOs see digital as very much a collective operating committee endeavor.

Jaideep Mehta, vice president and country general manager, IDC India, says the Internet of Things (IoT) comprises increasing number of everyday objects that are equipped with unique identifiers and the ability to automatically record, report and receive data – a sensor in your shoe tracking how fast you run or surveillance cameras tracking traffic patterns.

IDC says the data from these connected devices represents 4 percent of the total data in India today. IDC now forecasts, that by 2020, it will represent almost 10 percent of the country’s data.

Enterprises don’t need to wade through the vast amounts of data but instead can extract tremendous value by focusing on high-value, “target rich” data that accounts for 1.7 percent of the current Digital Universe.

Gartner says many business leaders are lagging behind in their understanding of what digital business means, and the disruptions that are only slightly ahead of them. One of the most important things the CIO can do over the next year or two is close the very big gap in understanding, by working on education for the board, executives, senior and middle management layers.

Almost half of the IT-related priorities that respondents gave specifically mentioned digital, online or modern technologies of the post e-business era, such as social, cloud and mobile. Most of the explicit mentions were of technologies frequently associated with front office/revenue-winning capabilities.

Baburajan K
[email protected]