Australia’s approach to appointing Chief Digital Officers is not as advanced as it should be.

CDO PicThe acceptance of technology in our day to day lives is no different from the way that technology has embedded itself into every corner of business. Emails, Skype calls, video conferencing, systems mobility, digital security etc. are all part of how we do business now. The Cloud, Big Data, 3D Printing, Biochips, Virtual Assistants and the like are part of the technology landscape for business and some, if not all of them, depending on the specific business will be how we do business. The Question is “Is business across Australia in a position to lead the embedding of new technologies in business…or are we just following?”

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) keeps the systems running, makes sure the outsourced service providers are meeting their SLA’s, provides a mobility solution that meets the needs of the business and ensures that the IT infrastructure responds quickly to the range of ever shifting priorities. At the same time as the CIOs are spending no more of the corporate dollar than is absolutely needed, one has to ask “Are they in the best position to blue sky new technologies and appreciate how they potentially change the fundamentals of your business?”. Increasingly the answer is no. That has very little to do with the competence of the CIO and much more to do with the ever expanding impact of technology on the fundamentals of business strategy and the growing  overlap with the world of marketing.

A survey published by Dr. Peter Aiken* in 2013 found 74% of all Chief Digital Officer (CDO) positions were less than one year old. The survey also found that 72% of organisations felt they were not organisationally ready for a CDO but that 60% of the organisations surveyed were in need of, or were hiring, a CDO. In summary this role is a brand new role (it is where the CIO role was 15 -20 years ago) and companies are not exactly sure what the role looks like. What they are sure about is that their business needs the skills to make the best strategic use of a wide range of new technologies.  An article in Forbes Magazine#, by Lisa Arthur, last year picked out what were seen as key skills for the CDO namely: “Technical Expertise, Cross-functional finesse, Silo-busting prowess and Global perspective”. So what are businesses in Australia doing about this?

In the USA and Europe the rise in demand for Chief Digital Officers (CDO) has been significant; this region has been much slower to follow down that path.  In looking at the Australian Government, Gartner predicted, in their October 2013 study “Beyond the Government CIO: Chief Data or Digital Officers?”, that by 2014 over 20 percent of government organisations will have appointed a CDO. At the 2014 Digital Government Conference in Canberra of the 42 speakers, only two had a title of Chief Digital Officer.  We are not at the end of 2014 so there is still time to hit Gartner’s forecast but, even if that happens, it leaves around 80% of the government organisations with no CDO in place.

The 2013 Chief Digital Officer Talent Map predicted the number of CDO’s in large organisations globally would double in 2014, Gartner predicts it will triple. We don’t know whether The Chief Digital Officer Talent Map’s prediction of 2 x growth in CDO’s or Gartner’s prediction of 3 x growth is right but we do know that the skills of the CDO are much in demand…and Australia is not where it should be. Does your technology business unit possess the skills that Lisa Arthur was talking about?

If you think your organisation would benefit from the skills of a Chief Digital Officer, please get in touch with Graham Willis at Watermark Search International and have a discussion about it.

Graham can be reached on +61 2 9233 1200 or graham.willis@watermarksearch .com.au

*Dr. Peter Aiken, July 2013, “The precarious state of the CDO. Insights into a burgeoning role”.
#Ms. Lisa Arthur, September 2013, “Why You Should Consider Hiring A Chief Digital Officer, And Why Now”, Forbes Magazine.