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MANAGEMENT: Companies in search of digital leaders

10 August, 2017

 * 19% of the world’s top 2,500 companies have appointed a Chief Digital Officer *

Nearly one in five (19%) of the world’s top 2,500 companies have appointed an executive — commonly known as a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) — to oversee the digital transformation of their business, according to the results of a new study about the role from Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business.


 
Though this number might seem modest, it more than tripled last year’s figure, when only 6% of companies analysed had hired such an executive. Of equal significance is the fact that 60% of the digital leaders identified in the recent study have only been hired within the last two years.
Strategy&’s 2016 Chief Digital Officer Study looks at the top 2,500 public companies around the world by market capitalisation to better understand how many companies have appointed a digital leader, who they are, and where the position fits into companies’ hierarchies. For the purposes of this study, the CDO is defined as that executive, no matter of the title, who has been given the task of putting into practice the digital mission of his or her company or business unit.

Not just a fad

In light of the significant increase in digital leaders across industry, company size, and region, companies would do well to start believing the ‘hype’ around the new position, the survey found.
Companies in the financial services and consumer-focused industries have the highest digital leader ratio. According to the study, 35% of insurance companies have digital leaders, and 27% of both banking and consumer products companies do as well.
European companies are hiring CDOs at faster rates than companies elsewhere (38% in Europe versus 23% in North America, 13% in South and Latin America, and 7% in Asia-Pacific).
Larger companies continue to remain ahead of the curve in appointing digital leaders. The percentage of companies with CDOs by market cap peaks at 33% for Quartile 4, then decreases to 18% for Quartile 3, 15% for Quartile 2, and 10% for Quartile 1.

Unified vision for digital

Taking the helm of a holistic digital strategy means different things for different companies. While some look externally for digital leaders, others engage existing leadership and a diverse group of stakeholders to help manage the transition. For these reasons, digital executives come in various forms, with a variety of different skills in tow.
While marketing and sales backed leaders dominated last year (34% and 17%, respectively), this year 32% of digital leaders bring technology backgrounds to the job, up from 14%.
Knowing how to work within these constraints while simultaneously maintaining the operational agility needed to move digitalisation efforts forward will be key for any incumbent digital leader.
For more information, visit www.strategyand.pwc.com/cdostudy .