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June 2, 2016

Does your business need a progressive thinker or creative disrupter? 5 roles a Chief Digital Officer can play

List: The CDO is an emerging executive role - but which one is right for your business?

By Ellie Burns

The chief digital officer, or CDO, is an emerging role in companies looking to catch up with the digital future. The recently created role has seen early adoption, with even new London mayor Sadiq Khan promising a CDO appointment for London.
However, due to the relatively new executive role, companies are struggling to hire the right sort of individual who has the skill set and vision needed to accomplish specific goals of the business.

According to PwC’s consulting business, Strategy&, there are five CDO archetypes – the progressive thinker, the creative disruptor, the customer advocate, the innovative technologist and the universalist.

So which one is right for your business? In Strategy&’s report ‘The Right CDO For Your Company’s Future’, each of the five CDO archetypes are defined alongside the type of business best suited to each type of CDO. The five archetypes of a chief digital officer as defined by Strategy& are:

1. The Progressive Thinker

This executive’s mission is to think imaginatively about how the business could be transformed through digitisation, and to provide the inspiration as the company moves to a fully digital strategy and operating model.

Who should hire them? Industrial companies and others in more traditional industries, such as chemicals, oil and gas, and mining, which already have a stable and strong set of differentiating capabilities but have yet to benefit fully from digitisation.

2. The Creative Disrupter

Unlike the progressive thinker, the creative disrupter has a more hands-on approach to developing new digital technologies and business models.

Who should hire them? A creative disrupter can be especially valuable in companies, such as publishing and retail, which are facing severe changes as a result of digitisation in these consumer-oriented industries.

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3. The Customer Advocate

These executives, who typically report to the chief marketing officer (CMO) and head of sales — or could even replace them — are mainly market-driven and customer satisfaction oriented. The customer advocate focuses on the development of a convenient, engaging, and seamless customer experience using design thinking across all channels, digital and physical.

Who should hire them? This type is best suited for companies in customer-facing industries such as retail, banking, and travel, particularly if digital thinking has not yet penetrated the daily lives of their sales and marketing people.

4. The Innovative Technologist

Much like a highly innovative and business-focused CIO or CTO, this CDO promotes the use of new digital technologies to transform the company’s entire value chain, providing the technological groundwork for new digital business models through technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, social media, and analytics, while improving internal efficiency and finding ways to cut costs.

Who should hire them? Companies in manufacturing industries, for example, should consider turning to these executives to further optimise their supply chains and bring digital technologies to factories and to key production steps such as design and prototyping.

5. The Universalist

This CDO’s mission is typically to manage all aspects of a complete digital transformation. The most visionary of the five archetypes, the universalist can succeed only by having a forceful mandate from the CEO and full power to execute on it.

Who should hire them? The change leader is especially well suited to companies in any industry that find themselves behind the curve in their efforts to adapt to the digital world, and therefore need an executive who can carry out rapid and comprehensive transformational change.

Commenting on the report, Ashley Unwin, PwC’s UK and EMEA consulting leader, said: "European companies are leading the field when it comes to hiring CDOs, with 13 percent having appointed someone for the role1. However, as digital transformation continues to move up business agendas, it’s time for those who haven’t yet invested to prioritise filling the CDO position, as competition for the best talent will only increase.

"Many organisations struggle to know where to start in recruiting for this newly created role. These five archetypes provide an overview of the different roles and responsibilities a CDO could hold in order to help companies work out the best fit for their specific needs and drive their organisation towards a digital future."

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