Chief Digital Officers gaining ground in European businesses

95 per cent of European businesses now have a digital strategy, finds Claranet research

New research has found a surge in the number of Chief Digital Officers (CDO) across Europe over the past 12 months. The new figures show the growing significance of the digital transformation agenda and the need for many to prioritise it with a distinct role at the board level, according to Claranet.

Vanson Bourne surveyed 900 end user IT leaders from mid-market businesses in the six markets in which Claranet operates - Germany, Benelux, France, Spain, Portugal, and the UK. It found that 95 per cent of European businesses now have a digital strategy. 15 per cent of these digital strategies are now led by a CDO, up from just 6 per cent in 2015. This trend is particularly pronounced in France and Portugal, where CDOs head up 22 per cent and 20 per cent of digital strategies. These findings show how seriously European businesses are taking their digital transformations.

The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) are still most likely to drive digital strategies, at 34 per cent and 29 per cent. However, the rise of the CDO is indicative of wider trends across IT departments.

Commenting on the research, Andy Wilton, CIO of Claranet, said:

The fact that we are seeing a broad split in leadership between CTOs, CIOs and now the growth in CDOs, demonstrates the different approaches organisations are taking toward digital transformation. It is also indicative of a changing IT department where traditional roles are becoming more hybridised.”

IT is progressing from a support function to a value-creating role of strategic significance. Harvey Nash and KPMG recently found that even where there is no CDO, the CIO’s role is becoming ever more dynamic and strategic. Traditionally, a CIO's priorities have been increasing operational efficiencies and delivering stable IT performance. These are becoming less important in the face of these changes.

Wilton concluded:

“The IT department of 2016 is undergoing a period of accelerating change. Where IT used to play a supporting role to business strategy, it now has the opportunity to drive it. Businesses can lead change by empowering their IT departments - be that by appointing a Chief Digital Officer or by increasing the remit of the CIO to generate profit rather than to provide cost-savings.”