Chief Digital Officer: “jack of all trades” or “toothless tiger”

Tuesday, 2017, May 23
Quadriga University publishes a new research regarding the role and responsibilites of CDOs

CEO, CIO, CDO – Who is responsible for digital transformation in companies and who is the decision-maker for data-based business strategies, systems and processes? In recent years, there has been increasing demand for the “Chief Digital Officer” (CDO) role to be created in companies. But in reality, is this position bestowed with a clear responsibility and the capacity to have strategic and operational impact?

In the recently published study “Chief Digital Officer: Relevance, Role and Roadmap” Prof. Heinrich and Prof. Gärtner of the Quadriga University of Applied Sciences Berlin, provide a fundamental examination of this professional field. In addition to addressing the effectiveness of the role, the study also analyses management style, personality, salaries and work satisfaction of the CDO.

The results paint a sobering picture: although the number of Chief Digital Officers has more than doubled to around 350 in the DACH area in 2017, in 50 per cent of the cases digital transformation is the focus of a maximum of three employees per company. At the same time, CDOs have a lot to handle: from the conception of the digital strategy to the communicative dissemination of digital transformation throughout the organisation, to the cross-division coordination of the digitisation of processes.

“For us, it is particularly interesting that the CDO is created as a position intended to drive the issue of digital transformation in the company, but at the same time, organisations are reluctant to provide resources. Twenty-seven per cent of the interviewees said that their department is only organised as a specialist team and they do not have enough resources to influence changes,” explains Dr. Christian Gärtner.

In more than one-third of cases, the budget provided to these teams had remained steady or had fallen compared to the previous year. The scarce resources made available are hardly fitting with the relevance of the job.

Interestingly, 82 per cent of the participants say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their job, even though they also report a high level of stress. An explanation is provided by looking at their personality characteristics: emotional stability – that is, calm and not easily aggravated – is widespread among the participants. These characteristics are strongly correlated with management success. Another success factor is further education: analyses show a positive correlation between advanced training of the CDO and the sales and profit development of the company.

Overall the researchers come to the clear conclusion that the task spectrum is often still very undifferentiated and thus oversized: CDOs are tasked with addressing digital transformation almost single-handedly. Yet, it is often the case that they are under-staffed and lacking in resources. “Without decision-making power, the jack of all trades is in danger of becoming a toothless tiger,” says Prof. Dr. Christian Gärtner.

You can order the entire study “Chief Digital Officer: Relevance, Role and Roadmap” (in German only) free of charge online.

About Quadriga University of Applied Sciences Berlin

Quadriga University of Applied Sciences Berlin is committed to the training and development of executives from communication, politics and public affairs, human resources, sales and marketing. This goal is to provide a holistic understanding of management, globally-fitted with the integration of various disciplines and demands. The university promotes interdisciplinary knowledge exchange, practice-oriented research and professional network building for career development based on the idea of stakeholder-oriented and communication-focused management.