What type of Chief Digital Officer does your company need? From the ‘Progressive Thinker’ to the ‘Universalist’: Strategy& defines five archetypes of a CDO

Published at 00:01 AM on 02 June 2016

As companies move to catch up with the digital future, they are taking a close look at what kind of executive they need to lead the way. In a new report, "The Right CDO for Your Company’s Future", Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business, defines five Chief Digital Officer (CDO) “archetypes” – descriptions of typical roles CDOs might play within an organisation.

The Five Archetypes of a Chief Digital Officer:

  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.
  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.”

Martin Roets, a London-based principal at Strategy& said:

“Having an experienced and dedicated digital leader in place is essential to transforming all aspects of business and ultimately becoming a truly digital enterprise. This person must have the leadership abilities, personality, experience and transformational assertiveness to execute this transformation.

“To ensure companies are able to make the most of a CDO once in place, it’s important to have digital strategy commitment and clarity on the roadmap from the very top of an organisation, with the CDO given the authority to work across all business areas.”


Notes to editors

  1. Statistic taken from Strategy&’s Chief Digital Officer Study, released December 2015: http://pwc.blogs.com/press_room/2015/12/companies-without-a-dedicated-leader-of-digital-transformation-may-lose-competitive-advantage-pwc-re.html

To learn more or download the full report, visit www.strategyand.pwc.com/reports/cdo-companys-future. Additional multi-media assets including graphics and images are also available. 

For more information, please contact Felicity Main: [email protected] or +44 (0)20 7213 3092.

About Strategy&

Strategy& is a global team of practical strategists committed to helping you seize essential advantage. We do that by working alongside you to solve your toughest problems and helping you capture your greatest opportunities. We bring 100 years of strategy consulting experience and the unrivalled industry and functional capabilities of the PwC network to the task. We are part of the PwC network of firms in 157 countries with more than 208,000 people committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, and advisory services. To learn more about PwC’s Strategy&, visit www.strategyand.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

© 2016 PwC. All rights reserved.



About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 208,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. © 2016 PwC. All rights reserved

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