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Delivering Digital

Chief Digital Officer Continues to Claw into Enterprise Org Charts

Investment bank UBS adds new CDO role, offering another indication on rise of CDO positions in the enterprise

In the latest signpost of the drive to improve digital leadership in the enterprise, one of the world’s largest investment banks recently announced it was reorganizing its tech division so that it can make way for a brand new chief digital officer (CDO) role. It’s one of many indicators over the last year that large organizations are getting their chess pieces in order for carrying out effective digital transformations.

According to a memo seen by Yahoo Finance, UBS this month split up leadership of its Group Technology Management Committee into two roles, adding a CDO role to work in tandem with the CTO position, both reporting into the CIO. The firm is bringing in the former global lead of innovation for Deutsche Bank, Elly Hardwick, to fill the CDO spot. According to UBS CIO Mike Dargan, the role was created to drive innovation across the business, but especially to start up an artificial intelligence (AI) center of excellence to shape the company’s AI and automation strategy. In this case, UBS’ new CDO will report to the CIO.

This kind of announcement is becoming increasingly familiar as more organiztaions seek to inject accountability and vision for digital transformation through a C-suite digital or innovation champion. According to the annual Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, the percentage of enterprises with a dedicated or acting CDO rose from 25% in 2017 to 49% in 2018.  However, the most recent iteration of that survey report does show that the percentage of dedicated CDOs is still fairly low. About one in ten organizations have a person dedicated to the position, while just under one in five organizations have their CIOs double up on those duties.

These numbers will likely remain in flux, as many experts believe the CDO is a transitional role meant to help organizations fold digital into every part of the business.

“As organizations mature and move further up the digital acceleration curve, their digital and innovation priorities evolve, and a new set of digitally dexterous leadership capabilities become critical to unlock value for success,” Shaloo Kulkarni and Scott Snyder in a report released last month by Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search and professional development firm.

As they explain, a CDO initially hired in the early stages of a transformation may make great strides advancing digital maturity. But at the same time, they say  “expecting a single digital innovation leader to cover the waterfront from omnichannel experiences to AI-driven trucks is usually unrealistic,” in the long run. This is why Heidrick & Struggles advocates for organizations to take efforts to transform the digital leadership skills across the C-suite for long-term digital acceleration.

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