Pages Menu

Why more companies are hiring strong digital leaders, Strategy&

Posted on Jul 24, 2017

Why more companies are hiring strong digital leaders, Strategy&

Faced with organizational challenges, more and more companies are hiring an executive to manage their digital transformation. This year’s Strategy& report looks into the CDOs role given the company’s digital ambition and includes in-depth interviews with CDOs from leading industries.

A growing number of companies have embraced the need for strong digital leaders. Our 2016 study of chief digital officers (CDOs), which analysed the presence of such leaders among the world’s 2,500 largest public companies, revealed that 19 percent of these companies have now designated an executive to lead their digital agenda.

This number is up from just 6 percent of companies in our 2015 study. And the uptick has gained momentum in recent years: Sixty percent of the digital leaders we identified in our most recent study have been appointed since 2015.

Such trends reflect the movement at many companies toward a state of more advanced digital competence. In our experience, it is typically at this stage that top management becomes focused on the need for digital leadership.

In the early days of a business, different business units and corporate functions conduct scattershot experiments and pilot programs in hopes of kick-starting their digital efforts. But once a company decides to design a coherent, comprehensive strategy to capture the benefits of digitization, that decentralized approach will no longer suffice.

When it comes to implementing a digital strategy, the new class of CDOs often encounter several key obstacles upon assuming their role: ad hoc digital initiatives spread throughout a large organization, lacking central oversight; a traditional culture that resists change; a gap in the talent required; and legacy systems and structures that threaten to derail their ambitions.

The right CDO for your company will have the background and experience to tackle these issues — a mix of skills that won’t look the same at every company, but that will enable a CDO to lead your organization’s digital transformation, to the point at which fundamental changes in organization, governance, capabilities, business processes, underlying technology architecture, and culture take hold.

Pierre Peladeau, Mathias Herzog, and Olaf Acker are with PWC’s Strategy&. This is an extract from their report “The New Class of Digital Leaders”.  For more go to