Most businesses now have some level of digital representation in the boardroom. The CMO will be responsible for a company’s digital experiences and its digital marketing. The CIO or CTO oversees underlying technology platforms and data collection. The COO may use digital technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business operations. In some organisations there’s even further fragmentation with the involvement of a Chief Data Officer or Chief Revenue Officer.

Where digital belongs remains unclear. It’s everyone’s responsibility in part and no-one’s responsibility in full. A Head of Digital may operate below the C-suite and report to the CMO for example, with a limited remit to influence and truly transform the business.

Of course, some businesses have introduced a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). According to a Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO survey 2017, a quarter of all organisations now have a CDO. The survey reports that there are now three times as many CDOs around as there were three years ago. More than half of the largest companies now have a CDO in place while only a fifth of those with IT budgets of less than $50m have taken the plunge.

But even with such a position, is it clear where the lines are drawn with other C-suite roles? And do CDOs really explore the full breadth of digital opportunities for the business? A CDO’s expertise and experience may be limited to specific areas like marketing, technology, data or innovation which can greatly skew their approach to digital.

Some see CDOs as an interim or subsidiary role to act as an internal change agent or be confined to work on bolt-on digital units. This makes it very difficult for CDOs to have the necessary influence to drive scalable change throughout the organisation. Forrester made a bold prediction that the CIO will replace the CDO in 2018 but that doesn’t seem to be coming true.

Only a CDO with business-wide influence or a CEO with the relevant expertise or trusted guidance can fully take advantage of the digital opportunity.

Do CEOs have the skills and knowledge to do this? In most cases, no, not alone, however expert guidance can come from others. Some businesses hire Non-Exec Directors who have digital experience to act as advisors. Digital leadership can also come from third parties such as Rewrite Digital who have a broader view on the opportunity, are impartial, straight-talking and experienced.

Find out more about how Rewrite Digital can elevate the way your business looks at digital.