What Does a Chief Digital Officer Do?

The title of Chief Digital Officer (CDO), sometimes called a Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO), may seem self-descriptive – they manage digital information, right? – but the everyday reality is that the job, responsibilities, and developing roles of a CDO are many and ever-evolving.

The Definition of a Chief Digital Officer

Years ago, when digital was just getting off the ground, the role of Chief Digital Officer was similar to that of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) – only digital. The goal: Convert traditional print marketing assets into their digital counterparts, using modern technology and online tools across all touch points, including those of social media, mobile apps, web-based marketing, and virtual goods, among other collateral.

Today, some say that the role of a Chief Digital Officer has evolved into nonexistence but in truth, the position has in fact progressed into much more involved and far-reaching duties, including marketing innovations, new technologies, digital operations, corporate strategy, and more.

The Responsibilities of a Chief Digital Officer

Chief Digital Officer addressing her team

A Chief Digital Officer has a laundry list of responsibilities including, sometimes, defining his or her own role.

The hard truth is that a CDO’s primary responsibility is sometimes to balance the expectations and desires of their CMO and Chief Information Officer (CIO). Making your job even tougher, companies often hire a CDO before truly defining the position parameters: part of your job, inevitably, will be to carve your own path and define your own role.

That said, there are certain responsibilities shared between all (or, at least, most) CFOs, among them:

  1. Listen to the Community: It’s 2018 and nearly every audience now lives, plays, and interacts online. A CDO’s primary responsibility is to define how a company reaches and interacts with that community, and how they can engage in two-way dialog.
  2. Map Digital Assets to Strategies: At the end of the day, the only job of digital media and marketing is to further a company’s goals. To that end, a CDO must map the company’s digital assets to strategic goals.
  3. Innovate Digital Processes: Develop methods to map old assets to new digital processes, without disrupting the fine balance that already exists between departments. For example, consider the complex balance between analog medical files; how can one digitize that medical information, while also preserving decades of print archiving and upholding patient privacy?
  4. Develop the Digital Brand: The digital wing of your company must, in every way, further your brand voice, principles, and personality.
  5. Reach Influencers: Who are, and where do influencers live? And, how can you best reach them?
  6. Empower Influencers: Provide tools to empower influencers to drive your message, share your brand, and influence your potential market.
  7. Develop the Digital Portfolio: While a CDO’s job is not to deploy digital strategies, it is your responsibility is to develop, and then administer your new and/or evolving digital portfolio.
  8. Measure Digital Efforts: ROI, effectiveness, successes – you must develop strategies and fact-based methods to monitor your digital efforts.
  9. Attract New Talent: Your next hires will find you online. As CDO, your job is to develop a digital brand that will appeal to and attract the best and brightest talent in your field.

This is just the tip of the Chief Digital Officer iceberg. Even though “digital,” in both word and concept, has been around for decades, the CDO role evolves as quickly as the digital experience itself. So, above all, your job is to be flexible. Adapt. Respond to the world and influencers around you.

Education, Background & Required Experience

There are always exceptions to every rule but generally, a Chief Digital Officer possesses an educational minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree and often a Master’s Degree, usually in the fields of computer science, marketing, technology, or related concentrations. Typically, you must have at least 5 years’ related work experience.

In addition to a formal education, a CDO must be in possession of the following skills:

  • Business Savvy: The CDO owns a special relationship to digital assets and strategy. You are in the unique position to identify new and better opportunities to further business goals.
  • Protect Data Accuracy & Privacy: The CDO is like a digital gatekeeper, tasked with protecting user and company information. As such, a solid background in data privacy and related fields is required.
  • Forward-Thinking: As CDO, you are in charge of the larger digital picture: priorities and strategies for the digital future. A high level of understanding, related both to digital strategy and overarching business models, is necessary.
  • Leadership: The CDO stands as leader for a company’s entire digital culture, from the executive level down through the front-line.

Expected CDO Salary

man holding pen against paper

A Chief Digital Officer’s salary ranges from about $100,000-$500,000+.

As of June 2018, PayScale.com reports an average salary of $175,000 and a median salary of $227,500 for Chief Digital Officers. At the top end of the range, a CDO can earn $500,000 or more.

Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an average 12% growth from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

The role of a Chief Digital Officer is highly complex, but for professionals who are a good fit for the job, the field is rewarding and can be quite lucrative.

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