To answer the question I am going to need to pull out two tools from the consultant’s toolbox: the cliché quote and the trusted 2×2 matrix.

The Quote

Every organisation is perfectly designed to get the results they get.

Arthur Wayne Jones

Arthur Jones is essentially saying that if you need to change the results, you also need to change the organisation and that you can (to some extent) design towards getting certain results.

If you are asking yourself whether you need a CDO you are very likely looking to become “more digital”, and have probably realised that shouting “we need to be digital” from the rooftops is not going to be enough. Some level of change in your organisation is going to be required – and obviously inserting a CDO somewhere, would be a change.

The 2×2 matrix

Ideally, you want “digital” (and innovation) to be part of everyone’s job, part of your organisation’s DNA.

How you get there is going to be different from organisation to organisation. Your culture, your colleagues, your starting point, the competitive environment you face, the customers you have – all are unique to you. And therefore how you implement change will be unique to you. 

Scott A. Snyder and Shaloo Kulkarni have written a more in-depth analysis of what you should be asking yourself, but essentially end up with a 2×2 matrix describing the various scenarios (nobody is so unique that they don’t fit into a 2×2 matrix):

As an example, if you have a decentralised organisation, trying a centralised approach is unlikely to work – rather you need to orchestrate the journey and let the front line take “the lead”. Or if you really need to be disruptive, relying on internal capabilities is not going to be sufficient. You will need to bring the radically different ideas in from outside your organisation, so an ability to manage digital ventures (corporate VC) becomes critical. 

The answer

So, do you still need a CDO? The answer is “it depends” (followed by a “you should hire a consultant to find out” :-))

Knowing where you stand, the direction you need to be taking allows you to balance the short and the long term priorities. You will need to review the structure, and perhaps most importantly, decision-making processes in order to bring the organisation along with you.

You will also need to allow the organisation, at all levels, to figure out what it means to be “digital”. What kind of opportunities arise as a result of Big Data, automation, AI, IoT, A/B testing, cloud-based computing…and all the other buzz words. This may require a CDO – maybe it doesn’t. But nothing different happens unless you do something differently (and hiring a consultant does not constitute “doing something”).