chief digital officers: when being successful puts you out of a job

Press Release – Cologne, February 27, 2018

  • Most CDOs see their job as being temporary.
  • CDOs want to change the world.
  • CDOs define their role themselves.

Cologne, February 27, 2018

The world upside down: Managers who do their jobs well are normally rewarded with bigger budgets, more staff or greater decision-making discretion. But for one group of executives, things are exactly the opposite way round: chief digital officers who are successful in their work make themselves redundant. That’s according to the people interviewed in a recent study by the HR and management consultancy Kienbaum. For instance, Elke Katz, CDO at ratiopharm, said, “If we do our job well, we’ll no longer be needed.” Or SportScheck CDO Jan Kegelberg: “CDOs won’t be around forever.” How come? “Our future way of working and thinking will be so connected and digital that in five to ten years’ time, all executives will need to have a digital mindset.”
For the CDO study, Kienbaum interviewed CDOs, CEOs, IT directors and other executives at leading German companies, and asked them about the profile, role, and key skills and attributes of CDOs.

CDOs want to change the world

When asked about what drives them, CDOs don’t shy away from naming big goals: “I want to build something new, shake things up,” said Johann Jungwirth, CDO of VW. “Taking an old industry in a whole new direction: that’s a life mission.” TÜV SÜD CDO Dirk Schlesinger put it this way: “In my role as CDO, I want to make something that will endure in the digital age.”

To help them achieve these ambitious goals, CDOs draw on years of organizational experience, wide-ranging technical knowledge, and commercial expertise. In terms of their academic background, most CDOs studied IT or engineering; very few are economics or business studies graduates.

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