Leading CIOs have described the role of the chief digital officer (CDO) as having a finite shelf-life, and that it is probably already past its time of peak need.
Speaking to Computing recently, Tom Clark, CIO of Leeds Building Society, admitted that the position can be needed in organisations which are not traditionally digital.
"We don't have [a CDO], but I think it is required in some businesses where they are looking to stick a digital offering onto the side of a bricks-and-mortar business, where they will drive the change agenda," said Clark. "Some businesses do this without a digital role, and look more broadly at their customer channels and operations to revamp how they operate and how they manage change," he continued.
However he then went on to say that the role is already "past its peak".
"I think it is a role with a particular shelf life, and probably is past its peak, where operating a business digitally is the norm now rather than the exception," added Clark.
Colin Rees, CIO at Dominos Pizza agreed that the role could be disappearing.
"We dont have a CDO and I think it definitely has a shelf life," said Rees, who earlier said that CIOs can't afford to lose their technical roots.  "If the CIO and CMO are working well together then there is no need for a CDO. Someone once said that the pinnacle of becoming a digital company is when the term digital is no longer used because the whole organisation thinks in a digital way," he added.
And these views were echoed by News UK CTO Christina Scott, who said that her organisation has no need for a chief digital officer (CDO), explaining that the publisher is already comfortable with digital.
"I don't want a CDO," said Scott. "For me a CDO is advantageous where you have a company which really doesn't get digital at all. To allow digital to work [in such places], you need to break it off and put it on the side as a new thing."
She added that this is exactly what happened when the BBC launched News Online, describing the initiative as originally just "seven people in a cupboard". She also drew on her experience at previous employer the Financial Times, where she was Chief Product and Information Officer.
"The FT broke off, then brought it back in later. It's great in organisations where legacy [systems and processes] would just slow digital down too much."
However, evidently Scott feels that News UK is sufficiently comfortable with digital that no CDO is required.
"We're much more progressed, we have lots of digital products, and digital revenue," she added.
Scott also questioned whether the need for a CDO could spring from an uncertainty around digital from the CIO, or other technology leader.
"If you have a CDO you have to question whether your CIO has really adapted to the times. I don't see it as a separate job. Everyone has to be more digital, the marketing department too. Having a CDO is perhaps covering gaps in the leadership team."

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