The Chief Digital Officer: Beyond AI Implementation

Dec 13, 2023

In the race toward digital transformation, organizations are increasingly appointing Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) to lead the charge. But are we asking the right questions of our CDOs? Perhaps we’re missing the point. 

The Misconception 

Imagine this scenario: Your organization has just hired a CDO. The board is buzzing with excitement, expecting groundbreaking AI implementations, blockchain revolutions, and quantum leaps in digital prowess. So, they ask the CDO, “How can we apply AI?” or “What can we use AI for?” 

But here’s the twist: The CDO isn’t just an AI wizard. The CDO is the leader of the enterprise digital hierarchy—the orchestrator of a hidden network that influences how your organization embraces digital tools. And the real questions should be: 

  1. How can we enable our people to use AI proficiently? 
  1. How can we leverage the digital hierarchy to accelerate our transformation journey to the benefit of the enterprise? 

The Digital Hierarchy Unveiled 

The Influencers 

The digital hierarchy isn’t about org charts or job titles. It’s about the influencers—the unsung heroes who shape digital behaviour across the organization. They’re the ones who: 

  • Champion Change: These enthusiasts embrace digital tools wholeheartedly. They’re the early adopters, the ones who inspire others to follow suit. 
  • Skill Sharers: They possess deep knowledge of specific tools. They willingly share tips, tricks, and best practices, elevating the overall digital literacy. 
  • Collaborators: They recognize the power of collaboration tools. They break down silos, promote teamwork, and demonstrate how digital tools connect us. 

The Naysayers 

But there’s another side to the hierarchy: 

  • Digital Sceptics: These individuals resist change. They prefer traditional methods and view digital tools as unnecessary complications. 
  • Silent Saboteurs: They don’t openly oppose digital initiatives, but they subtly undermine them. Fear of job displacement or personal preferences drives their resistance. 
  • Status Quo Guardians: They resist any deviation from established processes. Disruption is their enemy. 

Why It Matters 

Understanding the digital hierarchy matters for several reasons: 

  1. Strategic Decision-Making: Knowing who influences digital adoption helps leaders make informed decisions. Positive influencers can drive change, while addressing negative influencers prevents roadblocks. 
  1. Targeted Training: Instead of generic training, tailor interventions. Champions need advanced sessions; sceptics need personalized coaching. 
  1. Change Communication: Use the hierarchy to cascade messages effectively. Engage champions to share success stories and address sceptics’ concerns. 
  1. Measuring Impact: Monitor adoption rates among different influencer groups. Celebrate wins and address challenges promptly. 

Empowering Your Influencers 

  1. Recognition: Acknowledge and celebrate positive influencers. Their efforts deserve reinforcement. 
  1. Education: Educate sceptics about the benefits of digital tools. Address their concerns and provide personalized support. 
  1. Inclusion: Involve influencers in decision-making. Seek their input on tool selection and implementation. 


So, next time you meet your CDO, don’t just ask about AI. Ask how they’re developing empowering the digital hierarchy. Because it’s not just about the tools; it’s about the people who wield them. 

Remember, the CDO isn’t just a tech guru; they’re the conductor of a digital symphony that shapes your organization’s destiny.  

What’s your experience with the digital hierarchy? Share your insights in the comments below! 

About the Author: Jeff Campbell – CEO of CykoMetrix, the human data intelligence platform that can identify the digital hierarchy and measure the development. When used in conjunction with interventions tailored to an individual, team, or cohort the CykoMetric platform help you demonstrate the return on the investments in your people by correlating the human data outcomes with desired business outcomes.  

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