Chief Digital Officer (CDO): the manager of digital growth

Growing in the digital world means developing the technological and cultural means to remain competitive in your sector and knowing how to make the most of the possibilities offered by the digital world: the Chief Digital Officer is the IT professional who guides companies in their digital innovation and efficiency process, helping them develop their digital skills and their online projects.

Luca Nappini

Today, companies are becoming increasingly clear the importance of the digital world nel proprio settore e, per rimanere competitiva, ogni impresa, piccola o grande che sia, è chiamata a ottimizzare i processi lavorativi, sfruttare i dati a sua disposizione, velocizzare il time to market, presidiare i canali online, essere flessibile, collaborativa e aperta all'economia digitale. Le aziende hanno sempre piú chiaro che oltre alla "realtà fisica" della propria azienda e del proprio business, esiste una "digital reality" che, da un lato può rendere la propria azienda more efficient and competitive in its sector, on the other hand it can make it access the direct or indirect profits coming fromdigital economy.

In altre parole, in tante aziende nasce l’esigenza di "innovazione e crescita digitale", ossia l'esigenza di dover portare in azienda, le the necessary digital skills and structures enabling it to:

  • be more competitive (working more efficiently or leveraging faster methodologies)
  • have greater control and stability in their sector / business thanks to data analysis;
  • be able to access the digital economy in a concrete way, obtaining profits from it;

Digital innovation

That of digital innovation is a process of evolution that regurada any activity (professionals, companies, public administration), it is a process that takes years to be well assimilated and that, theoretically, does not have a precise term and accompanies an activity throughout its life. Few people know that digital innovation, more than a transformation of available means, is a cultural transformation: per trasformarsi e crescere a livello digitale, non basta acquistare un nuovo software, fare un generico corso IT o mettere online un sito web aziendale, ma é necessario conoscere e capire come usare le varie tecnologie offerte dal mondo digital e come si "think and move" a livello di comunicazione digitale.


What it's like to grow in the digital world

Companies that begin their journey of digital innovation are called to equip themselves with cultural and instrumental means to work more efficiently and be more competitive in your sector. The digital world becomes for them a world full of opportunities (new technologies that make them work faster and more efficiently, new markets to present themselves, new customers to conquer, new tools to communicate with, etc.), but it is also a world full of novelties to deal with and soon companies realize that it is necessary learn to move in the digital field. For example, when facing the online world, companies soon understand that:

  • the online competitiveness is much higher compared to the offline world: online there are no distances and all companies are one click away from the end user;
  • is required know how to compare with their competitors and learn more about their strengths and weaknesses;
  • online companies can not sit still waiting for their customers, as often happens to them in the offline world, but they must know how to move on digital channels to be able to communicate and conquer user by user;
  • online almost everything can be measured and the data that can be obtained from digital channels (Big data), become more important than their own ideas or impressions (data driven approach);
  • online everything moves and changes faster compared to the offline world and it is necessary to have the right means to keep up (an online month is like an offline year);
  • as in the offline world, in the digital field quality also counts the means and partners at your disposal (software, websites, automations, cloud tools, IT collaborators and consultants, etc.);
  • they must become familiar with the typical features of the online world (search engines, ecommerce, social communication, reviews, web design, digital marketing, SEO, data analysis, etc.);
  • it takes time per "far diventare un'azienda digitale" non basta saper usare un'app o un software specifico, o leggere un articolo di un blog per diventare competenti o esperti in ambito digitale;
  • not everyone is experienced in the digital field and, as in all sectors, it is necessary to know how to reconsefine and rely on consultants and partners competent in the field of IT and ICT technologies;

Profile and role of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

The CDO is an IT professional, expert in the field of ICT digital technologies: thanks to his technical, planning and training skills, supports companies and guides them in their digital growth path.

Internet e le tecnologie digitali non sono solo mezzi di comunicazione, ma, per tutti i motivi espressi sopra, rappresentano per le aziende una vera e propria "cultural and instrumental growth" ed é facile capire quanto le aziende possano essere in difficoltà ad affrontare da sole tutti gli aspetti che riguardano la propria "trasformazione digitale".

Precisely to help companies accelerate and make their digital growth path easier and more profitable, in recent years the figure of the CDO has been born (Chief Digital Officer), ossia il responsabile tecnico della crescita digitale di un'azienda (a volte chiamato anche "ICT manager" o "Innovation manager").


Fig: The panorama of company managers in which the figure of the CDO is placed

What the CDO does

With the help of a CDO, companies on the one hand are guaranteed to rely on an IT professional who knows how to customize their digital growth path by making it easier and faster, on the other hand they have the certainty of use digital technologies in a conscious and optimized way to better develop their projects online and to become more efficient and competitive in their sector.

The Chief Digital Officer is the figure he deals with orchestrate change in the company: is the one who, starting from the analysis of the starting situation, knows how to identify the areas that need investment and development, knows how to measure performance and define investments (small or large) to concretely achieve the objectives set. He is an expert in digital technologies and innovative methodologies, but he also knows the traditional business dynamics, has strong management skills and the ability to chart the way for a digital strategy.

In particular, the CDO studies the company, its sector and its needs in the digital field, elaborates for the company a concrete strategy of digital growth and, in the months/years in which it works for a company, the more suitable IT tools to work faster and more efficiently (software, apps, management, websites, cloud tools, etc.), does training to internal staff on the use of digital tools, the use of online channels and digital communication, optimize costs, investments and revenues relativi all'ambito digitale e all"eBusiness, evitando spese inutili o non proficue per l'azienda (software, abbonamenti cloud, marketing, parter esterni ecc.), introduce in azienda un data driver approach. In essence, the role of the CDO of a company is to optimize the digital skills of company staff, optimize their working method (organizing it in the best possible way and introducing software and app services in the company & more suitable clouds) and better develop corporate digital projects (web design, marketing, SEO, social communication, etc.).

The work of the Chief Digital Officer as a digital manager is transversal to multiple business divisions: it affects marketing and communication, sales, but also production and human resources, having to deal with making workers acquire digital skills.

The CDO can work for the company both as an internal employee (in large companies) and as an external consultant (for small and medium-sized companies) and represents for the company the it professional for the issues related to its digital development, as well as an accountant or a lawyer represent for the company a point of reference for accounting and legal issues.

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Luca Nappini