Chief Digital Officer

Roles, responsibilities and future of the key figure of Digital Transformation


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Between digital professions that are emerging thanks to digital, that of Chief Digital Officer he is undoubtedly a leading figure. And it is not difficult to understand why.

It is, in fact, a key figure of Digital Transformation which has now transversally invested every business sector, transforming the opportunities that digital technologies offer into a tool for growth and development.

But the new digital technologies and IT tools are not enough on their own “to make the revolution”.

The digitization of a company passes above all through a change of mentality. What, unfortunately, is still missing today in many Italian companies, still far from a complete digitalization.

Among companies that still have to understand the importance of adapting quickly to the digital transformation underway, and companies that – despite having long since embarked on the path of technological innovation – are struggling to achieve the desired results, there are those that, on the other hand, are evolving towards success .

The trump card of these successful entrepreneurial realities is the presence in their team of a CDO , a professional born to lead companies towards the potential that digital offers them.

In this guide we will focus on all the aspects concerning this figure, starting from the roles and responsibilities he has in the company up to the path necessary to become a Chief Digital Officer, and beyond.

Who is the Chief Digital Officer and what does he do

The digital transformation is now underway. Trying to ignore it or hinder it, remaining anchored to the idea of wanting to manage your business as it was done until a few years ago, is a counterproductive path.

But the openness to change for many companies, in addition to not being taken for granted, is not even that simple to implement. For this, the presence of a figure who is capable of is all the more necessary accompany a company towards the inevitable evolution from analogue to digital .

The weight that digital has assumed within every business, in fact, has made it essential the support of a professional who has the skills and abilities to coordinate and manage the work of:

  • Senior executives;
  • Employees;
  • Collaborators.

The aim is to help them to use correctly, but above all to understand, the importance of data and new digital tools, to scale more quickly and achieve business growth objectives.

The Chief Digital Officer is a figure, perhaps still little known in Italy, but strategic within each company or organization, because he is a professional who is aware of how digital today represents the real challenge to be won, to bring a company to be competitive on the market.

His work, as we will see later, is directed to bring innovation to all processes , making a company evolve towards that deep digital transformation that is now affecting every aspect of the world in which we live.

What is the role of a CDO in Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is not limited to the simple introduction of new technologies in the company, but is instead something much more complex that has to do with the complete redefinition of:

  1. Business and product strategies;
  2. Operational processes;
  3. Management of data, production and people.

This is because Digital Transformation, before being a technological change, is a cultural change which involves people and requires a new and different way of understanding work processes and the underlying strategies.

Therefore, it is not enough digitize a company introducing new technologies and implementing current ones.

Rather, it is necessary to enable innovation that digital offers the ways of working and the mentality of every person within a company, regardless of the hierarchical role they hold.

The CDO is the agent of this cultural change and strategic renewal. He is an adequately trained figure, with an overall strategic vision oriented to business and technological innovation, and able to transmit it to all sectors of a company.

Chief Digital Officer: what do you do within a company?

The CDO is not only a digital expert but rather a professional figure who also possesses a deep knowledge of what are the traditional business dynamics of their relevant business.

This allows it to use innovative methodologies, technologies and digital tools to bridge the gap between “old” and “new” , between “analog” and “digital”, optimizing all business processes in terms of models, products, marketing, sales and people.

The responsibilities of a CDO are varied and substantially change rapidly according to the evolution of the digital business in which it is employed. In general, the main responsibilities of this figure are:

  • Map strategic interests and objectives;
  • Identify and track the potential target;
  • Analyze market segments in line with the company’s objectives;
  • Studying and interpreting the data that emerge from the monitoring;
  • Identify and deliver a business strategy.

But the greatest and most recognized responsibility of a CDO is to lead a company to a higher level of efficiency and speed of response to the needs of a market which, under the pressure of Digital Transformation, is constantly evolving.

Why a Chief Digital Officer is needed to digitize a company

To digitize a company, simply transforming everything analog into digital is not enough. There
Digital Transformation , in fact, it does not only concern the introduction and use of certain technologies in a company, but involves a real one cultural change in the people who are part of it, at every level of the hierarchy

The CDO is the right figure to enable this new corporate mindset because it combines years of experience in roles of responsibility related to the company organization with a passion for the digital world and a natural and marked propensity for change, and because:

  • It understands the current scenario of the digital revolution underway;
  • Knows all the steps necessary to digitize a company;
  • He knows which is the right succession to follow in order to give life to a concrete change;
  • He is able to dictate the right times to perfectly execute a Digitization project;
  • Facilitate the digital transition by inspiring and motivating people to embrace it with enthusiasm and proactivity.

All skills and competences that allow him to play this role in the best possible way, which requires a great ability to make the path of a company towards the digital economy as fluid and simple as possible.

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Working for Measurable Business Objectives (KPIs): Is the Chief Digital Officer Key?

For many entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge posed by digital transformation concerns tracking the performance, changes and investments needed to improve. All aspects that can be analyzed and measured through i KPI (Key Performance Indicator) .

Identify and know how to correctly read the specific objectives set, with a certain periodicity, allow you to have the pulse of the current situation of a company , but also to establish the strategic interventions necessary to be implemented to achieve these objectives.

In a common situation, some of these KPIs can be targets of:

  • Annual turnover increase with digital;
  • Improvement of EBITDA with digital;
  • New contacts acquired.

But what is the role of the CDO in all of this? The Chief Digital Officer works with always clear which are the strategic objectives to be achieved, preparing a plan of annual objectives on which to work and concentrate efforts. His job is to extract value from digital technologies to achieve those business goals that will allow the company to grow, thrive and move forward.


Because you need to have a CDO on your team

The problem of companies today is not so much understanding whether to go digital or not, because this is an obligation dictated by the market. The real challenge is to manage digital, building a roadmap to follow according to the objectives set.

Digital is large and complex, and it is common to see those projects fail that do not have a guide capable of transferring the power of digital to specific business objectives.

The real challenge today is this: knowing how to take advantage in terms of turnover using digital. All the rest are embellishments.

In this context, the Chief Digital Officer therefore:

  • It is able to anticipate market trends;
  • Understand what are the changes that need to be introduced in a company;
  • Implement new solutions within a company to gain a competitive advantage;
  • Transform and improve production, commercial and marketing processes by exploiting digital technologies and data;
  • Pave the way for a digital strategy that can achieve desired profit goals.

Every entrepreneur knows that, nowadays, it is essential to have to adapt their company to the new digital tools. Often, however, he does not have the time and the opportunity to devote himself to digitally structuring the various departments of the company.

This is why it is necessary to have a CDO within your team. By placing himself right in the middle between the company and the entrepreneur, this figure supports both in the process of adaptation to digital.

How to become Chief Digital Officer and what skills are needed

The CDO is not just a digital expert, but rather a professional with strong management skills, with managerial skills and a good awareness of the business model.

It is, therefore, one transversal professional figure – who are required at least 10 years of experience behind them in the industry sector of reference -, who possesses both technical knowledge and a business-oriented mentality.

The chief digital officer it is a profession that has emerged in recent times, therefore there is still no precise framework on how to become one. But, among the skills that absolutely cannot be missing in his curriculum, there are *:

1. Personal skills

  • Previous experience;
  • Perseverance;
  • Visionary thinking;
  • Inspirational skills;
  • Passion for learning;
  • Flexibility;
  • Positive attitude;
  • Reliable and honest character.

2. Professional skills

  • Leadership skills;
  • Ability to work in a team;
  • Strategic thinking;
  • Communication and interpersonal skills;
  • Problem solving skills;
  • Change management skills;
  • Ability to organize one’s work;
  • Analytical skills;
  • Facilitation skills;
  • Customer orientation.

3. Business skills

  • Knowledge of business processes and how to execute them;
  • Understanding the corporate domain and the company’s business models.

4. Technical skills

  • Project management;
  • Specialized technical knowledge;
  • General knowledge of technologies and their impact;
  • Knowledge of architectures;
  • Knowledge of development methods.

* skills listed in the book “The Chief Digital Officer as Conductor” by Alberto Giusti and Massimo Calabrese.

In addition to these skills, a CDO also requires resourcefulness, curiosity towards innovation and the ability to take on challenges, as well as the management and leadership skills necessary to firmly guide the digital transformation of a company.

Initiating a change that is above all cultural and which mainly concerns the people who work in a company, is not an easy task. For this, a figure is needed who is also endowed with authority, practical sense, empathy, humanity and the ability to involve human resources.

Qualities that add value to the figure of the CDO, as much as the technical skills and the business-oriented mindset. Because his work is not limited to introducing digital into processes, but to enable people to “be digital” through a new way of working and thinking about their company.

Chief digital Officer: do you need a master to become one?

To become Chief Digital Officer there is no specific degree course or even a master that can attribute the qualification. As already mentioned, the experience that only a multi-year fieldwork is able to offer is necessary.

Certainly, anyone wishing to enter this profession should follow advanced training courses, necessary to acquire those skills and up-to-date knowledge that can make a difference in this professional field.

But the best way to go is always to get busy. Starting work, internships and experience already having the goal of becoming a CDO in mind, can help you take the right path and make targeted choices to achieve the desired result.

In Maia we have defined a precise training model for our CDOs, as well as customer management, based on real experiences that have produced results. In this way, we are able to provide our consultants with effective operational tools validated by years of business management experience behind them.

How much does a Chief Digital Officer make? What is your average salary

Compared to other digital professions, the average annual salary of a CDO is among the highest ever. As regards the Italian market specifically, it is estimated that the salary of a Chief Digital Officer can reach up to:

  • 50 thousand euros for a figure with 5-10 years of experience;
  • 80-100 thousand euros for a senior figure.

The current statistics also capture a situation where the majority of Digital Officers are men. I am indeed only 20% of women to fill this important professional role.

In Maia Management we have pulled down both of these two status quo placing us first of all on the market as highly qualified consultants to a fixed monthly sustainable , favoring the road of annual bonus to the achievement of defined business objectives in the starting phase (increase in turnover, increase in the number of customers, etc …).

Secondly, ours is a team of consultants that is heterogeneous and varied in composition, a feature that enriches our work, because it allows us to have different visions, skills, experiences.


Chief Digital Officer: better external or internal?

The CDO of a company can be framed substantially in two different ways, namely as:

  • Hired manager (minimum 50 thousand euros / year);
  • Temporary external consultant (fixed monthly + bonus upon achievement).

Therefore, it is possible to take advantage of this figure either by hiring it full time or by framing it as an external consultancy resource.

Not many Italian companies, however, can afford to invest hundreds of thousands of euros a year to hire a Chief Digital Officer and the digital team that supports him full-time. Because we remember that then, the digital strategy must be implemented, adding costs.

The advantages of outsourcing consultancy approach , the same we use for Maia Management I’m:

  • The possibility of evolving for all companies without having to invest large amounts in the short term;
  • Having at your side high-level managers who bet on the success of the established business objectives;
  • A much wider network of professionals to lean on and which will continue to expand over time;
  • The positive contamination that comes from working in contact with several different companies;
  • The ability to look around to better understand what happens and what doesn’t work;
  • The opportunity to take what has worked from others and turn it into an opportunity to be able to go faster.

Moreover, internal managers are often projected towards daily internal dynamics, to innovate you need a mind free from pre-settings, focused only on achieving defined objectives.

To answer the title question, we make no claim to define our approach better than another.

Often, digital projects do not start precisely for reasons of cost. We have chosen to create a scalable model based on consulting to allow companies to be agile and to be able to face change without the fear of having to invest large amounts in the early start-up phases.

We know that we can bring economic value to companies with what we do, and we are ready to bet our time and our skills knowing that we will be rewarded with tangible results.


Chief Digital Officer: what will be the future of this job

Less than a year ago overseas there was talk of a possible decay of the figure of the Chief Digital Officer, it seemed that this figure did not find the right placement in companies that, due to their typical configuration, could not really deal with the change thus making the CDO is useless.

But the global situation we are experiencing, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, has triggered technological and social transformations that were unimaginable until a few months earlier, significantly accelerating the digital transformation process and the adoption of automated digital technologies. This important and obligatory acceleration has put companies in front of evidence: change is not an option and, whether we like it or not, those who do not know how to adapt will not survive in the short term.

So let’s go back to the initial intuition. Digital, due to its complexity and vastness of possibilities, requires a coordinator who knows how to use the tools available to achieve defined business objectives. It is not uncommon to hear stories of companies that have seen even complex digital projects fail due to a lack of long-term vision on the part of the team. When many people are involved in a project, it is easy to shift the focus to short-term actions and stop looking at real goals.

Therefore, it is unthinkable to believe that, in such a context, Chief Digital Officers do not play a crucial role in driving the digital change necessary for companies and organizations to emerge from the crisis and prepare the fertile ground for the next normal.

After all, the role of a good Chief Digital Officer is precisely this: to see great growth opportunities, where others see only insurmountable obstacles.


How a Chief Digital Officer works. The Maia Management method.

As we have said, we are temporary and outsourced Chief Digital Officers (with a consultative approach).

Our client companies pay us a sustainable monthly fixed rate and bonuses for achieving measurable business results.

In the initial phase we establish together with our customers the objectives to be achieved and the metrics to be measured in a given period of time. This approach is of course also challenging for us because in this way we place ourselves as allies of the company and we make sure to use digital to bring business value.

How do we do it? Over time we have created a defined method that allows us to achieve the objectives in a systemic way. For this reason, in Maia Management we mainly aim at the creation of Canvas, Gantt, reports and dashboards with data from which to be guided to optimize actions.

Every action we carry out today in companies is the result of previous experiences and has been included in operational frameworks because our goal is to always be effective and the only way to do this is to follow a defined methodology.


The methodology developed and consolidated over years of activity with our customers is a 4-step process.

Each phase presupposes the full involvement of the customer, so as to increase his level of awareness and educate for change through the example of a different and innovative organizational model: BREAKDOWN, MAPPING, ACTION, REITERATION.

Transforming, changing, starting over are complex processes. Companies often feel the burden and don’t feel up to the task.

This is why we have structured a method that helps to break down this complexity into many defined blocks of activity.

This way of proceeding helps companies to stay inside the change one step (one block) at a time and not perceive the difficulty of all the processes to be changed.

This leap of access to new knowledge, through a method, is what we bring to companies.

We look at their complex system, we break it down, we map their active processes and we work to modify them.

    Phase 1: Definition of the metrics to be monitored and the objectives to be achieved

    Power is nothing without control, someone said. In the initial stages, we define the numerical objectives to be achieved in a given period of time (when do we have to reach turnover with digital? How many new markets do we want to open? …). Sales, marketing and structure are common goals that we work on using a proven measurement model.

    Phase 2: Process mapping

    For each activity block, the required activity is the mapping of active processes.

    Using automated tools that also allow you to define a tangible output for the customer and useful for the next phase, the MAIA CDOs open the control panel of companies by entering the things that happen (relating to the transformation blocks).

    Based on this term we like to say that we make things happen.

    This is to define new processes (transform), starting from what exists and from the real needs of companies (and their departments).

    But what does “process mapping” mean? For us it means having operational tools to continue to monitor situations constantly, weekly we send the company mapping tools that allow us to collect data and look at the company situation in an objective way.

    Operational considerations always arise from these results for which external technicians or company employees themselves are involved and monitored.

    maia management process mapping

    Phase 3: Definition of the Roadmap to follow


    In this phase, the MAIA CDOs are ready to transfer what appears to be necessary from the mapping phase into tangible actions and processes.

    One of the levers necessary to make the change happen is to keep the people involved (who are managers and therefore have a shortage of time and need for results) engaged.

    We always work with the compass in hand, ready to readjust the route when the situation requires it.


    The MAIA method has mapping and data as a compass. Every action, even those relating to qualitative changes, are measurable for us.

    This process of iterating actions ends only when new data and processes solidify into a readable business model.

    What does this mean in practice? With our constant analyzes we are able to always understand what is needed and to define specific actions such as:

    • active digital situation analysis
    • skills reskilling
    • Analysis of the level of knowledge of digital tools by the staff and daily training
    • business enhancement interventions with digital strategies by coordinating the selected partners in order to achieve the established objectives (as in the case of lead generation)
    • Insertion of new tools and support of employees in their correct use
    • Initiation of internal pilot projects in order to test the management skills of the company, correction of difficulties and large-scale start-up with partners

    The strategic consultancy of the Chief Digital Officer for the company


    If you are looking for a consulting firm to understand how to implement digital transformation and build a strategic roadmap to grow your business with digital, you are in the right place.

    We operate in companies of different sizes, from startups to large companies, through a scalable and sustainable model of management consulting. We are Chief Digital Officer, the outsourced digital directors who work to get you business results through digital.

    We guide you in the digital transformation through a defined model, we analyze your specific situation and coordinate the work.

    Take the digital test now to understand your level of business digitization, it’s free and will give you a snapshot of your current status.
    At the end of the test you can decide to be contacted by our Chief Digital Officers to comment on the results together and get an idea of the path to be built.


    How to become Chief Digital Officer


    In Maia Management we are constantly growing and we periodically look for new consultants to be included in our team.

    We operate in client companies as external Chief Digital Officers (Digital Directors) through a scalable and winning model (for the company and for the consultants themselves).

    Becoming a Chief Digital Officer of Maia means operating on the customer using a defined model, our consultants have software available where they can draw on working models, templates, operational frameworks so they can focus on what really matters: taking care of the customer. .

    Take the skills test to access the selection.

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