Chief Digital Officer vs. CIO vs. CTO: What’s the Difference?
While the CTO or the CIO is involved in the tech, the chief digital officer is more concerned with the strategy. For example, the chief digital officer can come up with an idea to better serve customers online, but it is the CIO or the CTO who would implement the technology.
It’s often a collaborative effort, Roy says. “My best friend in the corporation is our CIO,” he says. That CIO, Scott Rice, “leads the development of the technology that will power the transformation, and I really see my job as really evangelizing and kind of progressing the digital transformation from both a business perspective and a process perspective.”
Tom Berray, who has placed chief digital officers through his work with Cabot Consultants and IRC Global Executive Search Partners, says that when organizations first started hiring for the role, there was talk that the position would eventually replace that of the CTO.
“I’m not seeing that at this point,” Berray says. “I’m seeing that this is an additional role.”
Hassanyeh says that because the chief digital officer’s role does cross over with every aspect of the business, it’s especially important to work with other executives and team members.
“To be successful, you have to work with everybody,” he says, “whether it’s the IT folks, whether it’s the marketing folks.”
Who Should a Chief Digital Officer Be?
While the position can have different responsibilities across different organizations and industries, there is a major common thread: It is essential that the chief digital officer be a collaborative strategic thinker capable of working with different teams within the company.
“Collaboration is probably the highest of them all,” Roy says. “Depending on the type of company you’re coming from, it’s going to be a fairly dramatic shift in behavior, so communication and collaboration are key.”
Hassanyeh also emphasizes the importance of understanding an organization’s business and culture. To be successful, the chief digital officer must know “how to fit into the organization, how to change the organization and how to get that organization to come along on a difficult journey,” he says.
When searching for a chief digital officer, Berray says, organizations are looking for digital experience but also for collaborative leaders. “Somebody who’s really straddled things like technology, communications, content, some of the product work that the organization has done and who has got a healthy dose of digital experience,” Berray says.
What Is the Average Salary of a Chief Digital Officer?
The path to the position can vary, especially since the exact role changes from company to company. Hassanyeh started at AARP as a programmer before moving to the organization’s web team, where he climbed to chief digital officer. Roy’s experience was in running an e-commerce company before starting at Sprint.
Taking on this wide range of responsibilities, according to Payscale, can land a chief digital officer an average base salary of just over $200,000 per year. The position can earn tens of thousands more in bonuses and profit sharing.