Good digital leaders are likely to be young and new to you, says PwC

PwC’s strategy consultancy arm Strategy& has encouraged organisations to move outside their comfort zones when hiring a chief digital officer.

Born native: Organisations are told to expect to employ younger digital officers – Photo credit: Flickr,

In a report setting out the various types of digital leader, Strategy& says that companies and councils are aware they need to recruit people into senior digital roles but are “at a loss” as to how to define the role.

First, says the report, organisations should assess their digital needs and what they need to achieve, and only then define the job description of the person who will be in charge of digital transformation.

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It also stresses that there is a huge demand for talent, which means that organisations need to offer potential chief digital officers more than competitive salaries – they also need to be confident that the organisation wants to change.

“The kind of companies that strong chief digital officer candidates are likely to join must make it clear that they are ready and willing to set forth on that transformation,” the report states. “If they can’t do so, they are likely to lose candidates to rivals or promising startups.”

The report also says that, because digitisation requires a different mindset, the right candidate might – or should – be someone from another organisation or an entirely different industry. It adds that the best candidate may be “quite a bit younger than you might expect” because they are of the generation that are born “native” and used to digital innovation and disruption.

In addition to broader advice, Strategy& sets out five types of chief digital officers, saying that there is not a “one size fits all” job description and that organisations should blend the different characteristics based on their needs.

The archetypes are described as the progressive thinker, the creative disrupter, the customer advocate, the innovative technologist and the universalist.

The customer advocate is likely to appeal to local authorities, with the report saying that their focus will be on the development of a convenient and engaging customer experience.

Local authorities have been regularly advised to put user need first, and this type of digital leader will aim to design services for users that work across all channels.

However, councils that want to transform their whole approach may want to plug in qualities from the other types of digital officers.

The report defines the progressive thinker s someone who would be best employed working alongside the chief executive to develop a new digital strategy. They will think imaginatively about how to transform the business, bringing in entirely new ideas and ways of thinking.

In comparison, the creative disrupter is better suited to organisations that want their digital leader to take a more hands-on approach that involves the continuous development of new digital technologies and solutions.

Meanwhile, the innovative technologist would offer organisations some of the qualities of the disrupter and progressive thinker, but less dramatic change.

The report says that this type of leader will promote the use of new technologies across the organisation, but within industry boundaries. This might include embracing the Internet of Things, social media and analytics.

The innovative technologist will also focus on saving money and driving up efficiency in an organisation, which is likely to appeal to councils under severe financial pressure.

Finally, the universalist is a digital leader who will manage all aspects of digital transformation. The report describes this as “the most visionary” type of leader and will need a “forceful mandate from the CEO and full execution power”.

The report says this type will suit organisations that find themselves behind the curve in their efforts to adapt to the digital world.


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