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Life as a CDO is tough. In fact, it’s six jobs in one 

Published 10 October 2022 in Innovation • 7 min read

Driving change involves being a strategist, change leader, tech builder, number cruncher, marketer and team leader – all at the same time.

Being a chief digital officer (CDO) is not easy. Unlike other C-suite executives, we have a mandate to drive change and digital transformation. And the only way to make that happen is by collaborating with people at every level across the organization – from the CEO and CFO to the most junior person in the marketing team.

Building such relationships, and persuading the business to embrace change, means we have to act like a smart corporate politician. But in an environment where change is hard to achieve, sometimes we also need to act like cowboys: take bold decisions that drive real progress, and occasionally break the rules. As a CDO, it is sometimes better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

At paintings and coatings giant AkzoNobel, for instance, I spent nine months discreetly working with a partner to rebuild the entire technology stack. I committed to and funded this investment out of my own CDO budget. The investment was significant financially, but…

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