Champions of digital – the critical role of digital leadership

Champions of digital – critical digital leadership

With rapid digital innovation and continually changing customer expectations to manage, digital leadership has quickly risen to be central to steering the strategy and success of organisations. KPMG set out to better understand the nature of digital leadership in today’s organisations, and what’s next for digital leaders.

Laura Chisholm

Director, Digital Consulting

KPMG Australia

Network of connected dots

A decade ago the role of digital was still emerging, and for many organisations, was peripheral to core operations. But digital has quickly become central to how Australia’s major organisations carry out their operations and serve their customers, placing new demands on leadership to drive digital.

In order to better understand the role digital leaders now play, we interviewed a range of Australia’s leading CDOs, or equivalent digital leaders, about what the role means, how it’s positioned in their organisation, and how they see the role changing in the near future.

Key findings

  • Where are the CDOs?
    There is no set definition of the CDO role, and many CDOs spend a lot of time and energy defining/ demonstrating their role within the business.
  • It is digital strategy, but not as we know it
    Digital strategy setting has transformed – it is difficult and needs cross-organisational buy-in. Its funding approach has dramatically changed and it will constantly evolve.
  • Squads, chapters, tribes and guilds
    Running digital teams is complex as digital teams show huge variation, from a handful of ‘evangelist-type’ roles to more than 200 people with a wide range of diverse capabilities.
  • Partnering for success
    Most digital leaders engage with multiple external digital partners. Key signals to consider partnering include the need to scale rapidly, the need for innovative and disruptive thinking, and a requirement for hard-to-find skills and an outsider’s perspective.
  • The two speed digital agenda
    Digital leaders need to balance the demands of ‘always on’ digital operations against constant capability uplift and large-scale transformation.
  • Collaboration and influence
    Digital leaders need to collaborate extensively, and influence a broad range of their executive, to achieve their agendas.
  • What keeps CDOs awake?
    Digital leaders have a unique set of challenges – changing ways of working, selling the vision internally, keeping pace with technology and customer needs, digital team growth, and building executive relationships.
  • The future of the role
    Will the most successful digital leaders make themselves redundant?
  • The next big things
    Digital leaders see themselves as increasingly important to bringing new digital solutions into the organisation and helping their teams understand the opportunities they present.

KPMG Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

©2022 KPMG, an Australian partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organisation of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved. The KPMG name and logo are trademarks used under license by the independent member firms of the KPMG global organisation.

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