Chief digital officers: An analysis of the presence of a centralized digital transformation role

Sebastian Firk*, Andre Hanelt, Jana Oehmichen, Michael Wolff

*Corresponding author for this work

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By appointing a chief digital officer (CDO), firms decide for a central role responsible for their digital transformation. While CDOs have recently appeared in the C-suites of firms across the globe, the current literature lacks insights into the specific antecedents of CDO presence. Grounded in the peculiarities of the digital age, we provide theoretical arguments explaining how the decision to centralize digital transformation responsibilities might be related to transformation urgency and coordination needs. Empirical analyses based on a panel data set of 913 U.S. and European firms support that transformation urgency and coordination needs predict CDO presence. An additional analysis of moderating temporal effects reveals that, over time, the effect of transformation urgency is weakened and the effect of coordination needs on CDO presence is strengthened. We discuss implications for research and practice regarding the antecedents of CDO presence, TMT research more generally, and centralization in the digital age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1800-1831
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number7
Early online date3-May-2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3-May-2021


  • Digital transformation
  • Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
  • Top management team
  • Centralization

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