Over a third of UK organisations have appointed a digital transformation leader

More than a third (35%) of the UK’s organisations have appointed a dedicated digital leader to drive competitive advantage from digital transformation. This is significantly higher than the global average of 19%, which itself has trebled since 2015, when only 6% of companies around the world had appointed digital leaders, showing companies are realising the benefits of having someone in this role.

The findings come from a new study of digital leadership by Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business, examining the top 2,500 public companies around the world by market capitalisation, including 120 in the UK, to better understand how many companies have appointed a digital leader, who they are, and how the position fits into company hierarchies.

Whilst the UK now has a higher number of people in the role, it still ranks third in Europe behind France, where 62% of companies have a digital leader, and Germany (39%). However, European companies are hiring digital leaders at a faster rate than their global peers – 38% in Europe versus 23% in North America, 13% in South and Latin America, and 7% in Asia Pacific.

Digital leaders in the UK are less likely to have a technology background (29%) compared to their international counterparts (41%). Instead, nearly half (48%) have a background in marketing, sales or customer service, compared to 33% globally.

According to the study, only 10% of the UK’s digital leaders are female – below the global average of 16% – and none sit on the Executive Board or so called ‘C-suite’ (Chief Digital Officer).

Martin Roets, Strategy& director, said: “We’ve seen a significant increase in companies around the world appointing digital leaders in the last year across all industries. Whilst there was some hype around this role as it emerged, many companies are beginning to realise the benefits of having a digital leader in place and it’s a position that is likely here to stay.

“It’s notable that fewer digital leaders in the UK have technology backgrounds than in other geographies. It seems that the role here is increasingly expected to focus on shaping digital propositions for customers, rather than focusing primarily on the technical delivery challenges.”

Madeleine Thomson, UK technology consulting leader at PwC, added: “Faced with the prospect of the organisational challenges that come with digital transformation, appointing a digital leadership role is becoming increasingly necessary for businesses to thrive.

“It no longer makes sense to spread out various digital efforts across a business. By incorporating responsibility under one person, companies can define a unified approach and start to see real results from their digital strategy to support future growth.”

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