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New AVADO Study: Fortune 100 Companies Are Scrambling To Catch Up With Data and Digital Revolutions

We like to think that Fortune 100 companies always know what they’re doing. They made it this far, didn’t they? But a new AVADO study proves the data and digital revolutions — which have been accelerating for decades — have left many iconic businesses scrambling to appoint C-suite specialists in those fields to address increasingly complex global business challenges.

It’s safe to assume that leaders at all these Fortune 100 companies have known about the importance of data and digital transformations, especially once dial-up internet noisily crackled into homes worldwide. After all, data and digital have become essential to these companies for identifying key business narratives, strategies and campaigns. Old business models rely on an archaic mentality of “If it ain’t broke [sic], don’t fix it,” but data and digital insights often reveal that it is or will be “broke,” and exactly how to fix it.

But when AVADO conducted its July 2019 study to analyze the last seven years of data published by the companies on this year’s list, we were intrigued (but not all that surprised) to discover that top corporations had been slow to adopt data and digital specialists on an executive level. Finally realizing the sheer scope of this digital economic paradigm, many Fortune 100 companies started stockpiling data- and digital-centric C-suite executives in the past two years.

If this seems new to you, it’s new to them, too: Almost half (46 percent) of the Fortune 100’s current digital/data-related C-suite executives’ positions were publicized no earlier than 2017. And some of those executives have had even shorter tenures: More than a quarter (28 percent) have held those positions for one year or less. 

Deeper analysis of this surge also reveals shifts in the C-suite title vernacular: 86 percent of the Fortune 100’s Chief Data & Analytics Officers and 80 percent of the list’s Chief Digital Officers assumed those specific job titles no earlier than 2017. There’s been a dramatic pivot toward these newer roles compared to earlier in the decade, when many of the Fortune 100 companies were more likely to tap a Chief Technology Officer and/or Chief Information Officer.

This makes sense. “Technology” and “information” are sweeping categories, and while data and digital initiatives may fall into those categories, a lack of corporate focus on data and digital can fail to address unprecedented audience diversity and superior economic business models.

And if employing one C-suite executive with data or digital expertise is a good idea, some of the world’s top companies believe having three or more is an even better strategy. 

Some industries have felt an especially pressing need of late.

Since 2014, the top six industries with digital/data-centric C-suite roles at Fortune 100 companies have been:
-Pharma/Healthcare
-Insurance
-Retail
-Financial Services
-Technology
-Aerospace & Defense

The pharma/healthcare sector of the Fortune 100 list has been especially active, adding at least 10 data or digital C-suite executives in the past 12 months alone.

All of these statistics reflect a fundamental transformation of the C-suite and how corporate America runs business. The question is not if it will continue to trend, but how companies can adapt to the relentless influx of data and increased dependence on digital.

In the days to come, we’ll further analyze findings from our July 2019 report with corroborating facts from other recent studies. We’ll also address significant related challenges for your business — whether or not it has employees dedicated to data and digital. Stay tuned.

Niall McKinney

Niall McKinney

Posted July 30, 2019