As the battle to implement digitization in non-tech organizations intensifies, a report from global executive search firm Amrop sheds new light on the experiences of C-suite digital leaders on the frontlines of change. Weaknesses emerge in four key areas: organizational context, the attitude of boards, the role itself, and digital leaders’ confidence in their own competencies.

The Organization: Digital leaders have an uphill struggle. 45% report a lack of dynamism and speed.

They are blocked by fragmented, complex organizational structures, difficulty identifying key stakeholders, and a diffuse strategy. Around a third face question regarding ROI – 50% say the focus is on financials rather than the future, with a general lack of realism or patience. Four digital threats are considered ‘high or extreme’ by one in four: processing data meaningfully, digital risk, regulatory delays, and customer frustration.

The Board: Words not met by action: only 33% of digital leaders are truly supported or resourced.

Boards prioritize digitization, say 69% of digital leaders, giving space and listening to their input. However, only a third really agree that their boards assign enough resources, or ensure digital initiatives are put into a process. Only 28% truly believe their boards fully understand the meaning and scope of digital. The focus is (too) often on operations or the customer interface.

The Role: Care needed beyond the honeymoon. Only 18% of digital leaders get a mentor or coach.

Digital leaders have a good start on joining organizations: 80% encounter an inspiring role profile. Two-thirds have an easy decision to join and are matched (at least on joining) with key stakeholders. But only half really feel well-informed by their onboarding process or helped to have a quick impact. And only one in five receives a senior mentor or coach.

The Competencies: Digital leaders generally confident. But only 26% are fully up to date with security.

Amrop has built the core skillset for Chief Digital Officers and equivalents into a Digital Competency Model, comprising 4 dimensions and 16 indicators. Inviting C-suite digital leaders to self-rate reveals 13 areas in which under 40% feel fully confident. And only one in four feels fully competent or confident in four key digital areas: defining commercial performance indicators, risk management, talent management, and security.