GLOBAL: Most major businesses have yet to appoint a chief digital officer (CDO) to help them navigate through a period of extraordinary change, according to a study which also highlights the prevalence of marketers among the CDO cohort.

When Strategy&, the global strategy consulting team at PwC, surveyed the world's top 1,500 companies in terms or revenue for its 2015 Chief Digital Officer Survey, it found that just 6% had a CDO in place.

Over one third of those had only been appointed in the past year, which Strategy& suggested, was an indication of a trend towards the idea of a dedicated digital leader. But even here, the level of commitment was not necessarily extended to the boardroom: just four in ten were members of the C-suite.

"Despite the prevalence of digitisation in popular culture, the majority of companies have not yet given a single executive the power to oversee their digital efforts across the entire business," said Roman Friedrich, one of the authors of the report and a partner with PwC Germany.

"Instead, most companies try to make do by managing their digital change at the functional, business unit, and geographical level," he added.

But that approach fails to encompass the scale of the task in hand. "The CDO's job requires nothing less than steering the company through an era of mass disruption in every aspect of its external relationships and internal operations," said  Dr. Pierre Péladeau, study co-author and a partner with PwC France.

The background of these individuals was heavily skewed towards sales (17%) and marketing (34%). Just 14% had technology experience with most of the remainder coming from the arenas of consulting, strategy and business development, and academia.

While this recruitment strategy has the advantage of bringing in people with a consumer-centric slant, it may not work to the long-term benefit of a business, according to one CDO.

Patrick Hoffstetter, CDO at automaker Renault, explained that transforming consumer-facing operations was necessary but not sufficient. "And it won't allow companies to become fully coherent digital organisations," he added.

Achieving that end requires the evolution of internal processes, internal social networks, along with the acceleration of collaborative tools and internal training.

"It's much harder to show any payback, and it takes a lot longer," said Hoffstetter.

Data sourced from PwC; additional content by Warc staff