The CIO is emerging as the default digital leader with the Chief Digital Officer role yet to make significant inroads in the UK, responses to the 2015 CIO 100 suggest.
In the 2015 CIO 100 more than half of respondents (53%) said their organisation did not have a separate digital leader, while 23% of CIOs expressly said that it was themselves that had responsibility for the digital agenda.
One in 10 responded their organisation had a Chief Digital Officer, while another 10% said it was a cross-business responsibility or the remit of a different department. Another 4% said a separate digital chief reported into the CIO role.
Furthermore the latest CIO 100 included technology executives with a CDO title, including Economist CDO Jora Gill - who has been recognised in a previous edition of the CIO 100 as the Elsevier CIO.
In 2014 only 36% responded there was no separate digital chief at their organisation, with 22% saying it was the CIO fulfilling the digital role. While 12% of the CIO 100 last year said the CDO reported to them, many responded it was an emerging function being investigated, a CIO-CMO collaboration, or that it was shared among the entire C-suite.
CIO 100 alumnus and judge Ian Cohen said: "It's no surprise that in a list that celebrates the most transformation CIOs in the UK - 79% of those leaders work in organisations where there isn't a CDO or where the CIO has embraced the digital agenda themselves.
"During times of disruption organisations look for strong and clear leadership and that doesn't necessarily come from hiring another C-level executive to the board. Certainly some companies will need the impetus of a fresh perspective; however the best and most transformative CIOs already understand the nature of disruptive forces and the impact they have on technology, processes and people. They understand how to embrace changes, learn from them, adapt to them and lead."
Fellow CIO UK columnist Jerry Fishenden warned about the semantics of the job title and insisted organisations should not get sidelined thinking along these lines, and nor should CIOs lacking lacking the "strategic and technical leadership in the use of data, information and digital technology".
"If people are fussing about job titles I worry about the focus and viability of their organisation and the quality of their leadership team," he said.
"You don't solve the problem of inadequate post holders by creating new job titles just because everyone else is. The focus must be relentlessly on organisational and user needs, on roles that bring direct value to an organisation. It's about finding the right person with the right skills - who cares what you call them?
"If a CIO isn't doing what they need to do - bringing strategic and technical leadership in the use of data, information and digital technology to improve and reform an organisation's performance - get rid of them."
At the end of last year Forrester predicted that CIOs will build their reputations as digital innovators and kill off the CDO role in 2015 - or risk being replaced by a new CIO more qualified for the challenge.