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Organisations will need a digital champion even if they do not need a chief digital officer - while the Renault CDO has insisted he would claim a personal success if his own digital estate was killed by 2016.

Those are some of the findings of a Forrester report released at the end of last week, The Chief Digital Officer: Fad or Future?

The study by Nigel Fenwick and Martin Gill concluded that while businesses will have to become fundamentally digital with a de facto CDO to act as a catalyst for transformation, organisations that have digital embedded in them should bestow the digital responsibility to an existing digitally savvy senior executive.

"CEOs, CMOs and CIOs must decide who among them will lead the organisation on the path to digital success, or if a dedicated role is required," Fenwick and Gill said.

However, the study warned that adding a CDO is not a silver bullet to success and that chief executives must "be prepared for wholesale organisational disruption in every executive area".

"The entire C-suite must master digital skills in order to compete in the new reality," the authors said.

Forrester interviewed a number of senior digital executives, encompassing chief digital officers, heads of digital and other similar roles as part of the report - including those at Nissan and Renault - and also looked at the digital strategies of Burberry, Nike and Rolls-Royce.

Indeed, Renault CDO Patrick Hoffstetter, in charge of the French car manufacturer's global 'digital factory' team, was among the digital executives who did not see their role as a permanent seat at the C-level table.

"It will be personal success if 'digital factory' is killed by 2016," he said.

Hoffstetter was also among the CDOs who responded it was crucial to embed digital skills across the enterprise, making digital thinking the normal way of doing business for every functional group, the report said.

Fenwick and Gill's study was also positive about the role of the CIO and board relationships, continuing the Forrester line about developing harmony with the chief marketing officer and a change from previous reports that have suggested shadow IT and other issues had left the CMO and CIO at loggerheads.

The authors said that establishing a new role of a senior digital executive was just the most public way a CEO could signal their intention to transform their business, but that many CDOs also report in to the CMO or CIO.

"And sometimes the mantle of senior digital executive is thrust open the CMO or even the CIO," the report said.

"In organisations where the current leadership is has a level of digital competence, the role of digital leadership is often best fulfilled by an existing executive or a pairing between the CMO and CIO.

"This approach is least likely to cause further disruption by introducing a new executive role. Where both marketing and IT are digitally savvy, both the CMO and CIO hire a senior leader inside their teams with responsibility for digital."