As digital transformation becomes increasingly important, the Chief Digital Officer role is gaining prominence and attention.

A Harvard Business Review article summarizes challenges that companies face when undertaking digital transformation. Most importantly, digital change is fundamentally a business shift although technology is a key enabler. This combination of technology and business places Chief Digital Officers in a unique position.

Sitting purposefully at the intersection of technology strategy and business operations gives the CDO a perspective that is distinct from other corporate roles. Ideally, the CDO can drive organizational innovation while responding to technical, competitive, regulatory, and social / cultural changes in the environment. McKinsey calls this role the “Transformer in Chief.”

On the other hand, breadth of this mandate holds a potential pitfall. Such a broad scope can easily become diffuse and generalized, without a clear purpose. When this happens, the CDO may become a marketing figurehead without any real influence over corporate direction.

Needless to say, the best CDOs are business transformers rather than marketers wrapped in a new title.

Given our respect for CDOs, we pulled together a list of 20 influential Chief Digital Officers in partnership with Little Bird, which offers an influencer and advocate marketing platform. Their Founder, Marshall Kirkpatrick, has been a great supporter of this project.

We also owe a special debt of thanks to David Mathison, Founder of the CDO Summit and the CDO Club. David is highly influential among Chief Digital Officers, and we are grateful to him for writing the introduction and serving as a source of guidance.

Without further ado, here is the CXOTalk list of 20 Influential Chief Digital Officers: