Expert Speak: 6 Highlights & Lessons From the 2015 CDO Summit

The CDO Summit 2015 hosted at the Thomson Reuters office in New York City by the CDO Club attracted Chief Digital Officers, Chief Data Officers and other C-suite digital leaders from a range of industries including retail, finance, healthcare and technology. The CDO Club is the world’s first and largest community of 1000+ C-suite digital leaders. CDO Club founder David Mathison predicts that the number of CDOs worldwide is expected to grow from 50 in 2010 to more than 2000 in 2015.

A packed day of sessions, panels and knowledge-sharing at the summit highlighted original research, the CDO jobs landscape and the common challenges and opportunities faced by CDOs pushing for business transformation and big data projects within their companies. And in the true spirit of data-powered innovation, the IBM Watson powered the social listening tool being used to track social media mentions and stats for the one-day event.

Here are the top 6 highlights and predictions from the CDO Summit 2015:

1. Adam Brotman of Starbucks Named “CDO of the Year”

The CDO Club’s founder David Mathison announced Adam Brotman as the “CDO of the Year” during his keynote. Brotman who started at Starbucks in April 2009 has digitally transformed the company with a strong focus on mobile payments, resulting in more than 18% of its U.S. store transactions occurring via mobile. The company reports that it processes more than 8 million mobile payments per week. Brotman also piloted Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay within the Starbucks app that enables customers to order items and pay for them before even walking into a Starbucks location (already rolled out in 650 locations in the Pacific Northwest).

2. Biggest Changes & Large-Scale Digital Adoption Yet to Come

In his keynote “Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation,” Dr. Didier Bonnet, Senior Vice President and Global Practice Leader, Capgemini Consulting predicted that “the next imminent phase of digital technology adoption – driven by the convergence of mobility, analytics, social media, cloud computing, and embedded devices – will make everything that’s happened so far look like a prelude.” Dr. Bonnet, who’s also the co-author of the book Leading Digital, highlighted that digital transformation has so far been concentrated in high-tech and media companies, and 94% of the business economy still needs to change. While many industry leaders like Starbucks, Burberry, Disney and Nike are leading the charge in digital transformation, many companies still don’t have an overarching vision or digital culture with data and efforts living in silos. 

Management and employees at many companies is still skeptical of the business value of advanced digital technologies and aren’t taking active steps to build digital skills and culture. Dr. Bonnet recommends that for every $1 spent on acquiring new software or tools, companies should spend $5 on helping employees to learn and adopt them. 

We also learned about the four levels of digital mastery at companies (Fashionistas, Beginners, Conservatives and Digital Masters), and what defines them. And while this new role may not be around in a few years, it’s currently the CDO’s job at many companies to accelerate digital transformation across multiple departments.


3. What Makes Digital Transformation So Hard?

Digital transformation projects are being implemented within thousands of companies around the world, with the goal of helping these companies compete more effectively in today’s digital landscape. But as any CDO will tell you, company-wide digital transformation is often a long and uphill battle. Tony Fross, Vice President, Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini led a group of U.S. digital experts from multiple industries in a panel discussion on what makes digital transformation hard. The panel included Johanna Murphy, CMO and Digital Director at Ivanka Trump, Jaime Punishill, Head of Cross-Channel Customer Strategy at TIAA-CREF, Ralph Rivera, Director – Digital at the BBC and Jonathan Sackett, President and CEO at MASHBURNSACKETT.

Ralph Rivera talked about how news/media companies often think digital transformation is about editorial vs. algorithmic vs. social when in fact it should be more about editorial AND algorithmic AND social. These three approaches to news and publishing should work together not against each other, it’s only the percentage of each that should vary by company. He also mentioned how while people might expect transformation in three months, it’s more likely to take three years to complete so it’s important to be patient and continue efforts.

Ivanka Trump’s Johanna Murphy talked about the battle that retail and fashion companies are waging on the back end of their businesses. It’s now imperative that retail and fashion companies figure out the logistics and details of how best to service their customers, without separating the front-end of companies from the back-end. Today’s customers care deeply about seamless online and offline experiences, on-time delivery, availability of inventory (in the size, style and color of their choice), customer service, easy returns etc. A poor experience in any of these aspects of their interaction with a brand can drive the customer to a competitor. It’s important that brands are continuously listening to their customers and constantly evolving to make their experiences better, every step of the way. 

4. Digital as a State of Mind is the Best Way to Unlock Big Data Potential and Tackle Disruption

While digital initiatives are taking center-stage in most industries, actually implementing company-wide projects requires buy-in at every level of an organization. In his session “Digital as a State of Mind,” Capgemini’s CDO Fernando Alvarez recommended powerful strategies for responding to digital disruption. According to Alvarez, while most companies know the importance of big data and digital transformation there are very few success stories to match the efforts. This is primarily because most organizations don’t have a planned approach, lack a defined organizational structure and don’t have well-defined success criteria. To truly tackle disruption companies need the following in place:

  • An Effective Governance Model
  • Truly Managed Data
  • Robust Security and Privacy
  • Advanced and Integrated Big Data and Analytics Tools (like Umbel)
  • Strategy for Developing Analytical Skill Sets

5. Key Digital Trends in Omni-Channel Retail & Improving the Digital Customer Experience

Retail as an industry has been ahead of many others when it comes to analyzing big data to drive ROI and customer satisfaction. As Michael Burgess, President at Hudson’s Bay Company put it: “Digital is the new Flagship in Retail” and online shopping accounts for more than 35 percent of the growth in retail in 2014. He also mentioned that 10 times more people visit than go to all the Saks stores combined. 

More importantly, the lines between online and offline shoppers is becoming increasingly blurry as shoppers use one channel to discover products, another channel to try the product, a third channel to buy it and possible a fourth channel to return or exchange something. All channels have converged and merged into one in the mind of the shopper. For example, retail shoppers are showing a 40% higher conversion rate in stores if these same shoppers first went online to discover products and view product info. Value-conscious shoppers do research on mobile even when inside a brick & mortar store. Omni-channel customers spend 2 – 4 times what the average single-channel customer spends. Burgess also mentioned that 80% of shoppers use smartphones as part of their shopping journey, and then convert on a PC or in-store.

Faisal Masud, CDO & EVP Global E-Commerce at Staples talked briefly about how his team focuses a lot of time and effort into identifying SMB clients who have a higher Lifetime Value. Speakers also discussed how it is currently an era of “intentional innovation” in retail, with companies spending millions of dollars on innovation year-round.

6. Instead of Fighting The Collaborative Economy, Use the Disruptive Crowd to Your Advantage

Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies was the last speaker of the evening. His informative and engaging presentation was focused on the “Collaborative Economy” comprising young, fast-growing, low-asset, high-valuation startups like Uber, Airbnb and Etsy. Today, common and easy-to-use digital technologies are allowing people to get what they want from each other. As a result, the crowd is becoming like a company, bypassing inefficient corporations. Companies must use the same strategy to regain relevancy by changing their business model. To survive, companies need to focus on being “digitally resilient,” connected, empowering of others and profitable. The most successful companies are using apps and technology to convert customers into partners as the economy shifts from capitalism to collaboration.

The most successful companies are using apps and technology to convert customers into partners as the economy shifts from capitalism to collaboration. This spans multiple industries including goods, money, services, transformation, health and wellness, utilities, education and logistics. View the full “Collaborative Honeycomb.”


The CDO Club is scheduled to host its next CDO Summit in Amsterdam on September 9, followed by another CDO Summit on October 12 in London.