I recently had the pleasure of attending the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) Summit, the premier event for leaders whose role encompasses data-driven digital products and experiences. The event’s stated purpose is to address “the challenges and opportunities arising from big data, the cloud, digital disruption, and social and mobile media.” And the event certainly delivered in spades. My biggest conclusion from the CDO Summit: digital transformation is all about people, not just technology.

I came away inspired with the amazing people I met, enriched with insights, and excited to share stories. Here are my top four take-aways from the event:

  1. Stay rooted in humanityDavid Mathison, chair and founder of the CDO Club, kicked off the event with a 20-minute recap of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which famously explores themes such as humanity’s struggle to exist alongside smart technology. At one point, David cleverly compared the enigmatic monolith from the movie to an Alexa-enabled smart speaker. David’s main point was that, as in 1968, intelligence and technology are all around us, and it’s up to us as humans to find the right balance between advancements in humanity and technology – lest we be set adrift like one of the astronaut in the movie who is vanquished by the computer HAL 9000.
  2. A single, inclusive ambition. The most inspiring part of the day for me was a brief keynote by Atif Rafiq, former CDO of Volvo, and future president of commercial and growth for MGM Resorts International. Rafiq shared three key lessons learned through his previous experiences. The learning that resonates with me the most is the importance of bringing teams together through a single, inclusive ambition (i.e., one camp). Establishing a clear, common goal for all business units and functions in an enterprise is a critical aspect for teams succeeding in the era of digital disruption. It’s tough to get a large, diverse team excited about the journey without establishing a shared understanding of the destination. Here again, the human factor prevailed.
  3. Data-driven cultureJanice Ellig and Lili Gil Valletta led a fireside chat on one of the key themes of the Summit: cultural intelligence. Lili, founder of CultrIntel, helps organizations take a data-driven approach to measuring and improving culture. She urges organizations to drive business outcomes through applying cultural competence to everyday business decisions. Cultural intelligence is a KPI that is and should be elevated as a top priority KPI in all modern organizations. CulturIntel is a platform that organizations can purchase to identify what culture means inside their four walls to measure, attract, and retain talent. Their conversation raised a number of important questions revolving around the connection between culture and successful self-disruption. For example, how do you achieve cultural competency in your decisions? Do you accept the premise that measuring culture should be just as critical as measuring revenue?
  4. Agility in capital. The afternoon featured a panel titled “Driving Digital Transformation at Scale” with Janko Bazhdavela, vice president of product and engineering, the Corcoran Group; John Minardi, senior director, digital healthcare and connected commerce technology services, Johnson & Johnson; Karl Hightower, senior vice president, chief data officer, Novant Health; Michael Donnelly, former senior vice president, digital experiences group, Mastercard; and Sanjeev Addala, senior vice president, chief information and digital officer, AES Corp. As you can imagine with this impressive group panelists the content was rich with insights. One of my favorite take-aways was John Minardi’s emphasis on the importance in enterprises adopting metered funding to bring agility in the allocation of resources for digital product innovation. This was a key aspect of the presentation I gave, so it was great to see a point of commonality with a leader such as John. No matter how much progress you make as a culture, if you don’t change in how you fund things, you hamper your ability to take risks with new ideas, thus undercutting a culture of innovation. (We discuss metered funding on our own blog here.)

Purpose and Fit

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to share my perspective through a keynote on Continuous Customer Satisfaction. The core message of my talk was the importance of grounding innovation in purpose. We’re faced with the unprecedented potential made possible by of emerging technologies and digital disruption. It’s our duty as business leaders to double down on empathy, finding ways to help the customers we serve achieve a sense of purpose and fulfillment. You don’t progress in a meaningful way by adding to the physical and digital clutter in our lives, but by providing experiences that enable purpose.

To help organizations embark on digital transformation, I shared a framework to provide leaders with a common language for bringing agility into the key components of an organization. Called the Concentric C’s Framework, it highlights the key lenses to infuse agility: Culture, Capital, Capabilities, Collaboration, and Customers. Reach out if you’re interested in learning more.

CDO Summit NY Mike Edmonds Keynote Concentric C's Framework

Building on the Concentric C’s framework, we at Moonshot (Pactera’s Innovation Outpost) offer tools such as design sprints that help businesses launch innovative products and services through people-centered, empathetic discovery and design. Whatever route you choose to innovate, put the needs of people first and enable change with effective processes, and you’ll avoid the pitfalls of 2001: A Space Odyssey while creating a culture of innovation.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product