Thursday, 11 December 2014

Part three of the exclusive Interview with Jora Gill, Chief Digital Officer of the Economist.

This is an excerpt from my interview with Jora Gill from the forthcoming Chief Digital Officer's Handbook. Jora is the new Chief Digital Officer of the Economist. The interview will appear in full with other digital though leaders in the forthcoming handbook.

Mark Baker: That leads us into the next question about whether you've had a situation with key stakeholders having different perceptions of what should and shouldn't be done digitally and where ultimately, these decisions lie?

Jora Gill: I think each stakeholder, be it technology marketing, sales, advertising, finance, have their own KPIs within,an organisation and they are measured by these KPIs. So along comes digital disruption that requires collaborations across departments. However the KPIs have not been set across organisations but within each department so do not allow the organization to collaborate and miss KPIs in one department for the sake of another succeeding.
CIOs and CTOs are trapped in KPIs for example other departments demand that they be more successful with projects not experiment and fail and be rewarded for early failure, they must cut costs but are not rewarded for new innovative products that increase profits as profits do not sit within their departments, their departments are brought into projects when the project has been decided and now costs are required rather than a lean philosophy of building incrementally to customer needs. CIOs are in that unenviable position of knowing what’s wrong and often what to do about it but are often not empowered to make radical decisions across the organization…did I mention Kodak and Blockbuster?
So the question should be "How can we collaborate throughout an organisation where we deliver to customer value ?”

Mark Baker: Can you give details of case studies from your past experience.

Jora Gill:  Yes we at The Economist have collaborated across departments and looked at the customer journey when purchasing new subscriptions or one offs through our eCommerce systems. However we took the journey from start to end with lots of ‘what ifs’ built in. We therefore looked at our marketing systems, our sales systems, our customer care systems, our billing systems. We took the journey of a straightforward transaction, a complex transactions, a transactions where a decision was taken not to proceed half way etc. etc.
We took all of these journeys as if we were the customer and then we mapped all the systems against these journeys. What we found was that the experience was great when straightforward but difficult when complicated. We then looked at the best of breed systems across the above areas and mapped them, once integrated, across these journeys and found  a much better and lower touch point experience. We are now implementing a new solution that will provide our customers with a greater experience when interacting with us.

Mark Baker: So you have a process to get the answer.

Jora Gill: It's a process of starting with an assumptions then experiment with it and then based on those experiments and the data (feedback loop), going back to our assumption board and ask "Was our assumption and experiment correct, if yes great carry on?" or "If no it wasn't. Do we throw the whole thing away or modify slightly?" If we decide to do something slightly or radically different, we then experiment again and then go back again to the data. "Were we correct this time?"
Look at firms, where did Twitter start? They didn't come up with the idea of Twitter on day one and built the company. They pivoted a number of times before landing on an assumption that was correct and the rest is history.. What about Facebook, Groupon, Link-In…? All the same they experimented and experimented until they had the right formulae. Their strategies evolved over a number of years

Mark Baker: Okay, so again, moving nicely on from that. What sort of changes do you expect to see over the next two years and then contrasting that over the next 10 years. In other words, short-term and long-term. How do they...?
Jora Gill: Within the digital space.
Mark Baker: Yes, yes. Within the domain of a CDO.
Jora Gill: Within the domain of a CDO.
Mark Baker: Which is quite a broad domain, so...
Jora Gill: Yeah. I think within the next two years, we'll have established the CDO as a role with a defined purpose.

Mark Baker: Is that going to be a permanent thing? Are they going to be permanent CDOs and are there going to be CDOs in ten years' time?

Jora Gill: I think there will and the reason I think there will be because I don't think digital's going to disappear in the next two to ten years' time so irrespective of the exact job title, there will be somebody who's responsible for digital and enhancing a digital strategy. Now, I don't think one person or one department will be creating all the digital ideas. I think these will be multifaceted but one person will be responsible for bringing together a digital strategy and also executing on that strategy. I don't think it'll be a five year strategy, I think it'll be a six month to three year strategy and as I said early, you'll be pivoting or preserving more often but I think within the next two years, people instead of talking about digital and not really knowing what digital is, will have defined what they mean by a digital strategy.

A lot of organisations currently want a CDO but they haven't all answered the basic question of why and what is success when we have the CDO ? I think at the moment, it is a trend to say "We need to be digital and we need a Chief Digital Officer for us to be digital." but they haven't quite defined what being digital is and what the success criteria are. Each organization is different so there is not a single digital blueprint.

I think over the next ten years, disruption will be a constant and if organisations have not figured out what makes them digitally valuable to their customers, then ultimately they're going to fail. If they are slow or unable to react to digital disruptors then they are ultimately going to fail. If they are not a digital disruptor themselves then ultimately they are going to fail.

Mark Baker: I think that's a very good vision for the ten years actually and you've actually covered the next question quite well which is what happens to those who don't transform efficiently. Do you think any of them will stay here on or...when I say efficiently, some of them, it may just be that their vision of digital isn't as...or far reaching. We've got digital. We have a website. We have e-mail.

Jora Gill: I think it depends on your industry. Within the media industry, we've been massively disrupted by digital and reacted to it. I think if you're a logistics company, you can take advantage of digital but if you're a really good logistics company, you're still going to be a really good logistics company that uses digital where it brings advantage in ten years'

Digital is more than producing an app it is thinking differently and looking at your company differently like a disruptor would. If you can do this then you should be OK . . . . .

Read more of this interview and others like it from digital thought leader look out for the forthcoming Chief Digital Officer Handbook 

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