Chief Digital Officer – Mastermind of the Digital Transformation

Chief Digital Officer - Mastermind of the Digital TransformationDigital is ubiquitous: it’s like a colander, digital drops are falling down from everywhere! Companies are organizing in a hurry to take the lead on digital transformation, and are putting up a Chief Digital Officer to take responsibility, and guide the company to the digital realm.

Customer centricity, and digital state of mind

According to Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal CDO, there are 6 recurrent domains that CDOs are tackling: innovation, reinventing brand with digital, expending to e-commerce, offerings customization, leveraging of digital data, and widespreading digital culture.

Branding, customization, e-commerce, data, digital transformation surely drives customer centricity: ‘digital tools far from mass marketing, must be handled as a way to cater to the customer’ claims author and consultant Steve Yastrow.

In term of culture, digital seems a wake-up call that things aren’t gonna be the same anymore. Orange CEO Stéphane Richard explains in his book ‘Numériques’: ‘Digital reality has destroyed pyramidal model in one fell swoop. Today, senior managers are accessible, and this applies to me more than anyone. Management today is about achieving buy-in, motivating people, and educating them. Giving our customers a say, in design decisions, but at a the right time.

‘Digital is mindset, not technology’ observes Jane McConnell, Digital Workplace Advisor and Researcher. And it might entice someone to ‘unlearn’ in order acquire the digital mindset.

Then training plans for employees are massively rolled-out: ‘Digital for all’ is a digital literacy journey targeting the 100 000 Danone employees. Digital culture is instilled with external recruitment: UK Gov is bringing on board 100 new digital staff, referred to as “digital natives”, for communication and information tasks.

gov uk digital transformation

Companies are progressively acting that ‘digital shifts the fundamental relationship between workers and business, with no return’ analyzes enterprise architect and transformation consultant Dion Hinchcliffe.

CDOs invent their job everyday, designing bespoke processes that fit their company. They bring agility, test & learn, fast iteration, collaborative framework, project management into the corporate engine. One thing remains constant: the way they break out silos, and promote transversality.

Let’s go through some examples of digital roadmap recently unveiled by CDOs.

Mobile app, open data, API, and startups, mobile workforce at SNCF

Yves Tyrode, Chief Digital and Communication Officer at SNCF national railways company, presented last February ‘#DigitalSNCF‘. It’s the workplan to accelerate SNCF digitalization with a m€ 450 budget over 3 years. Main items are: personalizable and multimodal mobile app, 4G coverage to enable WiFi in the trains, open data (sharing trains timetables in real time, travellers flow -FluxSNCF-) and APIs to speed-up innovative ecosystem (fostering e-ticketing distribution through partners), codevelopment and data monetization, and 800 000 tablets for maintenance workers. m€ 30 will be allocated over 3 years to start-ups through new fund ‘Digital SNCF venture’. Digital accelerators will be opened in France and San Francisco to incubate start-ups working on big data, open data, design, and connected objects.

Drone SNCF

Customer experience, mobile app, big data, BtoB, employees and partners at Accor

Vivek Badrinah is Deputy Director, heading Marketing, Digital, Distribution, and IT at Accor. For the anecdote, like Yves Tyrode, Vivek is a former brilliant employee of Orange Innovation: it tends to prove that Orange is a recognized school for training Chief Digital Officer!

Vivek presented in October the ‘Leading Digital Hospitality’ plan to engage Accor digital transformation, with a budget of m€ 225 over 5 years. The approach is global. 4 programs are focused on customer benefits: Mobile first (a unique app to handle before, during, and after stay, and covering all brands: Ibis, Mercure, Novotel, Pullman…), Customer centric (customization), Seamless journey (e-payment, one click e-reservation), and  Mice and BtoB (for corporates and BtoB services). 2 programs target employees and partners: Employee friendly (tablets at the welcome desk, corporate social network), and Owner & Franchise centric (dynamic pricing). 2 programs support IT modernization: Infrastructure transformation, and Business intelligence & Analytics (‘big data’ including 42 millions of customer data).

Accor also acquired the start-up Wipolo, which develops a compagnon app for travelling.

Vivek added: ‘Disruptive digital players think beyond product innovation: they design an experience. To explain what we’re aiming at is more inspiring than to provide a requirement specification document’.


Social proximity, mobile workforce, open innovation and startups, living lab & data at La Poste

At La Poste French Post Office, the CEO himself, Philippe Wahl is on stage at EBG Digital Summit November 2014, to present how La Poste handles digital: ‘La poste is developing an innovation ecosystem in a world at a critical and extraordinary phase. What comes with digital creates opportunities for La Poste which is centered on human. We are forging a new pledge on op of mail: we want to be the proximity human factor, everywhere, and for everyone.’

Thus, with Facteo program, La Poste rolls out 90 0000 smartphones for its postmen, enabling them to extend their services to residentials: digital signature, QR code reader, and Digishot, a certified picture with location and time code. Postmen facilitate digitalization within a familiar customer relationship. Because this program was based on employees commitment, Philippe Wahl speaks of ‘entrepreneurs postmen’.

3 open innovation tools are in place: XAngeVC fund, Startinpost accelerator (24 start-ups per year) and LabPostal. As well as participative innovation with employees, and with managers: 7500 managers were recently gathered to build together a strategic vision of the future.

Data is a cornerstone of digital transformation, to unify internal operations, and better cater to the needs of its customers. Living lab is another tool used to refine post office interior design.


Big data, start-ups, and mobile app at Axa

We’ve talked on how Axa is accelerating its digital transformation by mean of open innovation, and how it tests an original approach, by innovating like fish schools. Start-ups not only bring additional creativity and skills: they stimulate digital transformation.

Digital transformation governance

CDOs best peers shoud be CMO and CIO: ‘There’s a focus that the CMOs take, a focus that the CIOs take and the focus of the CDO that really makes for an extraordinarily strong partnership in a world that continues to get much more complex’ according to Tricia Blair, Chief Digital Officer at Lincoln Financial Group. She oversees Web, social media and mobile technology, a frequent ‘multichannel’ focus for CDOs. Earning company-wide commitment, designing a digital roadamp and corresponding KPIs, experimenting, mobilizing experts when needed, and speaking business language, are some keys to success.

Digital Transformation does not always rely on the shoulders of a CDO: digital governance is integrated in business lines at Société Générale where digital transformation stresses on cloud, big data, tablets for employees, and corportae social network. At UKTV, they don’t have a CTO because ‘everyone there is in charge of its own digital future’ says UKTV Chief Executive, Darren Childs.

These trends might show that CDO is a position born to disappear! ‘The aim is to integrate digital technology into corporate DNA, so that it becomes second nature, and people no longer question its necessity’ decrypts Orange Céline Louis at Le Web. She quotes Michael Aidan, Danone CDO, describing its goal as to ‘break down silos, change mentalities, and make digital technology a part of everything’. Once its mission accomplished, CDO could well vanish into thin air.

Is it a transformation, or a revolution?

Digital is seen by some as a more fundamental change than a transformation, a new era of continuous cycle of changes affecting business model and relationships between corporate, customers and the overall ecosystem, and within the corporation, among employees:

  • Orange speaks of a digital revolution underway, where new technologies apppear everyday;
  • ‘To some degree, every company will have to become a math house’ predicts Ram Charam, veteran adviser to many Fortune 500 companies and co-author of the bestselling book, Execution. He emphasizes ‘the power of algorithms and data, and the way actual users are increasingly interacting directly with the company’;
  • Business Model in digital era unfolds in multiple dimensions: value, interface, platform, organization, and revenue; ‘it’s not enough to adapt digital into your business: rather adapt your business to digitization!’  concludes Tom Wentworth, chief marketing officer at Acquia. It’s the rise of business moments, whose opportunity the company has to seize dynamically; even more, shall managers strike out a seemingly guaranteed highway on to a narrow path, and harm at first conservative outcome in order to reach later a possibly outrageous hit,
  • Michel Volle explains that digital leads to a new economy, called ‘iconomy’, an economy based on skills, where command chain is transformed.


Pivot enterprise, and the crowd

What is at stake with digitalization is the new role of the corporation: company turns into a communication node in its ecosystem, and a pivot enterprise.

In this network of which the corporation is a part, one can imagine activate the intelligence of the many, with crowdsourcing. Why not tackle into the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to define the digital roadmap, giving digital spirit to the the digital transformation, as suggests Bluenove CEO, Martin Duval?


image credit:, Gov.UK, SNCF, Accor, Wipolo, La Poste, Orange,, Fortune,

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    future of TV - Leading by InnovatingNicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, further developed in his writings. He tweets @nicobry

Nicolas Bry

Serial innovator, Nicolas has set up creative units for new business at Orange, Club-Internet, and SFR. Nicolas created crowd platform, Orange Studio for Intrapreneurs, and edits Open Innovation blog International speaker, entrepreneurs & startups coach, innovation teacher at Telecom ParisTech, HEC & CentraleSupélec, and freelance consultant (ECC). Follow him at @nicobry.




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