Staying Relevant in the Channel

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Editor Ian Hunter met with Nathan Marke, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at Daisy Group, and asked just one question; what does a CDO do all day? Well, apparently, as Marke explains the nuts and bolts of his ever-evolving role it involves strategizing, story-telling and selling.

We all remember an age-old lab experiment in our school physics lessons: a magnet, a bunch of iron filings and a classroom full of open-mouthed fellow pupils. Fast-forward three decades (or so), and it feels like I’m back at the very heart of that irresistible chain reaction. As Daisy Group’s Chief Digital Officer my job is to act as the magnet that coalesces the capabilities of our amazing business around the forces of digital disruption.

Why is there a need for this role today? Because, in the words of Dr Spencer Johnson, the cheese has moved.

I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that when I started my career, you could run a tech business for a decade and never really fundamentally change what it was you did. A bit of product knowledge, great sales execution and customer service were the essential ingredients. Today I’m afraid that is no longer good enough. Although those fundamentals of execution and customer focus remain as important as ever, the markets and specialities that we all grew up with have unalterably changed.

Customers today rarely just want a phone system, or a SAN, or a network, or a desktop refresh. What they are after is the outcome from the application of this technology, consumed as a service; transformed product offerings, new markets addressed, new conversations enabled with customers. Meaning that if we don’t reinvent the very premise of our offering and approach, our customers will have no choice but to move away. Why? Because we are no longer relevant. We become, sadly, the victims of digital disruption.

Digital solutions have no respect for silos. Smart cities, self-drive cars, customer experience 2.0, automated supply chains…pick your digital solution….all actively require the addressing of business problems in a fundamentally different and more creative way than our approach in the past. We used to be able to say to a customer “buy this and your problem goes away”. That doesn’t work anymore.

Digital disruption is forcing us all to be more curious – requiring us to ask a new sort of questions, to seek an understanding of how our businesses and our customers operate at a more fundamental level. And then to apply combinations of technology, marketing, data analytics, dev-ops, user experience tools in different combinations from our kitbag and from those of partners and eco-systems to solve for these problems.

So what does a CDO do? Well for me, my job is to challenge and disrupt conventional wisdoms. Conventional wisdom would dictate, for example, that you sell what you have always sold. This doesn’t stand up to digital. The market is moving too fast. That same wisdom would never allow you to cannibalise your existing, safe revenue streams on the off-chance of a bit of upside. But the digital market leave us little choice. Eat or be eaten. The way we have always done things requires tremendous governance around seeking to do new things with customers. Experiment live with a willing customer? What if it goes wrong? Never! Digital is showing us that many now actively want to be ‘innovated on’.

So I’m constantly asking the business to think differently about customer opportunities – challenging everyday premises about what it is that really differentiates us and makes us relevant to our customers.

I do this by spending much of my time being curious, asking questions (some of them stupid) and collecting stories and experiences – from customers, partners, the market, what I have read and experienced. By sharing these learnings, story-telling, with everyone I come into contact with, and combining these learnings with the incredible breadth of capability within Daisy, I try to join the dots to bring to life the potential of Digital transformation for Daisy and our customers.

I spend lots of time with customers, lots of time with sales and technical teams challenging their approach, lots of time evangelising…and probably lots of time being perceived as a bit of a pain in the proverbial.

But that’s fine by me. Because I believe passionately in the cause of digital Britain. Our industry is getting more and more interesting with every turn. Who would have predicted the mind blowing innovation that is coming out of our industry – things that are changing the world forever – safer transportation, solutions to hunger and poverty, a cure for cancer – all enabled by digital innovation stemming from the industry in which we work. Now that rocks!

I’m incredibly lucky to work for a digitally tuned-in CEO, to have a team around me that embraces change every day, partners willing to go on the journey with us and customers for whom we can make a real difference. Turns out that being a magnet is the best job I’ve ever had.