Mars CDO: We're only halfway through the digital journey

Mars Australia chief digital officer, Chris Riddell, outlines how digital is set to further change the way organisations operate and bring in new levels of sharing and collaboration internally and externally

Digital and technology may have already triggered bucket loads of change within our organisations and transformed our interactions as consumers, but Mars Australia’s chief digital officer claims we’re only halfway into the digital journey.

Speaking at the CeBIT WebForward conference in Sydney, Chris Riddell told attendees that the first half of the digital journey was about becoming digital-led, whereas the second half will be about better utilisation of technology for collaboration, product innovation and inspiration both inside and outside the organisation.

He highlighted various examples of how digital is transforming the way people within organisations communicate and interact, as well as outlined a range of areas and outcomes businesses must focus on if they want to keep on top of the digital curve. Riddell oversees all digital strategy for Mars’ brands including Wrigley, Mars, Maltesers, MasterFoods and Dolmio and was formerly head of IT for Mars Chocolate.

One area being transformed by digital is staffing and talent management. Riddell pointed out that while generation Y were the generation that faced digital disruption and presented a challenge in terms of staff management, the digitally native Z generation coming out of university is rewriting the rules all over again.

“These guys are highly connected and highly social, and this is very much determining the landscape of the business we operate in now,” he commented. “Their view of the world is very different to ours.

“Acquiring talent in this new world is really challenging as well. You can no longer talk about those classic things like superannuation or leave – you have to look at how you are empowering digital and social strategy as an organisation both internally and externally.”

Riddell also predicted the death of email within the next few years in its current format, adding that the power of the crowd and community thanks to digital engagement will become the dominant drivers for communication and corporate intelligence. Leveraging data is how organisations will be able to shift into the new “digital style”, he continued.

“Digital isn’t changing what we have done before, but it’s allowing us to connect in more ways than ever before,” Riddell said. “It’s about doing old things in new ways.

“Email is overloading us right now… we are going to get to a more collaborative world where you’re opting in and opting out of conversations, and joining social groups and platforms like Yammer in your organisation. This is how to get a social business on the inside.

“We’re also moving away from having stuff and owning these things, and moving into a world where you’re bringing in and subscribing to these experiences.”

Related: Why Mars and Qantas are investing into in-house digital skills

According to Riddell, organisations and leaders must become comfortable with volatility, ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity if they want to continue being responsive in the digital economy.

“As organisations, you need to check if your internal and external clocks are going at the same pace,” he said. “If they aren’t, are you keeping up with the changes occurring outside your organisation, and what can you do to match them?”

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