CXO Challenge

CXO Challenge is a landmark study into the strategies and tools Australian organisations are employing to meet the needs of the digital consumer.

Below we profile the country's most influential technology and business executives and discuss disruptive innovation across key sectors of the Australian economy.

Jumping off a cliff for your customers

Paul Keen - Dick Smith

Beverley Head   |   February 26, 2015

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Paul Keen

Future retail

While the entire retail sector is being assaulted by technology, Keen isn’t convinced every innovation will enhance customer experience.

“I still struggle with the beacon thing," he said.

“If someone has gone to the effort to download the Dick Smith app … then they walk round the store and we push them offers, I suspect the first thing they will do is delete the app because they know they are being tracked and they don't want that.”

A more valuable approach might be to use beacons to alert Dick Smith staff to a customer entering a store so that they can have a click-and-collect parcel ready at the counter.

“That's a better customer experience rather than just using data for re-marketing efforts,” Keen says.

While he and his team of 32 form the beating heart of technology in the enterprise, Keen firmly believes the digital strategy should come from the CEO.

“The digital strategy should always align to what the business strategy is. The digital strategy should come from the CEO. The CIO is the enabler of that - but the driver of it is the CEO.”

CIOs however do need to speak the language of the C-suite, and Keen says to that end his MBA has proved invaluable, even though it was completed while he was living in the Southern Highlands, struggling with a five-hour daily commute and a newborn.

Without a Bachelor’s degree (he dropped out of a course to start work as a developer in an ecommerce company in the 1990s) Keen realised he needed to jumpstart his skills in order to progress his career.

“I can speak the language now. When [the other executives] talk about net present value I know why it's important and how that is derived. Same with the HR department or the marketing department.

"Where MBAs get a bad name is when someone has done a three month legal course and they say ‘I can do contract law’ - no you can't - you don’t know enough to have a decent conversationn," Keen said.

Equally important to communicating up through the echelons of the business is staying in touch with the coal face.

“I spend a lot of time going to things like meet-ups - things that aren't necessarily on my peer level, but are still important because I'm trying to find the trends going on out there.”

He also scours the horizon – to see what upstart innovations are gaining traction.

“If you see something growing very fast - Uber would be a very good example, their market share is tiny, the growth model is scary for taxis - that's what I'd be looking for. The new models growing so fast it looks like an epidemic.”

And taking advantage of the “epidemic” before it takes advantage of you? That’s when the pre-thinking really pays off.

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