Interview with Maurizio Santamicone

After 2020 being a roller coaster ride for everyone, what do you think is now the role of the Chief Digital Officer in an organization?
The major differentiator that will come into play at the end of the Covid year will be that people will start traveling again. Travelers love digital as it lowers frictions points in their holiday or business experiences. So CDOs must be prepared to offer smoother, improved customer experiences. Telecoms can expect roaming revenues to resume and will be eager to offer digital experiences to traveling customers, especially in coincidence of major sport or business events. Leveraging the API economy to source third-party services will be key to offer customers more products and services from the company digital platforms.

What is it that organizations are lacking in their digital transformation journey and why?
The major obstacle when it comes to business transformation is never in the technology or the budget, but it’s in the human factor. Digital transformation inevitably introduces friction in the company’s organization, so CODs must be prepared to face resistances from legacy product owners and IT. Digital Transformation is often delegated to a “DT BU” in its own, while it should be embraced across the whole organization in order to be successful. DT must slowly but surely aim at transforming the core business processes instead that limiting itself to introducing new “islands of DT” projects. Skills availability is a major limiting factor. DT requires cross-functional agile teams able to deliver projects in the short-term, months instead of quarters or years, sometimes a big leap in mentality for organizations.

What is your ideal Digital Growth Vision for the Next 5 Years?
The demand for frictionless customer experiences will continue to grow. Customers who got used to booking a service or buy a product from the safety of their homes using app or web will have no intention to go back to old experiences. More services and products will be added to the “digital only” list. Covid might leave us a legacy that will be more durable than we expect, if customers will keep shying away from crowded malls or locations and prefer a digital experience instead.

Every solution that will prevent crowds or close proximity, from queuing for airport or hotel check-in to e-government digital products will be welcome. Identity verification products that allow to onboard a service that traditionally requires onsite ID verification will be very popular.

How valuable was data in 2020, and how will data impact your 2021 strategy?
Data was valuable in 2020 to understand how customers were reacting to the Covid restrictions, and it will be even more valuable after 2020. As we don’t know yet how the post Covid era will be, we will need to learn quickly the new customer behaviors. Will customers go back to same behavior as pre-Covid or has it changed for good? Only data will tell, and it will definitely impact strategic decision making going forward. In Digital Marketing, the old market segmentation behavioral patterns might not hold, we will need more and more decisions based on analytics, and the ability to run ultra-customized, contextual campaigns.

How do you think attendees will benefit by attending the MENA CDO Connect 2021?
Looks like an exciting line-up of speakers and panelists from the region! Looking forward to networking opportunities.