P&G Shampoo Products

P&G CIO: IT Is All About Serving & Delighting Consumers

As CIO at P&G, Javier Polit is leading the multibillion-dollar CPG giant through a period of great transformation. He's not only responsible for the company’s technology infrastructure and information security, but also for the data that informs the production, shipment, and marketing of its 55-plus brands—all the while enhancing the consumer experience and driving business growth.

Polit has been in his current role since April 2017. Before that, he spent 14 years at Coca-Cola, the majority of that time as group CIO of the company's Bottling Investments Group.

In this exclusive interview with CMO by Adobe, Polit discusses customer experience in the context of his role, data governance, the emerging technology he's paying close attention to, and what he and his C-suite colleagues talk about.   

 

  • As an IT leader, what do you see as your top responsibilities as P&G navigates through its digital transformation?

    When I look at that question from an enterprise standpoint, it is about leveraging technology to continue to drive superiority—from product, packaging, communications, retail, execution, and every single operating dimension—to help P&G win.

    In P&G and in any enterprise, technology has never been more important. Every company today is a tech company. We live in algorithmic times. The IT function is a trusted business partner with a critical role to play across the enterprise. IT professionals are embedded and aligned in every part of the business with a mission to increase value every single day, accelerating speed to market, solving some of the biggest issues and opportunities for the organization, and ultimately serving and delighting our consumers.

  • What is your role in enabling customer experience?

    We look at CX from two different lenses. For in-store, we have technologies, platforms, and analytics that help our business teams understand how well we are executing to serve our shoppers at what we call the “first moment of truth.” We use virtual reality, image recognition, and data science to help us serve shoppers and grow the category together with our retail partners. Fourth- and fifth-generation retail has arrived, and we are very close to it in Asia.

    From a digital perspective, we are focused on making fundamental changes to our core digital platforms to enable our brands to understand consumer shopping behaviors and habits within the digital, direct-to-consumer, and e-commerce ecosystems to drive sales growth, contributing to top- and bottom-line growth. We are constantly looking at new tech and platforms for greater speed, personalization, and to improve our capabilities to meet consumer expectations around capabilities like digital wallets, one-click purchasing, product advisers, loyalty, and subscriptions.

  • What is your approach to data governance at P&G? Do you have a data governance program?

    We apply the DAMA.org data governance best practices and framework. One hundred percent of our data management organization is certified. We have data management councils across our business units and regional business teams. It is important that we educate every part of the enterprise because the proliferation of data signals—through IoT, social, etc.—means we have different data sources that will be even more relevant and contextual than before, and we will need to sunset old data and ingress new data sources. So we will continue to elevate data governance awareness across the enterprise. 

    When you think about your data science and algorithm capabilities, the data is the bedrock. You can’t have good machine-learning training to solve business problems and create business value if you don’t have good harmonized data that has been transformed and enriched. So data governance is strategic and fundamental at P&G.

  • How have you and Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer, partnered from a data governance and operations standpoint, and built IT awareness and adoption across the marketing community?

    Marc and I agree on the importance of data governance and our leadership role in driving adoption across our ecosystem. We are co-sponsors for one of our first major digital modernization programs. It is designed to deliver a modern consumer data and omnichannel marketing platform to enable and empower our brand organization to collect, curate, and leverage P&G’s consumer data for their digital marketing activities. With the new platform, we will distribute and manage our consumer data in a consistent framework that will allow us to drive strong data governance practices and policies.

  • Would you say artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are changing the role of the CIO?

    The role of the CIO has been dramatically changing for the past 10 years, and I’ve lived the changes over the past 30 years. Data architecture is business-critical today. We focus on AI, starting with our data and making certain that data engineering and governance exist. We then look at ML on top of that to solve business problems. Today every company needs to be a data, analytics, and algorithmic company. If you don’t look at things from this perspective, you’re going to miss opportunities to help the business.

  • What emerging technology are you currently keeping your eye on and why?

    Quantum computing power is the first tech we are looking at. I think we are five years out from being capable of benefiting from the exponential growth of data. I believe quantum computing will simplify the multitier architecture that we have today. This is important for marketers to understand because quantum computing will help us be better able to process the ever-growing quantity of data. We are always educating our business partners about how future technologies will help us be better tomorrow.

  • How is your organization responding to the platform era in terms of how you architect the technology infrastructure for P&G?

    We have an enterprise architect team that looks at this across the enterprise and collaborates with the embedded IT leaders in the business. We are very open to the platform mentality, platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and software-as-a-service.

  • What digital transformation conversations are you having with colleagues around the enterprise?

    These conversations are very broad. We remain focused on the digital transformation happening in the retail and advertising space and exploring and piloting new technologies and tools that will allow brands to deliver integrated consumer experiences. We are exploring gamified ad capabilities and voice marketing and technology to distribute immersive ads, including 360-degree, 3D, AR, VR, and IR [interactive reality]. We are also looking at measurement tools for product placement on OTT [over-the-top] services. 

    IT is closer to Marc’s team than ever before. We have an enterprise lens, so we take into consideration all of the relationships and work that the business functions are doing with technology partners. We are also talking about how we can continue to elevate our marketers’ internal digital skills and capabilities versus just bringing in outsourced agencies. This is a big shift.

  • What are the three most important issues that a Fortune 500 C-suite and board need to focus on now and into the foreseeable future?

    First, continue to elevate digital fluency across the enterprise, especially in the business units.  Second, make certain that the executive leadership team gets exposed to industry-leading technologies. Third, executives running the business should understand the contributions of data management and the data science teams.  

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