5 Questions With George Corbin

George Corbin is the incoming Chief Digital Demand Officer at Mars. Previously, he was Senior Vice President, Digital at Marriott. George also served as a panelist at our dinner event in Washington D.C. in March 2017. 


How do you define ‘digital strategy’?

A digital strategy is only a viable “strategy” once it includes the following:

* An honest and objective assessment of the state of – and threat to — the core business: How are customer habits changing? How are distribution channels being disrupted? Where can digital remove friction or cost…or deliver a superior experience vs the status quo?
* A clear and compelling vision of the company’s target digital end-state
* A quantification of the company’s readiness for the road ahead along the these dimensions: product, service, technology, data, processes, people, financing, organization, and culture.
* A clear execution roadmap, with deliverables, accountabilities and KPIs across all affected parts of the company, not just the digital function

What kind of mobile device(s) do you have, and what are your three favorite apps?

I use an iPhone 6. My favorites apps: You mean besides the Marriott app?

Well, I use Evernote like an umbilical cord to my daily life. I think I’ve maxed out the total number of notebooks you can use. The app that I love for its functional purity: BandsIntown – it scans your music, then shows you when the artists will be performing in your area (you can even set the geographic radius), and then allows you to book tickets. It totally nails its use case. Third would probably be PS Express (Photoshop) for image processing – still the best out there.

What do you think of the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer role?

The role, conceptually, is vital for any company that is being disrupted by digital and needs to undergo a transformation. You need someone to lead this, with the following caveat: it’s important that the role not be confused or conflated with the CMO or CIO. These roles are different, individually instrumental, and need each other to successfully drive forward the company’s digital transformation agenda – each of these areas is also impacted by digital.

Ideally, the chief digital officer should focus on aligning the company on the need for digital transformation, co-developing and articulating the digital vision and strategy with the other C-level leaders, defining the new customer-facing product/service experience, and orchestrating the execution across enterprise. The CDO, CIO, CMO and others will all be instrumental in this endeavor.

What advice do you have for aspiring digital professionals?

Certainly develop depth in your chosen arena of digital, whether that’s search, personalization, mobile, social marketing, or what have you. But also know that technical expertise alone is not enough for your future success: driving change that lasts in a large company requires the ability to lead change in a way that others want to join and follow you. You have to be able to manage through the inevitable resistance, and bring the “soft skills” to lead the company forward.

Frankly, it’s what prompted me to write these two articles on the topic (Leadership, Promotions, and Monkey Parts; and Trying to Get Promoted? What Got You Here May Not Get You There), to help aspiring digital professionals broaden their skill base to be successful at leading larger digital change.

What three publications – in any format – do you read regularly? ​​

That’s a tough one; I have dozens of sources embedded in my feeds across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, Flipboard, etc.

For work, I think the three that I read with highest frequency are MIT Sloan Management Review, Business Insider, and the CB Insights newsletter. They tend to give a well-informed, data-driven perspective where technology and management intersect.


Follow George Corbin on Twitter and learn more about him on LinkedIn.


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