Execs from Loblaws, Scotiabank, Indigo and more describe the talent they need to reach their digital transformation goals

Last updated July 4, 2018

All the skills you learn by starting your educational journey with Course Compare will lead somewhere, but if you’re looking at areas like web development, UX design or product management, some of Canada’s top companies will likely be putting you to work on “digital transformation.”

Earlier this week, for instance, software giant Adobe hosted hundreds of business professionals who work in finance, retail, CPG and many other sectors to delve deeper into what digital transformation means for their organizations and what kind of talent they’ll need to be successful.

Though there’s no exact definition, digital transformation generally refers to the way companies that once operated primarily through manual or in-person methods are shifting to online interactions with their customers. It’s a transformation in many cases because it requires companies to drastically reimagine the way their customers will experience what their company offers, the process of buying a product and much more.

Take banks, for example. According to Uzair Hassain, senior director of enterprise innovation at CIBC, digital transformation has become a priority in part because customers have simply become more demanding.

“We’re not looking at other banks as competitors — we’re looking at companies like Netflix, Disney, Starwood as we try to create a more seamless experience,” he said. “The focus has to be on product design, the experience we need to design and we need to think about bring mobile-first.”

CIBC is not alone. Scotiabank, for instance, has not only been hiring more people with skills in UX design, product management and web development — it has been setting up a series of “digital factories” (including one in Toronto) where those with the right talent can focus on particular projects without getting sidelined by day-to-day issues within the bank. That said, if you get hired by a firm like Scotiabank, you won’t be working in a silo.

“It wasn’t stepping out of the business and sending a team off and saying, ‘Go be innovative.’ It was done in a real operational way,” said Nicole German, Scotiabank’s vice-president of enterprise digital marketing.

According to German, the strategy was to stand up five digital factories in all of its core markets. Those who work in the digital factories then figure out how to drive speed, agility and scale through the use of changing people, process and technology. It’s proof that not all ideas get developed within a single headquarters and foisted to branch locations.

“We’re operating as a global community practice. We might start in one place and then learn more (about how to use digital technologies) from the other regions,” she explained, adding that the skills Scotiabank hires for today are intended to shift the culture to one more like a startup.

“We wanted not only to build a strategy on how to tackle (digital transformation) but bring in new talent to blend with old talent.”

Digital Transformation In Retail And CPG

Perhaps no industry has been hit harder by the digital transformation wave than retail, but while some organizations have closed their doors, others are investing in skills that will allow to strike the right balance between in-store and online experiences.

At Indigo, for instance, what started as a basic web site is being transformed into a hub where consumers will be able to shop direct from its in-store inventory as well as what’s in its warehouses. This has been a critical step in building a bridge between its more traditional team working at a physical location versus those focused on the web.

“Even now, our teams are really in love with our retail experience,” admitted Cynthia Wong, director of digital product management at Indigo Books & Music. Along with growing its digital team of approximately 100 people, Indigo has also been changing some of its internal policies, such as attributing e-commerce sales to the location closest to the person making a purchase on its web site.

“We’re removing that idea that digital is somehow cannibalizing our in-store sales.”

Even Loblaws, which has held a leading role in the Canadian grocery sector for years, is realizing the need to embrace digital transformation. Aaaron Fernandes, director of demand generation at Loblaw Digital, said it all started with a simple challenge: how to make the web site of its Joe Fresh clothing division “shoppable.” From two people who worked on this project, the firm has since started its own innovation center with a location in Toronto’s Liberty Village area to explore new digital opportunities.

“You need that to attract the talent, but more importantly, you need that to build a unique culture,” he said, echoing German’s take on how the next generation of its workforce needs to think and act. “It’s about having less aversion to risk than you typically have in a 100-year-old company. We need our people to take chances and make mistakes and know that that’s okay.”

While Loblaws will always be focused on its core competencies, Fernandes said it is trying to build its strengths in areas like data science, product management and web development.

“And then, as opportunities arise, we can unleash those capabilities,” he said.

In that sense, digital transformation may be as much about changing attitudes and mindsets as it is about adopting a particular technology, suggested Ahmad Nassri, principal architect at Telus Digital. Organizations should be looking for talent that contributes to that business-oriented, customer-centric mindset.

“If you don’t have the right culture to drive the transformation, it’s going to be business as usual,” he said. “You have to invest in the humans, the people, who will drive that innovation and transformation.”

Become one of those people by exploring our courses in UX design, web development, product management and more.

Shane Schick

Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate and manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing Magazine and B2B News Network. He is also the former Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief) at IT World Canada, a former technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada, and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca.