E.A. Hughes & Co. Places Chief Digital Officer at Citizen Watch America

April 14, 2017 – Executive search firm E.A. Hughes & Co. has placed former Ralph Lauren executive Barbara Garces as chief digital officer (CDO) of Citizen Watch America. Recruiting partner Ann MacCarthy led the assignment.

In this new role, Ms. Garces will lead the development and implementation of the company’s digital strategy across all Citizen Watch brands, including Citizen, Bulova, Caravelle, Frederique Constant, and Alpina. Her experience in the wholesale and retail channels of distribution and consultative approach to influencing across multiple brands made her the ideal fit for this position, said two recruiters unaffiliated with the search.

The appointment supports the coming launch of Citizen’s ERP and Product Information System that will bring the Citizen brand portfolio to the forefront of business technology and help the company streamline its back office operations and efficiency. Founded in 1930, Citizen is today recognized as a worldwide leader in advanced technology — from designing the world’s slimmest LCD watch to offering the first voice recognition watch to creating the first professional dive watch with an electronic depth sensor — the company has reaffirmed its position as a worldwide leader in timekeeping technology.

Ms. Garces previously served as vice president of wholesale digital and e-commerce at Ralph Lauren. She joined the company in 2009 as senior director of wholesale online marketing & strategy. Ms. Garces also held e-commerce and online marketing roles at Godiva and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Help wanted: Data Driven Leaders

Chief digital officers have access to an extraordinary amount of consumer data, and data is what drives organizations to make informed decisions. Executive recruiters, therefore, are seeking digital professionals with innovative, creative ideas who can use that data for competitive advantage. The companies they represent want digital leaders who will push the envelope, take risks, and who know where the future is heading. Digital today is moving at warp speed. Finding leaders who have already adjusted to that velocity are the ones now most in demand ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

Why Chief Digital Officers Now Reign Supreme
As data becomes increasingly critical to corporate decision-making, the chief digital officer now reigns supreme. For recruiters, this has heightened the need for digital candidates with a much deeper grasp of the overall business environment and a greater repertoire of skills than ever before.

Citizen had been seeking a leader to develop seamless global omni-channel customer engagement across mobile, online, in-store and backend integrations. They needed someone who could influence all channels communicating with its customer base and to build out its digital strategy.

“Barbara’s wealth of experience in digital, B2B and B2C ecommerce, and strategic leadership makes her the perfect person to enhance our capabilities and identify new opportunities,” said Jeffrey Cohen, president of Citizen.

Founded in 1991 by Elaine Hughes, E.A. Hughes & Co. serves clients in the retail and consumer apparel, home furnishings, beauty, digital, e-commerce, footwear and other industries. The firm is based in New York City. Ms. MacCarthy has spent more than 20 years recruiting CEOs and other C-suite and VP level executives for her clients across all channels of distribution.

Crossing the Digital Divide

An explosive new recruiting mandate has been emerging for executive search consultants keen on offering innovative expertise to their clients and finding new avenues to growth: finding leaders who can inspire and direct companies in the digital age.

It is the latest directive to be placed in the lap of executive recruiters by companies eager to stay ahead of their rivals and, more importantly, to stay ahead of the rivals they can’t yet see. Of course, the convergence of the static world with one that is online – which digital leaders oversee with increasingly sophisticated strategies and state-of-the-art technologies – is nothing new.

In fact, the top job of chief digital officer goes back at least more than a decade. What’s changed is the entrepreneurial shift taking place at companies which have lived in that static world for their entire, buttoned-up lives and the new ways in which they capture, manage and use data for non-technology purposes. Citizen Watch falls into this category. Now, as these businesses rush to digitize and get closer to the consumer, they are turning in droves to executive recruiters who are more than eager to help them cross the digital divide.

But an inordinate number of organizations across the globe report they do not have a CDO to manage their digital transformation or digital strategy, much less create one from scratch. According to a survey of 501 global business leaders conducted by IIC Partners Executive Search Worldwide, three out of four survey respondents (76 percent) said they did not have a CDO in place to own their digital transformation strategy.

Eighty percent of senior executives stated that they believe investment in digital transformation within their organization is very or extremely important to future success. In contrast, however, only a third of survey respondents said they plan to hire a CDO within the next two years.

“The schism we are seeing in the ideal functional background of a chief digital officer speaks to the hybrid nature of the role. He or she should possess an innate understanding of technology accompanied by a firm knowledge of employing digital transformation and strategy to support organizational growth,” said Christine Hayward, IIC Partners’ executive director. “This cross-functional skillset will drive continued innovation and programs across the enterprise from a central visionary perspective.”

New Competencies

So where do the best CDOs come from? Executives come up the marketing, ecommerce and technology routes. In addition, there are several high profile chief technology officers who manage this function today.

“The qualities sought after in a chief digital officer are rooted in the softer skills of management,” said Ruth Curran, managing partner of MERC Partners and global chair of IIC Partners Curran. “A successful CDO must exercise and exhibit persuasive leadership tactics to garner the buy-in and support of other senior leaders across the organization. Companies are not only looking for a candidate to identify valuable opportunities for digital transformation to work for the business, but lead through influence and instill confidence from other key stakeholders critical to its success.”

The chief digital officer position continues to be highly in demand and growing in influence within the C-suite. A search on LinkedIn of the title generated more than 17,000 results.

“New business and revenue models call for digital leadership and competence. When companies based on digital revenue and a low cost platform like Uber can rise from zero to billions within months, other heavy industries like GE or Kongsberg Maritime have to think differently in order to still be in business,” said Bendik Blindheim, practice group leader for IIC Partners’ technology, digital media and telecommunications practice group.

Yet finding digital leaders is not always an easy task. “There is no clear answer when it comes to a valid transformational digital leadership profile, and more important, an ideal functional profile of a CDO,” said Mr. Blindheim. “The functional profile however, is always a result of the company’s need for new strategic competence.”

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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