S2E1 - Building Digital Factories with Chad Niemuth
By Shane Madden and Whit Harwood
Chad Niemuth, a digital leader at Campari, joins the podcast to discuss what it means to build a digital factory, how to build alignment across a distributed and multi-brand organization, and how to build a tech stack based on your company's growth stage.
Shane Madden (00:01):
Hi, all this is Shane Madden.
Wit Harwood (00:02):
And I'm Whit Harwood.
We're really excited to be back with season two of Off the Clock, the podcast brought to you by TPT Digital. TPT Digital is the full service vertically integrated digital marketing group of TransPerfect, the $1 billion language services and technology solutions market leader.
We're going to talk to some of the industry’s thought leaders, movers, and decision-makers to discuss all things digital throughout the course of the season. So, let's get into it.
Let’s go. Hi everybody. This is Shane Madden from TPT Digital. Thank you for joining today's podcast, Off the Clock.
And I'm Whit Harwood and we're joined today by Chad Niemuth. Shane, let's get into it.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I really appreciate everyone listening in today. Thank you so much. I'm absolutely thrilled for today's podcast. I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with our guest Chad Niemuth for, gosh, six or seven years dating back to Chad's time at SC Johnson, where we as a company had a very small part to play in what Chad was developing over there, which he'll get into in more detail in terms of what he was doing, but, it was the development of digital factories. So, today's podcast, super excited to have Chad on the pod. Topic and theme is going to be fleshing out and unpacking what a digital factory is and all the pieces and components that make up a successful factory. So, Chad, before I hand over to you for a quick intro, just a really quick story.
So Chad is currently at Campari. Campari is the holding company that owns the brand Aperol. In 2018. I get married in Spain, it's in a small town outside of Barcelona and the wedding was half-European, half-America, and the entire wedding drank Aperol. And I can tell you with, we were there for a week and within about two days, literally two days, we drank the entire town, supermarkets, small liquor stores, everything in between out of Aperol. So on top of having you on board, in terms of talking about digital factories, it's amazing to have someone who represents such an amazing brand. So, Chad, thanks for, thanks for putting on today's pod.
Chad Niemuth (02:05):
Thanks Shane. And we appreciate your patronage. And obviously as a brand connoisseur and brand lover of Aperol myself, I share in your experience and do try to, to take advantage of every opportunity to have a spritz toast with everybody.
Absolutely. So, I want to get started, right? I want to jump into this. This is a really interesting topic, an important topic, given Chad's background, which is obviously working at SC Johnson and then Campari. Chad, maybe you can give the audience some context or background in terms of who you are, what your role has been and kind of what you executed. Let's start there.
Sure, absolutely. Now my background stems from over 20 years of experience in nonprofit education, small to medium business, and then large corporations to what Shane just identified: SC Johnson Campari Manpower Corporate. And the core principle of my area of expertise is I've got a background and a degree in advertising and journalism. However, I took one class in HTML, which set me on the course for IT. I understand consumers. I understand people, segments. Sociology was my minor. So, I love how technology enables individuals to connect to communication and to ultimately what brands’ messages are because I'm a brand lover myself, whether it's Reynolds, whether it's Glee , whether it's Aperol, I enjoy the experience I get with these brands based upon what I experience online, digitally, and in an application. And so, IT enablement is a key driver in that capability and my experience across all those organizations is really focusing on that owned platform that connects the internal operations of an organization to the external consumers, whether those consumers be bartenders, whether those consumers be customers of services or product, that's our focus area. So how do you take what is very complex within an organization operating in different silos, simplify it, automate it with technology, and then bring it to the forefront of a consumer's eyes to be able to consume, and then not only consume, understand, and then convert in what it is your product brings. So digital factories for me, in my experience, has been translating that complexity into simplicity.
Yeah. Amazing. I, so again, I've had a very small part or hand in this with you at SC Johnson. I would love to understand a little bit more from you based on your experience in terms of what you think shapes robust IT and business strategy and how that works and what it looks like.
Yeah. So, I smile at this one, because I, I just had a conversation earlier today with a key stakeholder within my organization and I made the point, I need your help and I need your help because my permission and what I'm allowed to do within this organization is only as strong as your last experience with your phone or your computer. And if by chance, that was a terrible experience, the permission that I have to push forward the organization and transformation is not as strong. So, I think the first aspect that I always approach the situation is right empathy. Being cognizant of what you're capable and incapable of doing and what your organization is in position to be capable of doing. So very quickly understanding a multi-brand environment, the different teams, and, to some extent, gaining permission through performance and connecting with those teams can open the doorway to developing the appropriate business case to stand up a digital factory.
We all know in the field, whether you're in IT or you're on the business side, on the business side, you choose the zeros and ones that ultimately give you results that you expect to see based upon the strategy that you're deploying. IT, you deploy several different systems and you hope that you get them connected to provide the right level of efficiency and automation. And in the middle is the value that it drives. So although I talk about permission internally, it's also being cognizant of what you're not able to deliver to that end user, or maybe what is not as deficient as it could be. And that's ultimately where a digital factory comes in. For me, in my experience, that business case is predicated on that end user, is balanced by the organization and the permission you have, for me, it's IT, for you may be on the business side and you're closer to the key decision-makers.
It also takes into account advertising agencies that control a majority of the messaging in a majority of the execution in the space. So, especially when you're dealing with multi-brands, moving from SC Johnson, which at the time had 23 brands, 13,000 employees across the organization, and all of the different silos across product supply innovation in marketing, to now at Campari where it's 63 brands, 4,000 employees, a little bit simpler, not as much technology, but still the fundamental functions of the organization are siloed, right? And their data is siloed. And bringing that to a level of connectivity is ultimately what the end consumer needs, but more importantly as an IT organization, that's your real opportunity in the business case because you can craft efficiency through content, through content translation, through content replication, a salesperson can use the same content that a marketer is using. That is going after a consumer; a consumer can be a bartender, so that bartender can be educated. So all across these consumer journey touch points, it is extremely important to understand the opportunity that you have as a brand to connect with those individuals. And then how do you store that data and how do you distribute it? And that's really ultimately the value that we provide.
So, you know, I'm obviously acutely aware of the SC Johnson use case, which is, many seriously enterprise type systems, lots of stakeholders, lots of departments, lots of agencies, whether it be content creators, systems integrators. It was a busy, busy ecosystem of partners, vendors, and everything in between. When you moved from SC Johnson to Campari, was that, was it the same kind of setup or did you have to redevelop or not even redevelop, just build a digital factory from scratch?
So the cool thing at SC Johnson is it was a much more simplistic agency front. So the harmonization and rationalization of agencies had already occurred. So it was very simplistic to work with three, four vendors on the agency side to help bring change and implement process and get buy-in to ultimately what the factory was delivering. Campari on the other side was much more complex, right? Many more agencies, just the nature of our 21 in-market companies and our operations from a marketing level for where we didn't have necessarily production facilities and marketing teams. We had over 200 agencies globally. So managing that complexity required a level of engagement at a local level to get buy-in, right? You've got to show the principle of what it's predicated on. You have to balance it ultimately in the value it drives, right? So, a digital factory is going to be more expensive in Argentina than it is in the United States.
So, you have to offset that value. And the opportunity with Campari versus SC Johnson was being available to allow that to occur, right? So with fewer agencies, you have more control over those agencies and unfortunately the brands have less choice. For our digital factory at Campari, you have more choice, you have more capability, your agencies can be onboarded to the mechanism. So very similar to what I've seen in the trades and in the research that we've done around what Unilever is doing in the space and, and very similar. And we have a very similar model, which is the digital factory brings efficiency to development. It brings efficiency to content. It brings efficiency to automation. But what it won't do is it won't define your brand because at the end of the day, we're a spirits organization with multiple brands, multiple voices. We're not an automotive industry that is, I sell several products within a single brand of which is then executed locally at a dealership.
And that brand model and that content is the same at different levels. The only thing that might change is the options or the pricing of the actual product detail page. So, for us, it's a lot more complex and we need to allow that complexity to thrive. So, a digital factory from a scoping standpoint, different than SC Johnson was, alright, we’re going to allow variability. We're going to allow agencies to be onboarded into this model. We're going to take the time to onboard them to the capabilities, but the key driver with a factory is the fact that, if you
If you simplify the technology, and if you simplify the data, then you get to maximize the capability that you're developing, whether it's with an external vendor or an internal team, you immediately get to deliver translation capabilities, where to buy capabilities, ratings and review capabilities. If you do a really cool integration for emotions like we did at SC Johnson, you have that technology in house with that agency and the development's been done, and you can repopulate it across. Whether it's to another brand or even to your internal employees, you can take that capability and leverage it, which to me, it's the return on investment that expands over time, versus just that point in time return on investment or that agency execution or that campaign. It's the value that that can bring, because as we know, in technology, things cycle in and out, right, in how we leverage different technology, different capabilities. So.
So, Chad, as a general manager, or essentially a product manager of a digital factory, you're obviously trying to bring everything together, aggregate things so that they are as simplified as possible for an end user. How do you think about aggregating or developing a product suite from a number of component parts and kind of, what is kind of the flag that goes up in your mind that you say, oh, well, we need to add, you know, X, Y, or Z vendor to this product suite, and we are currently gapped. So therefore we can justify the business case that you were talking about before.
Yeah. If I think through answering your question, there's a couple different approaches. So with Campari, digital factories just starting and it's been live and operational for approximately six months, and we're starting to turn that corner from, okay, core-level capability that's been designed to, okay, now we have to prepare ourselves for what's next. Right. So we've already started to talk about, we have a vast array of agencies and the key component is communication and integration in those agencies to identify ideas and opportunities that are coming to the marketplace. So in that steerco methodology, you have the ability then with your business partners to engage those agencies, to really start to talk about innovation, to say, okay, where do we see our next opportunity? And that's really from a brand innovation standpoint. That impacts design. It impacts choices for what is the next capability.
And then transversely from a technology standpoint, we're constantly looking at the evolution of the platforms that we've selected, whether it be the Microsoft stack or the Azure capabilities that are within the platform. How do we leverage those more holistically to give more capabilities, but also at the same time, too, where is WordPress going? Where are those capabilities driving opportunity for our brands? Because we are not to the extent of a full distribution of digital factory yet. We don't anticipate having that fully live and operational for another 12 months. We had planned 18 months and we're moving that direction. So once everything is in the platform, then you have the ability to really engage those agencies to drive that capability forward. But, transversely, we don't do a lot with ratings and reviews today. That's the next evolution. We don't do a lot with translations today.
That's a next evolution. Those are capabilities that are grounded in the conversation with the business to drive the value, right? So it's the interpretation that if you're selling products in Canada, you have to have French-Canadian supported to sell those products digitally because it's part of the regulations. We don't do a lot of that today. That's an expansion opportunity. And the core conversation that I have with many of these different marketeers is bottom line. You need to be where your consumer is, and you need to ensure that your consumer has the experience with you, not through third parties or through customers or retailers or distributors. Your job is to make sure it's aligned. But more importantly, your job is to make sure the message is the same throughout. And hopefully they have that experience through a channel that we control or content that we deliver to a channel that we're integrated with.
So Chad, so basically, you're marrying all the key components of this, right? I’m sure we've got some, some people listening to the podcast that are developing their business case or value proposition in terms of the development and creation of a digital factory. I'm also sure that we've got some listeners that are saying, this will never work for my company because we're too decentralized. We've got hundreds of agencies. We give marketeers autonomy. We like using headless CMSs because we like to give marketeers autonomy. What, what would you say to those people that say, look, it's too decentralized or too fragmented.
I think there's, you know, it doesn't have to be an all-in approach. I think that's where it's isolating what the opportunity is. So let me give the use case at SC Johnson, right? And this one's near and dear to you, Shane, because it's close to our relationship and by no way, shape or form is this me promoting it. But we had as a company, global PR managing translation services for 18 years with one single company. That means over the 18 years when technology was implemented with chats with TXML databases, that that company had word memory of our company. So, to answer your question in that circumstance, we knew the efficiency and scale that could be applied to translation, not transcreation, because that's still sat with the agency, so that you ensured that your message was targeted and approached to the consumer in the right tone, right?
That's, that's a different type of translation, but core-level operational translation services were an efficiency path that we took and identified as an opportunity. And oh, by the way, we had Sitecore and we could expand Sitecore across all the platforms. But the key point is if you have one brand that uses a technology that integrates with a translation service, you immediately enable that capability and efficiency for translation services for the entire organization, not just on that website, not just in the context of that marketing team, but holistically across the organization. And then immediately you get to, as you translate more across PR, communications, marketing, internal comms, external comms, sales, product supply, label graphics, you get to take those components and apply it to each one of those services. So I think the piece that I've come to realize in the 22 years of my experience is: Manpower, process oriented; SC Johnson, factory oriented; and now where I'm at, Campari, it's data.
And at the end of the day, who creates the data, where is the data stored, and how is the data matured over time? Who touches it? And at what point does that data need to be internal, external, translated, not translated, what's the audience? So to the extent that organizations are focused on consumer journeys, it's almost to the extent of saying, yeah, consumer journey is really important in order to connect the right content at the right time to the right person, for the right price. Connecting the data to the, the origination and the maturity of that data and translation over time, and where it goes into different systems is incredibly important. And it's difficult, right? That's not data lakes, that's not applications. That's just core, all right, innovation, you create data; product supply, you create data; and you represent it in marketing; you create data. What data dictionary drives where that data goes and who sees of it and what opportunity do you have with that data, whether it's commercial marketing, you get the gist, but that is the core. And the efficiency is platform. So how do I connect data from system to system? How do I automate that process or it's, how do I apply additional capability on top of that data?
So Chad, the last 10 years or so, there's been, maybe it's longer than that, the data revolution in terms of the amount that's available to the end user being professionals in the workplace. The last three to four years have been defined by regulation and compliance within that space via GDPR, CCPA, et cetera. How has that impacted your day to day and kind of what have you had to recalculate in what's probably been a fairly iterative process for you?
Great question. There are, there are two things that I've always held up as my north stars: legal, which controls the protection around the brand and the name, and finance, which controls and monitors and manages the expenditures and obviously the opportunity that the brand provides. And as long as you're good by those two organizations, you're good for anything. So those are my two north stars. And how does that translate into the last three, four years? It has been, I think one of the best experiences I've had as an IT individual is being able to connect with legal organizations within a company to drive the right outcome. At SC Johnson, it's a family company. So, the company took the position of doing what's best by your own family and applied that holistically to every service and capability. So how did that translate into IT services?
You had to know where your data was. You had to architect it appropriately with regulation in mind. And, to the extent, what I loved most about SC Johnson is they went above and beyond. So although it negatively impacted what you could execute from a brand level, they said, first and foremost, we're going to protect people because people are what's important to our brands. So whether that be the different platforms that we chose, the different security layers that we invested in, the different ways that we worked with governments, the different organizations that we were involved with to ensure that we knew exactly where everything was going. On a technology basis, we knew where data centers were being set up. We knew where third-party contracts were in place in China. So, you had to become an expert of the world around how regulation was changing and impacting data and where it was stored and who it was impacting, and the same goes for what we've been experiencing and what I've been experiencing in the last five years with Campari as well.
It requires that DPO oversight, that data privacy officer’s integration into your IT organization. So there's a constant collaboration. There's a constant discussion on the security of data. So, for me, we used to say this at SC Johnson, a lot, the Amazon space, the EC two Amazon Web Services and the infrastructure, you know, the concern was they're going to put a bottle of blue next to ours, right? A private label bottle of blue. So making sure that you have the right partnerships with the right organizations that make the right opportunity for you. So with that being said, where I am today, we work and partner quite a bit with Microsoft. And the key conversation I have with their organization is alright, two years ago, Italy building a data center, close to Milan. Awesome. Because there's a regulation within Italy where you cannot do sweepstakes without hosting or storing the consumers’ data within Italy itself.
So we need that data center and our partnership needs that data center, right? And those are the things that you've got to advocate for on behalf of the consumer. We're constantly talking about the impact of the iOS change on privacy. We're talking about the impact of China, and it's a growing market for us and many spirits organizations. It's knowing where your platforms, when you make that choice, where are they going as well? So, China, we know 21Vianet is where Microsoft does their contracts through and partnership in order to deliver services in that country. We chose and continue to choose Microsoft up based upon the fact that we can replicate, right, in China. And in the event that the government wants to shut down the great wall, we can still service our consumers. Those are important factors in understanding and interpreting how legal regulatory change impacts how you architect and deliver your systems and solutions. So, whether it's our solution architects, our enterprise architects, our key account managers that are working with Microsoft and understanding where the platforms are going, the interface of those individuals with our legal department, and also keeping abreast on where organizations are going with regards to regulation is incredibly important and something we keep very close tabs on.
So I have one quick question before I conclude, Chad. In terms of… so it it's been reported that the cloud industry will be worth $400 billion by 2025. And I think the market leader there is AWS. You have experience with Sitecore at SC Johnson, I believe WordPress, and obviously some other systems. Out of interest what systems do you like, what systems would you be a proponent of?
So, I'm going to tell you, I like Amazon for its flexibility. I like Amazon for its growth capabilities. And I like Amazon like I like Google for growing organizations that are starting out. I feel like you can be an entrepreneur today and you can have immediate capabilities that large organizations have, right? So it accelerates the opportunity, connectivity of individuals. That's where I see Google. And that's where I see Amazon. On a Microsoft landscape, what I love about Microsoft is the entire army of that organization is dedicated to supporting you. So, for me, when we went through our malware situation last November, we had the full complement and the full support of the Microsoft army at our doorstep helping us, right. And that speaks volumes. It's what I would equate to what Salesforce was in 2007, right? When they were just getting the marketplace started, they hadn't started moving into force.com and all of the other things; they were really focused on the customer and really being there. Not that they aren’t today, but they are much larger than they were back in 2007.
That's where Microsoft is sitting and killing it today. And then past that, you know, my house is filled with a Surface Pro, with a Google Pixel 6, an Apple phone, a Fitbit, an Apple Watch, Motive, Aura. I am a true believer and I guess a supporter of multiple platforms. Everything has its right place. And I still believe that; SAP still has its right place. Oracle still has its right place. Adobe still has its right place. We just may not be at the right level of organization maturity to take that on. Or maybe we're not as agile as we'd like to be. So we can't take that on. Or maybe we're just really risk averse and we can't take that on, but things change in time. So, I think that the moral of this story is although I have an affinity towards Microsoft and where we're going with that, we have our affinity towards SAP and where the organization is with that. At the end of the day, Adobe is a good place and potentially maturity brings us there, right? Microsoft is a good place and the platform capability enables a lot of communication and connectivity across the organization. So never say never for a piece of technology.
Right, you need broad communication, transparent, open communication, as you said, empathy to build a digital factory, at least a successful one. If you were to give one piece of advice to anybody that's listening to today's pod that may feel, wow, this is, this is just too overwhelming. I can't do this. Or, you know, they may be receiving pushback to say, we don't have the resources or the bandwidth to execute something like this successfully. What would your piece of advice be to get from that zero to one, just the starting point? What would you do? What is the very first thing you would do to get this up and running?
So, this is where I’ll quote Simon Sinek's Start with Why book, right? He's got the golden circle, which is why, how, what. I apply the golden circle to every organization that I work with, not through the lens of why, how, and what, but really, what is it that the organization does at its core, right? It distills liquid, it creates and mixes chemicals to eradicate bugs, pest control, right? Chemistry, technology, ingredients, manufacturing, production, those are core to the circle. Every circle of complexity you place around that core is a level of investment that the organization has to make that either impacts the consumer with regards to cost or it impacts the organization as far as investment is concerned. So when you think about the complexity, I'm a reverse engineer. I start from what I know absolutely is best practice or aspirational.
And then I work my way back to that golden circle of what the organization is predicated on. It helps drive the right outcome, which is a pragmatic approach to designing the right level of capability based upon the maturity level of the organization and what the organization is defined on. Because in the end, you are a steward of that company and also that consumer's experience with the company. So it behooves you to take that first approach to instill that model, to always question, am I doing this because it's a cool piece of technology, a sales spend is hitting me with a million emails a day, or is it because I'm doing it for the consumer or doing it for the good of the company long term. At both SC Johnson and at Campari, I do truly feel and have a passion for that.
I am a piece of the building, the foundation of our original manufacturing plant ancestors, San Giovanni. 160 years ago, when Campari was invented and ingredients were mixed together, the first and second generation of the Campari family had a vision. And my role is to steward that vision today and to create an opportunity that 30, 40, 50 years from now, someone looks back and says, awesome, because of this, we are in this position today. And that's how I see it. And, that's how I live my values through that circle and how I interpret the organization's need and drive them forward.
You're a custodian of the brand. You marry all the different components. You start with why and work backwards. Simplified, or add circles, depending on the complexity of it, and then each circle either carries cost or increases price for the consumer. Yeah. This is so interesting.
At some point, drink the Kool-Aid right. I mean, if, if you're going to be in the walls, take it in.
Yeah, exactly. Chad, you and I could speak about this for hours and we have, and we've actually been speaking about it for the last seven years. So I just want to say again, we really appreciate you coming on and talking to us today on the pod. If anyone has any questions, I'm sure there are going to be some questions, what's the best way to reach you?
Connect with me through LinkedIn, obviously Chad Niemuth on LinkedIn. I think C Niemuth is the after the hash direct LinkedIn. LinkedIn, that's the best way to contact me. Feel free to reference that you heard me on this, and if you have any questions as you move forward, I'm very passionate about this space. I love it. And happy to help anyone who's either deep into it or just starting. All we can do as humans is give out that helping hand across the world. So I hope that you can take this into your daily practice and reach out if you need any assistance or any questions you might have.
Amazing stuff. Chad, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it. Thanks everybody.
WH Thanks so much, Chad.