Best Buy Hires Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett

Gillett will lead Best Buy's digital business, e-commerce, and IT operations. It's more evidence that CIOs who prioritize customer experience become business leaders.
Stephen Gillett is leaving his position as CIO and head of digital ventures at Starbucks to lead Best Buy's digital business, e-commerce, and IT operations. Gillett's career arc shows how indispensible technology is becoming to the customer experience. CIOs who can help companies make technology a bigger part of that experience are moving into broader leadership positions. InformationWeek named Gillett its Chief Of The Year in December for his work in making technology a core part of Starbucks' coffee shop experience. Those efforts included a mobile payments initiative launched last year that handled more than 25 million payments, all of them tied to Starbucks loyalty cards.

[ What does it take to be a top CIO? See 5 Leadership Skills CIOs, Senators Share. ]

Starbucks on Gillett's watch also created a program whereby customers received free Publications, including The Wall Street Journal, and free music downloads from iTunes when using the free Wi-Fi network in Starbucks stores.

Gillett led the creation of a new business unit at Starbucks, called Digital Ventures, to drive those kinds of tech-driven initiatives. Likewise, Gillett will have to lead Best Buy, which is under threat from online retailers, into new areas. Big box retailers are increasingly threatened by "showrooming," whereby people visit stores to look at products but then go online to buy direct from the cheapest source.

One of Gillett's challenges will be to help Best Buy figure out how to thrive in this multi-channel environment. Says Best Buy in its announcement of the deal:

In this newly created position, Gillett is tasked with accelerating the transformation and growth of Best Buy through the advancement of the company's global digital strategy, digital marketing, entertainment offerings, multi-channel capabilities and business development. Through his leadership of the enterprise's ecommerce businesses, information technologies and global shared services, Gillett will have oversight of the critical capabilities necessary to make technology a bigger part of the customer experience while enhancing operations and processes.
Best Buy CEO Brian J. Dunn, whom Gillett will report to, calls e-commerce "one of the fastest-growing sales channels for our business," and he's looking to Gillett to build closer ties to those customers online. Gillett's also in charge of internal IT systems and "global shared services." Gillett joined Starbucks in 2008 as part of the reorganization led by returning Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.

Gillett's dual role at Starbucks and now at Best Buy points to a future career path for technology leaders. Customers are making purchasing decisions using multiple channels--websites, social networks, search engines, call centers, and brick-and-mortar outlets--and they need one leader who can connect those pieces.

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