“Digital Should Be Embedded in Your Strategy,” Says Jay Walker, Executive Chairman, Walker Innovation

There is no such think as a “digital strategy,” Jay Walker, founder of Priceline and chairman of Walker Innovation, told Summit attendees. “Digital is a big part of what the world is—a big part and growing bigger. But there’s no separate digital strategy. How absurd. That’d be like me asking you, ‘What’s your phone strategy?’”

Walker likened today’s seismic shift from pre-information age to the digital world to the radical transformation that occurred when the age of steam gave way to the age of electricity. “The internal combustion engine was going to completely change how power was going to be brought to the world. Those companies that got it repivoted around that and rebuilt their enterprises with that understanding.” Those that didn’t, he added, are no longer around—and not because they didn’t have a specific “electricity strategy,” but because they didn’t understand the nature of the change.

Similarly, today, the information age has completely transformed the world of business. “So you need to take a clean sheet of paper, look at your business pre-information age and say, ‘Now that the information age is here and all my customers are in it, how will I reinvent my value proposition to serve my customer above my long-term, risk-adjusted cost of capital?’” said Walker, adding that the task does not require a chief digital officer. “If you’ve got them, get ride of them and replace them with your chief marketing officer or chief talent officer. The challenge here is that you are too old to learn these new tricks. You’re an executive, for God’s sake—it’s not your job anyway. Your job is to find talent, motivate them, put them together on a team, get them rowing together and get out of the way.”

C.J. Prince :C.J. Prince is a regular contributor to Chief Executive and other business publications.