Digitalk 2016, Sofia, Bulgaria


I recently presented a keynote at Digitalk 2016, in Sofia Bulgaria. It’s one of the largest digital conferences in the region, with over 1,400 registered attendees. I was just one of many presenters from around the world who came to talk about the latest digital trends to an eclectic audience of business people, entrepreneurs, VCS, service providers, and students.

sofia landscape

Sofia has the reputation of being a hotbed of technology talent (the phrase “The Silicon Valley of Southeast Europe” come up several times in discussions). This has been nurtured by a large number of outsourced IT service providers and other technical institutions (for example, SAP has a large development lab in Sofia).

la french techOne of the biggest sponsors of the conference was La French Tech, a government-funded program to encourage startup creation and investment. At an evening event for speakers at the French Embassy, the French Ambassador to Bulgaria did a masterful job of explaining the programs benefits to any Bulgarian startups that were interested in moving to France.

My presentation covered The Future of Customer Experience, explaining why companies need to spend less time telling people how great they are (i.e. traditional marketing) and more time being great (focusing on optimizing every aspect of the end-to-end customer journey).

And at least one person liked the presentation — thanks Boris! 🙂

sap storytelling tweet

There were many, many interesting talks over the two days — here’s just a small selection of some of my favorites:

Alex Hunter of Attaché, on “The Science and Art of Brand Experience.”

You have to use what you know to create delight. For example, Tony Fadell was one of the fathers of the iPod — he could have done anything after Apple. And yet he said to himself ‘you know what would be fun? thermostats!’. And so he founded Nest and he make thermostats so beautiful I just want to lick one! Could you ever have imagined people saying ‘hey, wanna come over to my house to see my thermostat?!’

Tim Steigert of GE, talking about “Reinventing a Giant: The 124 Year-Old Startup”, explaining the big cultural changes that the internet of things is bringing to the company.

GE used to have one global strategy — now we have 160 strategies adapted to the local conditions.

Reno Marioni, Director of Digital Services at BMW, talked about “Connected Cars and the Future of Mobility”, explaining the various initiatives the company is working on to optimize the customer experience for drivers in the future. BMW is a big SAP customer, and the two companies are working together on the new initiative, as well as the SAP Vehicles Network initiative.

reno marioni digitalk

Marina Haydn, SVP Circulation and Retail Marketing for The Economist (“AKA Ambassador of Print”) on “The Future of Marketing Adapt and Transform”. This included very interesting data from a EIU Rise of the Marketer study.

economist changes to marketing

  • 81%  of marketers believe that now is the time to embark on rapid change in the way they run the marketing function.
  • Over the next three to five years, 75% of marketers say they will be responsible for the end-to-end experience over the customer’s lifetime.

  • The 22% of marketers who view engagement as being primarily about heightened brand awareness, rather than things like customer renewals, repeat purchases or retention, are significantly less likely to think that marketing needs to change

Christopher Daly, Head of UX and Digital Product Design at Sotheby’s, talking about “The Ambient and Invisible Future of Experience Design”.

Big UX is dead — may your wireframes rest in eternal peace!”

Zach Brand, Formerly of the Washington Post and National Public Radio (“I’m currently VP of Being on Holiday with My Children — It’s a great gig!”).

It’s first and foremost about the audience. The right place to start your digital strategy is having an audience strategy. It’s not about the technology, it’s about meeting the audience expectations

Zach included an interesting look at the Washington Post’s “Bandito” project that was used to optimize clickbait newspaper titles. The solution automatically carries out A/B testing on various headlines, then gradually moves everybody to the most optimal choices.

bandito small

If ever you have the opportunity to visit for Digitalk 2017, I thoroughly recommend it…

During my stay, I also had the chance to attend the local launch of the SAP Digital Boardroom and SAP BusinessObjects Cloud Analytics solutions. After a presentation by a local customer, Alexander Meixner, SAP’s Head of Analytics and Insight for the CEE region, gave an overview of the solution.

digital dashboard launch sofia

alexander meixner sofia bulgaria

Sofia is a beautiful place, and you should visit if you get the chance!

sofia bulgaria small