Catalina Chief Data Officer: On the Record

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Catalina -- one of the top digital media companies focused on consumer packaged goods -- is no stranger to big data, business analytics and effective information management. But merely gathering the right data isn't enough. Leveraging a range of data, Catalina is striving to drive business and client value.

That's where Catalina Chief Data Officer (CDO) Dak Liyanearachchi enters the picture. An eight-year Catalina veteran, Liyanearachchi shifted to the newly created CDO post earlier this month. Prior to the CDO role, he was senior VP of global data and analytics for Catalina. Read between the lines, and it looks like Catalina and Liyanearachchi have rich histories of data expertise. But where does Catalina go from here -- especially as it strives to gather, manage, safeguard and monetize data from a range of sources?

Liyanearachchi provided answers and insights in this exclusive interview with Information Management.

The Interview

Information Management: What are some of your first priorities as chief data officer?

Liyanearachchi: One of my first priorities as chief data officer is to ensure that we have the right data infrastructure to support Catalina’s database of purchase history, which is the largest in the world. This includes enabling the business to build insights in order to design, execute and deliver high performing omnichannel campaigns for our customers.

Information Management: How will you work with CTO Steven Rubinow and other IT leaders in the company?

Liyanearachchi: Steve and his team will own and implement the technology. My role is to identify new and improved capabilities for our data solutions. This could be by implementing ground breaking business intelligence solutions or building new partnerships in an effort to develop unique consumer insights for our retail and CPG [consumer packaged goods] partners.

Information Management: How has Catalina's view on data gathering, management, and monetization evolved in the past few years?

Liyanearachchi: Our business has moved from an in-store single channel business to an omnichannel personalized digital media business. This means our data gathering has evolved from a channel perspective to a consumer-centric omnichannel view. This has created a significant shift in our capabilities. Data gathering in an omnichannel world means that we transition to a real-time environment, which was not a factor in the previous in-store model. It’s a much more complex environment that needs to have real-time API’s [application programming interfaces] as well as real-time offer management. Take the joint venture with Nielsen, Nielsen Catalina Solutions, as an example. We look at different ways to monetize the data asset, but the most important factor to keep in mind is if the process works both for our retail partners and for Catalina.

Information Management: How do make sure Catalina doesn't somehow suffer from information overload? In other words, with so many information gathering opportunities, how do you make sure Catalina focuses on the right ones — and not all of them?

Liyanearachchi: As chief data officer, this is one of the key objectives in my role. By understanding each client’s business needs, we are able to develop strategies to present and illustrate key insights and findings that specifically address those needs. You start with looking at the current business issues at hand and the key performance indicators that define success – this helps us prioritize our efforts and focus in on the “right ones.”

Information Management: Catalina acquired Cellfire in Oct 2014. What are some of the new or interesting data opportunities Cellfire brings to the table for Catalina?

Liyanearachchi: Cellfire helps us understand how real-time APIs work in order to support a load to card offering. By combining Cellfire’s content and consumer interaction with clips/redemptions and Catalina’s understanding of what the consumer has actually purchased in-store, we provide a unique capability. Using Cellfire’s content with Catalina’s in-store insights gives us the opportunity to create unequalled personalization on traditional untargeted media.

Information Management: What new opportunities, if any, do you see as the worlds of in-store beacons and mobile payments (Apple Pay, etc.) emerge?

Liyanearachchi: These technologies are helping us understand a consumer’s path to purchase better by providing even more, rich data. However, mobile payments are challenged to understand the consumer better and add more value to their shopping experience, than just mobile point-of-sale systems. Mobile payments integration into the entire omnichannel experience by offering loyalty program features can help with this. Additionally, these new technologies must be carefully managed so consumers don’t feel as though their privacy is being compromised. Ultimately it’s all about balance, offering the right amount of relevant offers without being intrusive or annoying.

Information Management: As chief data officer, what are some of the variables or outcomes that will define whether you're personally succeeding?

Liyanearachchi: My measures of success are relatively straight forward - is the data strategy driving business and client value. At the end of the day, the key success factor for any business is return on investment. My focus is measuring what capabilities are working and are we building the highest performing ROI campaigns in the industry based on the unique data and insights platform Catalina has.

Rise of Chief Data Officers

This interview is part of an ongoing Information Management series that closely tracks emerging CDO and chief science officer (CSO) executives, their roles and priorties across multiple vertical markets. If you're a CDO, CSO or data scientist with a unqiue view to share, please send your pitch or inquiry to:


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