How CIOs Can Leverage Their Influence and Skills

Leadership Profile
Written by Nick Turner

Natalia Barsegiyan

Non-Executive Board Member

Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland Ltd


After 25 years of an executive career in the restaurant industry, across many brands and countries, Natalia Barsegiyan wanted to contribute at a higher level, share her knowledge and coach the next generation of executive leaders. She was looking for an opportunity to help shape the organisational strategy in our current digital world – and she found it at Domino’s Pizza Group plc. 

Natalia saw The Domino’s Pizza Group plc Board role as a perfect fit: a dynamic and relevant brand with a unique opportunity to build on an already high level of digital transactions with the customers by keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign the customer journey. We caught up with Natalia to hear a leader’s perspective on how CIOs can leverage skills, and her view on how CIOs can best influence at the board level. 

How has the current situation impacted the hospitality sector across EMEA in your view?

I believe that COVID 19 has accelerated already existing trends in the hospitality sector, not only across EMEA but around the world. Those trends are digitalisation, healthy eating, sustainability and increased importance of purpose. 

Now more than ever, customers need extra information, guidance, and support to navigate the new challenges. They are looking for the brands they can trust, that can make them feel safe when everything around seems uncertain. Research shows that 64% of customers choose to buy from socially responsible brands, and it has grown significantly in the past two years. The way the companies and brands step up to play this role for their customers, their employees, and the broader community will define their future in a post-COVID world. 

Hospitality has been badly hit by the pandemic, and unfortunately, recovery will take time.  In addition to low consumer confidence and expected cut back on discretionary spending, like restaurants, outside entertainment, and travel, we can also anticipate some structural changes, as the world is adopting new living, working and collaboration models. 

What is expected from leaders in times of uncertainty and the pandemic crisis? 

Data shows that 75% of employees in the USA and almost a third in Asia report symptoms of burnout, and we see increasing level of pandemic fatigue among Europeans, too. But as Albert Einstein said, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.” 

We have a unique opportunity to do much more than just “get through it.” Leaders can build on pandemic-related accomplishments, like moving to more flexible and innovative working models, implementing new technologies, empowering teams, removing unnecessary bureaucracy and making faster decisions.

But most importantly, the companies are now realising that a greater empathy and compassion creates a workplace that can unleash the full potential of their people. 

COVID-19 brought leadership back to its foundation: making a positive impact in people’s lives. Leaders, who are exhibiting vulnerability and demonstrating empathy and compassion, allow their teams to be human, feel genuinely cared for, and as the crisis evolves, this type of leadership brings the teams together to develop perspective on the situation, plan the post-crisis future and move forward with a stronger value proposition and business model.  

When you think of future consumer behaviour, do you anticipate having more digital interactions as part of the new normal?

COVID brought disruption to normal consumer behaviours. New consumer groups, outside of digitally native Generation Z, have been forced to try digital shopping and entertainment. Behavioural science tells us that it takes an average of two months to form a new habit, and given that we are in the new pandemic reality for a year soon with a very high probability, we can predict that the world will never return back to where it was.

Consumer research confirms a high intent across all consumer groups to incorporate these new behaviours going forward, and the companies need to be ready. In the first half of 2020, e-commerce in the US saw an increase equivalent to that in the previous 10 years, but according to McKinsey research, only 60% of the consumer-goods companies are barely prepared to capture these e-commerce opportunities, as it requires new capabilities and skills. 

As a leader within various businesses, do you see technology as a key challenge or opportunity? What do you think about digital transformation?

New technologies change the value proposition with the three remarkable business capabilities: ubiquitous data, unlimited connectivity, and massive processing power. 

All three capabilities combined completely change what can be done for our customers. The problem for the established businesses is that they can’t always see it. Old, well-established companies need to recognise that what made them successful in the past will become less valuable over time, and most likely their current revenue stream will start to wear down with the changing customer needs, and to survive, they need to change. 

Traditionally, the success of the company depends on having a great strategy. But I believe, in the digital world, strategy is less important. I know it sounds controversial, but the reality is, in the digital economy, what technologies make possible to do, and what customers want changes every day. So, strategy is constantly evolving, and company success depends on being able to recognise when the existing strategy becomes irrelevant and pivot. That’s how digital start-ups operate, and this type of modus operandi every successful digital company should adopt. So, how a company is designed to see these opportunities and its ability to quickly deliver on them define whether technology is a challenge or an opportunity. 

What advice would you give to the IT Leaders in your organisation when they are looking to leverage influence at the Board Level? What is their role in digital transformation?

CIOs can become an invaluable resource for CEOs and C-suite peers to educate on the emerging technology trends and business opportunities they can bring. In order to do that effectively, CIOs need to know the stakeholders and their agendas to determine which can be supported through technology. To be seen not just as a support function, they can meet their peers on a regular basis, find time in the meeting agendas to discuss business technology topics outside of the “to do list,” and build their reputation as a thought partner, constructive challenger and innovation sponsor. It requires IT organisations to be at the right level of maturity to have the capacity to focus not only on operational efficiency and security, but to have credibility as a successful innovator.  

Agility—an ability to react quickly to threats and opportunities—is an increasingly critical capability as the world becomes more digital. And companies can become more agile by learning from their IT teams. 

CIOs have developed a set of agile approaches essential to creating software quickly, many of which can be expanded well beyond IT and applied across an organisation:

  • Agile “Scrums” technique can be applied more broadly across the business to increase the speed of decision making, with the small teams from relevant functions actively working together with a greater authority to make decisions.
  • To democratise data across the organisation, a “single source of truth” principle can be applied more broadly. For example, eliminating confusion among competing data sets in management information systems allows us to refocus discussions on real insights.
  • Reusable IT systems, based on modularity and interoperability, are critical for efficiency. CIOs could influence their organisation to create business processes that can be reused. Implemented correctly, they can free the teams from doing the basics over and over and allow them to focus on actions that add value.
  • Complexity is the enemy of agility. In the IT world, complexity is reduced by limiting the number of variants, using middleware to connect systems and building on standard platforms. By applying the same principles to reduce complexity across the organisation, the companies can reduce unnecessary variability, simplify lines of accountability and delegate decision-making rights down the organisation. 
  • Leveraging the ecosystem. CIOs can help to determine how to further accelerate the innovation efforts by partnering with businesses from outside the organization, sharing ideas, and hosting meetups and hackathons.


Operating in today’s increasingly uncertain and fast changing world requires companies to be agile, to think and act with much greater flexibility, and to create value by innovating with new products and services.  With the suite of innovation approaches and tools under their belts, CIOs naturally can become the sponsors for the company’s innovation agenda even outside of IT and help their companies to develop new, lifesaving skills.


Special thanks to Natalia Barsegiyan and Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland Ltd.

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