- Grocery chain Kroger is replacing retiring CIO Christopher Hjelm with current chief digital officer Yael Cosset effective May 1, according to a company announcement on Tuesday.
- Cosset is expected to take over leadership for Kroger Technology while maintaining "his current Kroger Digital portfolio," according to the announcement. Hjelm and Cosset already work in collaboration on the Restock Kroger technology initiative, a three-year plan to make the company more competitive.
- Cosset joined as CDO in January 2017 and served in the CIO role at previous companies. Hjelm will stay on as EVP and report to CEO Rodney McMullen until his retirement on Aug. 1.
Kroger is a grocer flirting with a "tech company" status. Hjelm served as Kroger's CIO since 2005 and during that time contributed to leading grocery-related innovations including Kroger's digital Edge Shelf technology, according to the announcement.
The CDO role is relatively new for companies and, arguably a temporary one, if they are able to digitize projects into the everyday functions of a business. Traditionally, the CDO focuses more on how a company implements technologies rather than the tools themselves.
Companies in the midst of market downturns look to the CDO to revamp digital strategies, as showcased by Lowe's creation of the position in December 2017.
Cosset's role as CDO in Kroger Digital is to support "the strategic integration of digital and technology initiatives" to make a more continuous omnichannel experience for customers, according to the announcement.
But with digital falling into the realm of CIO responsibilities as IT, digital technologies and corporate strategies need alignment. In August, Avon also combined its CDO and CTO positions. The consolidation of the CIO and CDO roles is an addition to Kroger's continuous technology evolution.
The grocer has been aggressive in its technology pursuits, which includes in-depth partnerships with Microsoft. Kroger is not only an Azure customer, but became more of a strategic partner earlier this month.
Kroger and Microsoft developed the Edge Shelf technology in partnership, which is intended to help grocers offer a more personalized and interactive shopping experience while reducing the need for printed price tags.
The technology is also accessible through customers' smartphones, as more grocers and retailers take stock in digital solutions. Kroger is leveraging Azure to develop, pilot and then commercialize a retail as a service product.
The relationship between Kroger and Microsoft is proving symbiotic, as the legacy tech provider is looking to use Kroger's grocery expertise to shape Azure and AI tools to fit the retail industries' specific needs.