The Digital Accelerator Interview: Abhi Dhar, Walgreens
Walgreens chief technology officer Abhi Dhar spoke with us at I ♥ APIs 2014 after his company was named Top Digital Accelerator.
Having served as a CIO at his former employer, Abhi offered a unique perspective on how digital leadership roles are changing as businesses like Walgreens increasingly operate in the digital economy.
“You can call them a CTO, you can call them a chief digital officer—it depends on your business … but what is extremely important is you have to understand data, you have to understand technology capability, you have to understand consumer value propositions, you need to understand economics intimately. And then, in that particular scrum, you represent one point of view."
Because of the new demands of doing business digitally, he explained, traditional titles must evolve.
“There is an opportunity to merge a lot of functions that were traditionally IT or traditionally business into unified roles,” he said.
When Dhar joined Walgreens in 2009, the board of the largest U.S. drug store chain had already committed to “doubling down” on their investment in digital. Their new CTO was charged with boosting the company’s mobile efforts. In this position, Dhar handles both the engineering and commercial responsibilities for mobile, giving him yet another unique perspective on the convergence of roles.
“It is no longer about IT and business,” he said. “It’s about a consumer value proposition enabled by technology.”
Walgreens partnered with Apigee to help drive that philosophy. That said, the relationship goes well-beyond developing an API strategy.
“We could have done a lot of this stuff ourselves,” Dhar said. “We wanted to partner with a company that lived in this ecosystem, and understood the changes that were coming in this ecosystem, which is fundamentally changing all the time. So we partnered with Apigee.”