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Craig Brabec, Senior Vice President, Chief Data Analytics Officer, Best Buy

Describe your career to date

As Best Buy’s Chief Data Analytics Officer, I am accelerating the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), fueled by data, for immediate value across the global enterprise. I am leading the AI implementation, enterprise data transformation, establishing best-in-class data analytics, tightly aligned to and helping shape company strategy. This includes evangelizing these changes throughout Best Buy. 

Prior to joining Best Buy as Senior Vice President, Chief Data Analytics Officer, I was the Chief Data Analytics Officer at McDonald’s, Global Director of Data Analytics for Ford Motor Company, Senior Vice President, Chief Data Analytics Officer for McKesson, and Chief of Analytics for Caterpillar Inc.  

Additionally, I was part of Deloitte’s strategy and operations practice, and I was a Lieutenant in the US Navy. 

Throughout my career I have obtained several distinctions, including Data Innovator of the Year, DataIQ Most Influential People in Data (twice in the top 10), 2023 Data Leaders to Watch, 2023 Analytics 50, and International Institute of Analytics Project of the Year. I have been highlighted in the WSJ, MIT Sloan, Forbes, Deloitte AI Institute, and several podcasts. I am an Adjunct Instructor at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and have previously advised other colleges and universities on data analytics curriculums. 
Finally, I am a member of the National Business and Industry Leadership Team for the National Science Foundation and I serve on the Business Roundtable for INFORMS. 

My passion projects are promoting STEM to youth worldwide, most notably with the FIRST Robotics and Coderina (Coder in Africa) organizations. 

Data literacy is a key enabler of the value and impact from data. How are you approaching this within your organization? 

As CDAOs, we must lead by example, emphasizing data’s importance in decision-making, encouraging data sharing, and setting data-related goals. To drive transformational change and fully harness the value of data and analytics, integrate these capabilities into the responsibilities of every team member, rather than confining them to a select group of technical practitioners.  

At Best Buy, we actively prioritize the facilitation of data-driven decision-making by infusing analytics into our daily business operations. We align our analytical efforts with pertinent business queries, ensuring that data and analytics actively drive measurable business outcomes. We have made significant strides in fortifying our data infrastructure, with a clear focus on tackling our most critical analytics use cases from the outset. 

We are implementing data training and education programs, offering user-friendly data access and visualization tools, and fostering a data-driven culture within the organization. Training initiatives provide employees with essential data skills, while accessible tools simplify data exploration. 

What role do you play in building and delivering conventional AI solutions, including machine learning models? Are you involved in your organization’s adoptions of generative AI? 

As the CDAO at Best Buy, my primary role revolves around leveraging data to drive strategic decision-making and enhance operational efficiency. In the realm of conventional AI solutions, including machine learning models, my responsibilities are multifaceted.  

Firstly, I oversee the development and implementation of machine learning models aimed at optimizing various aspects of our retail operations. This includes demand forecasting to ensure optimal inventory levels, personalized recommendation systems to enhance the customer shopping experience, and predictive analytics for pricing strategies. My team and I work collaboratively to identify relevant data sources, preprocess and clean the data, select appropriate algorithms, and fine-tune models for accuracy.  

In addition to building and delivering AI solutions, I play a crucial role in fostering a data-driven culture within the organization. This involves promoting awareness of the value of data-driven insights, providing training programs for employees to enhance their data literacy, and ensuring that decision-makers across departments understand and trust the outputs of AI models.  

I also lead exploring and strategizing the adoption of generative AI (genAI) within the organization. GenAI has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of retail – from creative content generation for marketing to the development of virtual shopping assistants. My role includes assessing the feasibility and potential applications of these technologies within our business model. I collaborate with data scientists, researchers, and technology experts to evaluate the impact and risks associated with genAI adoption. This involves staying abreast of the latest advancements in the field, understanding ethical considerations, and aligning genAI initiatives with the overall business strategy. 

How are you preparing your organization for AI adoption and change management? 

As CDAO, leading Best Buy in AI adoption and the associated changes is a multifaceted endeavor that necessitates careful planning and execution. The first step is to weave data analytics into Best Buy’s business strategy and objectives to ensure that AI initiatives align seamlessly with these goals. Think big, start small, and act fast. 

Show what is possible with leaders with proofs of concept – engage with key stakeholders across the organization, from the C-suite to store employees, to secure adoption of AI initiatives. A comprehensive change management plan is crucial, addressing potential resistance to AI adoption and encompassing communication strategies, training, and support for employees. 

Assess the existing data infrastructure, identify any deficiencies, and address data quality, storage, and accessibility issues. Data governance must also be prioritized, with the development and enforcement of policies to ensure security, privacy, and regulatory compliance. Talent acquisition and development play a pivotal role, with a focus on recruiting or upskilling existing employees to build a proficient data and AI team. 

Ethical and responsible AI principles must guide the entire journey, covering fairness, transparency, and accountability. Risk management strategies should be in place to address issues such as algorithmic biases, security vulnerabilities, 

Finally, adaptability is key, as the AI landscape continues to evolve and Best Buy’s needs change. Continually assess the return on investment of AI initiatives to make data-driven decisions regarding resource allocation. 

Craig Brabec
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2024 (USA)
  • No. 3 100 Brands 2022 (USA)
  • No. 7 100 Brands 2023 (USA)