Organizations that want to stay relevant in the age of disruption need to reconsider everything from their culture to their business model – taking control of data is no longer enough.

At the 10th annual Hub Forum, which this year brought everyone from Accenture, Amazon and Facebook to Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Waze and of course Sitel Group to the heart of Paris to share best practices in the age of business disruption, made one thing very clear. The businesses that want to thrive in the future need to do more than simply embrace digital tools and data processing. They have to continually rethink their business model in order to stay relevant to customers and potential employees alike.

New types of transformation

The Hub Institute has been championing transformation and actively supporting organizations who want to realign their business so they’re customer-centric and data-savvy for the past 10 years. However, even within that comparatively short space of time, the concept of transformation itself has already markedly changed.

According to the Hub Institute’s co-founder, Emmanuel Vivier, one of the major factors in this redefinition is consumer behavior. 

“Your customers are changing faster than you and they’ve got you on the ropes because they have all of the power,” he explains. “So, for example, if you have a sub-optimal product, your customers have the tools to not only know, but to filter your brand out of their lives altogether. This ‘fight’ with your customers, isn’t a digital transformation, it’s a business transformation.”

It still means embracing digital and removing internal silos to take control of data; and it still means making the customer experience a fundamental business priority. But it also means undertaking what the Hub Institute has chosen to call a Smart Business Reboot. If your organization goes through all of the internal disruption of digital change but then uses these tools and processes to conduct business as usual, it’s not going to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.

Do something different

“This is a very complicated moment in time for large organizations,” states Mathieu Morgensztern, Country Manager, WPP. “It’s a moment where they have to understand how the market is evolving and have to focus on long-term growth. Without a long-term vision you won’t continue to have success.”

WPP commissioned a global study analyzing different organizations to shine a light on what the best-performing businesses are doing differently. It expected the study to highlight the importance of digital transformation but it goes further. “Poor performing companies are only focused on their current market and their current share within that market,” explains Morgensztern “Over-performing firms are considering entirely new business models.”

Crucially, this change in mindset applies to any company in any industry as Alexandre Viros revealed. He’s CEO for e-voyageurs at SNCF, France’s national railway operator. But in today’s world, seeing oneself as a provider of rail services is a short-sighted mistake. 

“Our customers don’t live in a train station,” Viros states. “Our job should be to provide a solution to their mobility needs.” 

Combining with your competitors

This realization is why the SNCF has developed a mobility-as-a-service app that not only ties together different modes of transport from different providers, including direct competitors, it enables users to create a multimodal journey and pay for it – everything from car parking at the train station to the e-scooter that will take them from a metro stop to their final destination – within the app. “If we really want to be where our customers are and really partner with them, we have to give them digital continuity,” Viros says.

The combination of constantly changing the business model and working with, rather than against, the competition may seem counterintuitive but it’s by taking this approach that Amazon has become one of the world’s most valuable companies.

It started out as a disruptive book seller but now offers everything from cloud computing and video on demand to AI, smart-home appliances and now, advertising; even if it means helping an organization that competes directly with one of its own product lines. 

Make your data work for you

“Everything we offer across our businesses gives us an incredible level of customer insight, and the more we offer, the more insights we have,” explains Stéphane Grenier, Managing Director, Amazon Advertising France. “Now we’re using that insight to help you better target your own brand at potential customers.”

But whatever it is that Amazon’s offering next, the company is doing so because of data. “You need to ask yourself how do you govern, use and make a profit from your data,” says Perle Bagot, Hub Institute Associate Director. “Your capabilities in relation to data will decide how well you can feed your business into the future.”

And as SNCF demonstrates, a true transformation is about making that data flow beyond your own business borders. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean sharing information with companies that are your potential competitors. If your partners or other businesses within a shared ecosystem aren’t on the same page, you’re missing an incredible opportunity to connect with and serve your existing customers and convert prospects.

Connected knowledge

“No matter how mature, I have never encountered a company with a true relational database or knowledge graph,” reveals Wendi Sturgis, CEO Europe for Yext. “You have to have a data strategy that creates relationships between brands, categories and events.”

Thanks to social messaging, catboats and smart speaker systems, consumers have stopped searching for keywords. Today, they use natural language, usually in the form of a question when interrogating Google for advice. And, unless your organization is capable of breaking down that request into its individual intents and serving the right answer, Google, or one of your competitors, will do it instead.

Thanks to social messaging, catboats and smart speaker systems, consumers have stopped searching for keywords. Today, they use natural language, usually in the form of a question when interrogating Google for advice. And, unless your organization is capable of breaking down that request into its individual intents and serving the right answer, Google, or one of your competitors, will do it instead.

The moment of intent

So, for example, if you happen to be Jaguar Land Rover and someone were to pose Google the question; “Where is the closest dealership near me open now with a Range Rover in stock?” you would need access to the entire dealership network, its current inventory and of course the geolocation tools to understand where the potential customer is, in order to definitely answer the question.

It may sound like a huge investment and a lot of development work, but intent questions already represent 25% of all Google searches and are 37% more likely to result in a click through. Therefore it’s a lower acquisition cost than using ad words and crucially, there are no data protection issues involved in delivering what feels like a personal service to the customer. “The question can be broken down to an intent. If you can answer that intent, you don’t need to know anything personal about the customer,” Sturgis points out. “There’s no demographic information. There’s no personal data to hold or process.”

In a world where the GDPR is over a year old and California and New York are getting ready to introduce similar legislation; this could be a game changer. However, organizations that really want to be there at the moment of intent, no matter how that intent changes, need to have these types of capabilities in house. A transformation isn’t a one and done process. It’s simple to reach out to consultants to undergo the initial change, but to keep evolving in line with the market and consumers driving it, means having the talent at your fingertips. And this could be as big a challenge as being able to recognize different business models or forming strategic partnerships with competitors.

Valuing the next generation

“Table football? A Chief Happiness Officer? How are you going to attract the next generation of digital talent to your organization?” asks Bagot. “The answer is about values. You have to communicate and prove that you are an organization with a clear purpose and positive culture.”

Actively and honestly promoting these values is a major factor behind Sitel Group’s decision to create MAX – My Associate eXperience. “We had to make sure we were putting our people at the heart of our business, especially as we operate in an industry that’s becoming more interconnected, technological and automated,” explains COO Olivier Camino. “If you want to focus on delivering customer experience, you need to realize the employee experience is the customer experience.”

In this respect, MAX is the next logical step on a continuous business transformation. It formalizes new ways of working together, and of recognizing the role front-line staff play not just in seamlessly delivering for countless brands, but in promoting Sitel as a place to work. 

“To be successful; an organization has to have no silos,” says Camino. “Everyone needs to know they’re involved in the company’s future, even in working on the roadmap. This is why we decided to forget what we thought we knew and build an internal community and then hand over the development and the messaging and innovation to the community’s members – our people.”

Transformation is crucial for any organization that wants to continue moving forward and moving closer to its customers, but as technology and generations change, so is the definition of transformation itself. However, thanks to the progress that so many organizations have made in changing their path, rearticulating their values and taking back control of their technology in recent years, the road to business success has never been so clearly signposted. But only for businesses prepared to take that first step.


Sitel Group