HCL Technologies: Huge outsourcer explains the digital enterprise

The top marketer at a Fortune 500 consulting company explains why digital transformation is different from marketing. Key advice from a world-class leader.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor
Matt Preschern, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, HCL Technologies
Matt Preschern, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, HCL Technologies (image courtesy of cxotalk.com)

With $6 billion in revenue and 100,000 employees, HCL Technologies is a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest technology consulting companies in the world. During a discussion on CXOTalk, their Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Matt Preschern, spoke about digital transformation and the empowered consumer.

The conversation was particularly interesting because of Matt's clarity about the distinction between digital marketing and strategic transformation on a broader level.

For marketers, digital usually means the activities a modern agency performs - digital marketing, social media, lead generation, and what used to be called "interactive."

Although these marketing activities are important, they are not the same as undertaking fundamental business changes that affect a company's underlying digital posture.

For example, digital at Uber or AirBnB is not just marketing. It's a foundational position, set of operating procedures, and technologies supported by a digital business model.

Likewise, Amazon is not digital because of marketing, although marketing is important. Rather, Amazon's core operations rely on the website coupled with a business model that couples low cost with supply chain and distribution efficiencies across a range of services.

These distinctions are important because the scope of genuine digital transformation extends deeply through an organization to its culture, competencies, and entire value chain. Again, marketing is crucial, but it's not the entire picture.

The CXOTalk conversation with HCL Technologies CMO, Matt Preschern, offers important listening to anyone interested in digital transformation. Watch the entire conversation on video below.

Here is a transcript of key comments from MattPreschern, edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about the empowered consumer.

The empowered customer expects a digital experience across all touch points. Always keep in mind, your customers are interacting with your company and they going to interact with your web page. They may interact with your call center. They're going to receive a bill from you. They're going to do a search on Google. When they, hopefully, they will have a consistent experience that is authentic with your brand promise.

If your product is selling great, but your customer support and call center are not working when they have an issue, that customer experience will cause some level of reaction.

As a marketer, you can absolutely do nothing about it, other than continuously improving your customer experience.

I link customer experience to customer loyalty and, ultimately even one step further, where a customer actually recommends you.

What is business transformation?

Digitalization has to start with a business proposition, with a thought about where you want to take your business, and then you can really think about your entire ecosystem of connections, the entire ecosystem of partners that need to be digitally enabled end-to-end.

True digital enterprises are connected to front-end and the back; they have platforms in place that allow us to do that.

Are you giving your employees access to the right systems? Are you training then the right way? Are you giving them the leeway to interact in the proper way?

Why does digital transformation get confused with marketing?

If you think back a few years, a lot of the digital projects kind of came out of what we called interactive. And a lot of interactive came out of an agency world that was usually hired to be part of your extended ecosystem or skills.

But a digital enterprise is more than that. It's more than deploying a point solution; it's more than a mobile app or a web portal or a social media solution, which basically helps with your interaction.

Think about Uber or Airbnb; it's pretty significant what those companies have done. Uber looked at the digital experience and across the entire value chain or ecosystem, and said, "There's drivers, there's cars, there's pricing."

There is a different model of customer support and creating a digital system end-to-end across that entire value chain or ecosystem. That is a digital enterprise.

For historical reasons, we defined digital more as being front-end customer-centric.

But, if you don't connect those pieces with your back-end systems, and if you also don't train your employees to work in a different way, and you don't think through the business model implications, I don't think you will end up with a digital enterprise.

The reason why I believe lots of companies need help in that area is because what I just described is obviously not easy to do.

Advice to marketers.

First and foremost, if we as marketeers want to be successful, we have to embrace what I call the culture of experimentation and constantly challenging the status quo. The notion of that you have time and time is on your side is a fallacy.

And with that also comes the acceptance that not everything that we do is going to be 100% right. As leaders, we have to create a culture and an environment where we allow those who work for and with us to make mistakes, and then embrace that as something we need to get better.

Marketing for marketing's sake in its own right is not going to work. You have to ensure that your marketing priorities are 100% aligned with the business.

But also just move fast. Fast, fast, and fast again.

CXOTalk brings together the world's top executives, authors, and industry analysts to discuss leadership, technology, and innovation. Join me and Vala Afshar for new episodes of CXOTalk every week.

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