How can I be the Nespresso of my industry?

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Discover Service-Design and its implications for transformation

In this warm and free-wheeling interview with Thomas George; Saurabh Das, Group Vice President& Head of Global Service Line- Marketing & Experience Platforms, SapientRazorfish, peels off many mysteries and myths around Service Design and Digital Overhauls, as he allows us a peek into how his team and tools are conquering a new league of challenges. He also makes us think about past-tense, future-tense and well, not being tense

TG: Are you enjoying the recent change of the name-plate? How has it affected what’s under the hood of SapientRazorfish, specially in light of the interesting topsy-turvy times the industry is in?

SD:Yes, we got acquired by Publicis Group and within the group we formed 4 Solution Hubs. As we all know, the whole agency-world has been pretty-much disrupted with the onslaught of technology and consequent change in digital spends. It is not limited to just the top of the funnel too. I guess marketing, itself, has assumed a very different connotation in today’s world. So technology is a key enabler at the new entity we have now. The 4 solution hubs are Publicis Communications (where you will find brands such as Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett); Publicis Media (where you would have brands like Starcom and Zenith Optimedia), Publicis Health as well as the technology-led transformational-solution hub Publicis. Sapient (which has SapientRazorfish and Sapient Consulting). The journey started 24 months back and we’ve undergone a huge level of re-architecture.

Saurabh Das, SapientRazorfish

TG: What makes Sapient Consulting an integral piece of this new army?

SD: Sapient Consulting is the enterprise business and technology arm of Publicis. Sapient brings deep industry depth in the capital and financial markets and commodities markets. It combines deep industry expertise with capability around emerging and enabling technologies.

TG: Digital Business Transformation is what keeps everyone awake and excited though, right?

SD: Yes, all our teams and all our clients. If you think about every single client that we serve globally today, we found them stressed because of these very reasons.
One: their industry is likely to have been disrupted and they are wrestling with a huge past-tense. So not only we are talking about verticals like banking and retail but also left-field industries like the Utilities.
Two: There is an ignore-it-your-own-peril degree of disruption from start-ups too, so you don’t have erstwhile boundaries of industry anywhere now. Somehow that is a right table-stake at this point of time. Every board and every C-suite conversation is, essentially, no longer a conversation of business results.

It is a table-stake question. As a provider, I have to articulate the value I can bring and I have to chart the journey for all the strategic conversations happening.

The question now that an enterprise needs to take on is this: How can I be the Nespresso of my industry? It is about how you actually zoom out your lens. When you are talking about business-outcome to the consumers, you have to be spot-on about what are you making? Here, we also cover another crucial pivot of this journey – technology. All that we are talking is in context of the canvas that has completely changed; so in that sense I can throw a lot of terms around. I can ramble on about AR, VR, AI, Machine learning, Blockchain and everything out there; but if I think of a far-deeper perspective around a lot of digital technology that we are facing, I would know that the real challenge is how to make it contextual to each industry and what can we do for that.

Can we marry all these worries and questions? That’s where SapientRazorfish’s proposition comes into play. We bring all axes together and it’s all about how you reimagine your business for future.

TG: Since you are focused on value-conversations, what are the KPI’s that you set and get measured around?

SD: We have always been about measurability. Going back to Sapient’s origin too, you will notice that even when the terms were not quite in vogue in the industry, we stuck to that approach.
Today, when we are talking about value, we can use yardsticks around new revenue-streams, customer-loyalty, monetisable opportunities and engagements, continuity of brands etc.

TG: You talk so passionately about the experience-centric economy. Can you elaborate that with SapientRazorfish’s own Service-Design framework? Also, how is it unique when compared with other major and established companies?

SD: The transformation, that I allude to, has been driven by the unprecedented pace at which technology is changing – thanks to the emergence of always-on connectivity, Cloud services, social media, Internet of Things, mobile devices, Big Data, and Sensor Technology. This rapid change will continue to be at the core of transformation in the way brands deliver services.Brands must consider how ongoing digitisation affects their business and find ways to be competitive.

In that context, service-design provides an orchestration framework that considers multiple layers of an interaction from both the customer’s and an organization’s perspective. The orchestration lets you harmonize efforts between the ‘Front Stage’ where the customer interacts with the brand/organization through various touch-points and ‘Back Stage’ where the supporting activities take place to render all products and services. Between the two scapes lies an invisible line that separates the Front and the Back Stage. We call it ‘the line of visibility’. It represents how frictionless the activities of an organization are in context of rendering a service across channels.

TG: How can organizations leverage that insight in the real transformation-exercises they take?

SD: It’s important to understand Service-Design as a strategic exercise; and that it involves the exchange of value-data, information and benefits that runs across an interconnected ecosystem tying the business to itself and to its consumers. This often needs a complete transformation of organization structure, culture and enterprise technology blueprint. That is the reason why Front Stage transformation can’t happen without the transformation of the Back Stage itself.To maximize the impact of Service-Design undertakings; businesses must break silos, establish constant communication and open collaboration between various departments.

TG: Does your consulting phase entail clients’ customers journey-mapping as well?

SD: Yes absolutely. As I’ve mentioned above, we envision new customer journeys based on a deep understanding of the customer needs, motivations and behavior. This is a core component of our ‘radical customer-centric’ approach. We ensure that business operations (process, tools, technology, data and policies) are set up to deliver to end-to-end vision, which is pivoted on customer-centricity.

Also, we look at customer journeys far more holistically across all channels to create service-blueprints. Ensuring that journeys are not confined to just the digital space but unifying the digital and the physical – that is crucial. This is a significant departure from web-centric thinking that only maps various digital channels.

This is important for verticals such as Insurance, where journeys and interactions are fragmented across digital and physical scapes. Service experience and continuity with fluid exchange of data are paramount to remove any channel silos.

TG: Is Sapient Razorfish aiming at end-to-end digital transformation journey like Accenture, IBM &Deloittes of the world? What’s your positioning?

SD:Interestingly enough, our competitive landscape entails the likes of EY, PwC and McKinsey. But we also partner with McKinsey on some transformations.
As for the big IT consultants like IBM, Accenture’s, Deloitte etc, we compete with our own strong propositions that cover purposeful industry-sharp solutions shaped on really-niche answers.

TG: Does Sapient Razorfish work for digitally-led customers like e-tailers etc. apart from the traditional industry-verticals mentioned earlier?

SD: Yes. Actually any industry that you pick up, of the top 10 brands by revenue or by any recognition we would easily be working with at least 5. On the disruptors’ side too, there are enough. They are started by large organizations as well as funded separately. For example – one of our largest banking clients in Canada actually had a banking licence to start a completely digitally-led bank and that’s what we were working on – how to make them far more agile so that they can actually compete in the fierce and turbulent market shaken with lightning-speed changes.

TG: What are your biggest revenue-contributing verticals?

SD: From an industry perspective: Financial Services, Automotive, Retail, Travel & Hospitality, Telco & Media, CPG & Healthcare amongst others, are some of the industries where we are seeing huge traction.


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