You Had One Job...


How many of us, actually, do a single thing for work? If you're in the technology, retail, education, consumer products, travel, spirits, healthcare, ecommerce, fashion, finserv, marketing/communications and certainly the start-up-of-any-kind business, you likely do at least two or three things for a living.

Most days I feel like I've got about five jobs. But I'm not complaining, and you probably aren't either. We tell ourselves we live for the thrill of pressure and thrive on complexity. Also, it's just the way it is. This new, buzzed-out shared reality inside the churning neoliberal global commerce machine. And I mean this quite un-ironically and, mostly, without political commentary...

Still, many companies operating in the thin climes of Fortune 1000+ altitude, continue to tinker with their C-level job descriptions and hires. Look no further than the much-besieged role of chief marketing officer for plentiful evidence.

A recent blog post by a trio of PwC consultants inspired me to a deeper think about what sorts of officers enterprises actually do need and benefit from having, as a top-down strategy for surviving at least another seven or eight quarters. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, seems to be the average life span of the unluckily appointed CMOs.

The gist of the PwC guys' pitch is that the world has changed and digital is the thing that changed it. That's why hip, switched-on companies that need to compete with other equally hip and switched-on companies should be hiring impossibly hip and, like totally, switched-on digital big brains if they really do want to win.

This makes zero sense to me. I've been doing digital since there was such a thing, founding a small digital shop in 1994 hanging on for nine wild years across the dotcomeggedon, spending the past twenty-three years living the digital dream. By my reckoning, digital isn't a thing that needs an officer. Digital is the oxygen, the fabric, the sinew, bones and flesh of our businesses, our brands and our marketing. Having a chief digital officer in 2017 seems as ridiculous to me as having a chief electrical officer in 1917.

Make no mistake - every senior exec at the corporate officer level must be a digitalist, in that she's got to understand and apply actionable digital theory to everything her group thinks about and does. Saying a single officer owns 'digital' dangerously creates yet another silo of roped-off competency and turf, at the exact time we need to be reducing if not shattering organizational silos.

I think it's equally wrong-headed to be hiring and listening to chief innovation officers or chief creative officers. Digital, innovation and creativity must be core, strategic characteristics endemic to all leaders and managers of a company if they're going to compete, survive and thrive in this century.

While we're deleting executive job reqs, I think we'll soon see companies losing the chief marketing officer role for a similar reason - marketing in all its manifest forms becomes a function essentially baked-in to everything a business and a brand does. Yes, this from a guy who has spent the past 30+ years in the global marketing services business across every channel and category. A man who's raised five kids on money from checks either signed or authorized by CMOs.

Yet, I do believe there's room for one more officer at the table, one that replaces the CMO role with a more broad and yet intensely specific remit. Value creation, brought to you by the chief value officer. Why would a silo-leveling troublemaker like me suggest adding another C-level?... My defense is simple: it's not a net-new suit joining the harried crowd at the officers' table. Smart businesses will be losing the chief marketing officer job title, replacing them with an even scarier, seemingly impossible three-part remit for the freshly recruited CVO:

a. value creation for the humans we need to get and keep as customers;
b. value capture to the business's bottom line from getting 'a' right;
c. repeat, relentlessly & enduringly.

About ten years ago, another consulting firm (Deloitte) began a modest call for companies to develop this new role of chief value officer, but the job description they were suggesting was much closer to a chief revenue officer with a happy face appended. We're suggesting something different, something perhaps more radical, but something that should have been the first and most important job of all those CMOs spinning through our c-suite revolving doors for the past fifty years - human value creation.

The logic is pretty straight forward. Regardless of what sort of widgets your business makes and sells, you're not in the widgets business - or the selling or the servicing business, or the digital business, or revenue business, or innovation business, or the data business, or the creativity business - you're in the value business now. That's all that matters to the people who matter most to your bottom line: the humans we'd be honored to call our customers.

It doesn't take an officer of any imaginable type or pay level to remind us that, if we create more value for them - and job no. 1, by the way, is replacing all your wasted 'advertising' with value marketing - incremental value will return to the business, its stakeholders and its shareholders. If you really did have just one job, can you imagine how much fun creating value for a living might be?

Me too.

The First Rule of Leadership? Show Up!

Surely that is the quote of the UK’s recent general election...the United Kingdom, a country once prized for its stability, pragmatism and global leadership seems to be having a torrid time of late. The Scottish Referendum, Brexit, conservative leadership elections and now a “hung parliament” (i.e. no clear majority). The incumbent Prime Minister, Theresa May put “strong and stable leadership” at the centre of her campaign and then proceeded to throw way a stonking lead because the country didn’t believe her. The Tory campaign for government was in fact one of the worst in political history. The “no show” at the televised leader’s debate and the manifesto U turn really did sink them. The big lesson for me however is about leadership.

There are important lessons for leaders and the craft of leadership from the UK’s general election. Vision really, really matters. The ability to think about the future with imagination and wisdom and work hard to attract others to back it. A vision of what the country (or organization) will be and how it will capture value; how people will live (and work) together and what skills they’ll need for the future. With good timing, the Center for the Future of Work has just published a new report called Relearning Leadership in the Second Machine Age. The reason why we chose to focus on leadership is because we feel that leadership models need a reboot. Organizational value increasingly pivots around data and the blend between the physical and the virtual worlds (we’ve written about this a lot and our latest take we describe it as Europe’s Digital Imperative). Market watchers, CEOs, business leaders etc. all now recognize we are in the midst of a major economic shift; a profound realignment in how people and organizations work together to create value. So what does it mean to be a leader today?

Today’s leaders have to deal with far more complex, messy and diverse choices (and roles) than just five years ago. Our ideas articulated in the SMAC stack published in 2012 signalled the start of the digital shift. If SMAC seems easy to understand it’s because it was. Today’s rapid fire of artificial intelligence, robots, drones, virtual/augmented reality, blockchain or 3D printing creates confusion and paralysis. Business models are in a state of flux, operating models are under pressure and legacy cost structures are creating headaches in an era of stunning change. Organizations and their people need higher levels of agility, innovation and creativity than ever before. We’ve got the proof too: results from our Work Ahead survey ran at the end of last year point toward a generation of leaders finding the shift difficult (check out our findings here). An executive class is struggling to balance the promise of the new with the realities of what they have to work with while all too easy to underestimate institutional inertia. Cultures that have grown up over decades can be large, unwieldy and complex – even at times paranoid and complacent. In our report, we call them zombie organizations and they must be fought at every turn.

However, the challenge for leaders is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (don’t get rid of something good when trying to get rid of something bad). The reason why an industry exists around management and leadership theory is that management and leadership theory generally works! My advice is don’t junk the suit just yet and turn up to work looking like Jeremy Clarkson (trainers, jeans, sharp jackets—yes, we’ve all done it) and expect kudos from your business unit or team. Don’t be tempted either to reject what’s worked before. Many would be innovators deal with the trade-off between efficiency and innovation by rejecting traditional management entirely. They repeat mantras about breaking all the rules and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. They set up skunk works (small autonomous units with a remit to innovate) and mock the big boring corporate types that actually ensure they’re paid each week. Mocking them will only encourage you to be starved of money and executive support when it’s needed.

What our report does argue is that successful leaders of the future must switch into three clear roles. Switch into software and pivot on platforms, accelerate innovation (hyper innovation we call it) and nail human insight into every single customer experience. The real challenge then is motivating your workforce to embrace the vision of change. Please do read our report, Relearning Leadership in the Second Machine Age and join the conversation.

Every click, swipe, "like," buy, comment, deposit, jog and search produces information that creates a unique virtual identity - something we call

Code Halo

Code Halo TM
Learn more ยป

Focus on the Front Office to Get Customers Back... Again and Again

In some ways, modernizing customer experience processes is “the story of digital” so far. It has been a powerful catalyst for redesigning and re-imagining sales and the customer experience in general. And brand experience has been a huge motivator for customers – liking Netflix, crafting your own Starbucks signature drink, feeling the cool verve of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire of products and services. The more customers like the experience, the more they want to engage, give feedback and collaborate with it. For many products and services, co-creation with favorite brands is the name of the B2C or B2B game.

So, why are so many of us at our wit’s end when we experience bad customer care? Have we grown too blasé at the amazing potential of digital technologies? As customers, it’s frustrating when we see the obvious blind spots our favorite, trusted brands have failed to address when we interact with them – whether it’s the bad self-checkout robot at the grocery store, or the automated kiosk at the airline you’ve used for 20 years asking you to “Press 1 for English,” or robo-calls from your favorite charity asking for a donation, even though you made a PayPal contribution last week.

Our new research from the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work entitled “The Work Ahead: Soaring Out of the Process Silo” highlights data-based insights and tactical advice on applying new digital technologies to front-, middle- and back-office work processes to realize new levels of business performance.

We analyzed the responses from 136 senior sales and customer service executives in our dataset on how they think digital will transform work between now and 2020.

With killer apps, beautifully designed websites or even sensor-enabled soda bottles, many companies are already moving in this direction, Still, much more can be done to drive digital at the heart of the value chains surrounding customer-facing and front-office functions. Based on the responses from sales and customer service executives , it’s clear that many levers connected to data will be critical to improving processes over the next decade. Approximately 61% cited cybersecurity as pre-eminent by 2025, followed closely by big data (60%) and sensors/IoT (48%). However, for many, some basic foundational engagement technologies (such as telepresence, nanotechnologies and wearables) are perceived as being far from promising in the long term.

The more customers like the experience, the
more they want to engage, give feedback and
collaborate with it. For many products and
services, co-creation with favorite brands is
the name of the B2C or B2B game.

SaaS platforms like Salesforce have proved the concept for sales enablement software. Already, cloud-based platforms such as Cognizant’s Onvida are powering next-generation, omnichannel BPaaS solutions and digital customer experience processes. Case in point: Onvida is helping a leading global food and beverage company drive $37 million in cost savings and over $150 million in revenue uplift. Other companies, such as Zendesk, are turning reviews, comments and messages into two-way customer service conversations. Still others, such as Afiniti, are using AI to optimize interpersonal behavior with “super agents” when nothing less than a top-flight, human-to-human call is called for.

Keep Confronting the Front Office Digitally

Practice makes perfect. Even if your customer-facing functions have been on the vanguard of your organization’s digital process change efforts, your team needs to keep refining them. The days of forcing customers to align with your company’s (often bad) processes are numbered, so it’s high time to re-imagine all front-, middle and back-office processes to support your customers.

Here are some steps to anticipate and accelerate change:

TODAY: Get a mirror – see the ugliness (your customers already do).

If your company’s customer experience processes are ugly, there’s never been a better time (and better digital process tools) to fix them. Take a good, long look. Acceptance is half the battle. And even if your processes aren’t exactly ugly, but could stand to be even more beautiful, don’t stop! What’s “perfect” is always in a state of change, so keep looking, keep changing and keep perfecting. Your customers will reward you.

TOMORROW: Beauty is more than skin-deep – customer-facing process change needs to be outside and inside.

Digital allows opportunities to be unlocked in real time. By having meaningful data about how customers have interacted with customer support in the past, sales people can be made “smart,” and can proactively serve customers. Processes found in customer experience centers will need to re-calibrate around “handling sessions,” using the digital fingerprint (or “Code Halo” ) that is generated by every customer click, like, swipe, comment, call, inquiry and so on. Chat-bots especially are starting to emerge as a useful plumb-bob in the digital world to cohere these interactions. Patterns will emerge, such as the types of interventions and clarifications conducted, yielding a powerful lever for customer service, speed, efficiency and effectiveness. Gone is the need to complete the typical 15-step process to ascertain things like, “Why’d you call? What do you want? Where are you located?” Instead, a tangible sense of efficiency and experience is substituted – to get business moving faster and smarter.

ONE TO TWO YEARS: Turn the mirror on customers – watch them watching you.

Imagine the richness of process data – known and unknown – and how you could unlock it using digital technologies or new process platforms. Imagine crafting an algorithm for 10, 100 or 1,000 of the top 1% of your customers, all of whom share certain common characteristics. Like digital stalwarts Amazon, Apple and many others, you need to use new technologies such as sensors or big data analytics to gauge how customers may be interacting with your sales or customer service processes differently. Laser-focus on aspects of your best customers’ digital interactions and transpose them, either by demographic, region or sectors of your sales force, to drive outsized results for the business.