Episode: 242 |
CV Ramachandran:
Digital Transformation:


CV Ramachandran

Digital Transformation

Show Notes

Umbrex member C.V. Ramachandran has three decades of consulting experience, having served as a senior leader at Booz Allen Hamilton, A.T. Kearney, AlixPartners, and Accenture.

Today he runs his own consulting practice focused on digital transformation.

In our discussion, C.V. shares a perspective on the impact the coronavirus will have on B2C and B2B businesses.

To follow up with C.V., connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cv-ramachandran/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman and I’m here today with CV Ramachandran, who has a long career in consulting with strategy and operations with a real focus on digital transformation. CV, it is great to have you on the show.

Thank you very much. Well, it’s it’s a pleasure to speak with you today.

Will Bachman 00:25
So we’re talking here on March 27, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and a lot of us are working from home. And a lot of companies are probably thinking about, you know, shifting even more things online or, you know, doing a digital transformation for the future. We’d love to get your thoughts as we kick off here on what do you see, particularly on the business to consumer side, we can talk separately about business to business, but what do you see as some of the big changes that we’re probably going to be seeing companies do in terms of digital transformations b2c?

Absolutely. Well, I mean, this is really a very strange environment for us all to be experiencing. And you know, all the news around COVID-19 is negative. I mean, there’s very little passive there. But if you really think about what COVID-19 is forcing us to do, is in some ways, it is forcing us to think about digital transformation in our personal lives, right, in as as employees or students, as teachers and all that stuff. And so if you just think about a few ideas around how digital transformation, you know, is playing into the covid 19 pandemic, what is this ability to work from home has taken off in a way nobody could have ever anticipated a month or two back. And I think what people are finding out, is that one meetings that were, for example, in our lawn, now can be done in 15 minutes, because you basically focus on the topic at hand, and you can move on, as opposed to I don’t know, the all the other stuff that goes on normally at work. And I think people are finding that the ability to schedule and connect up with with colleagues at work is actually getting better, because it’s less wasted time with with moving around or with, you know, conversations that are not meeting somewhere. So that’s one that’s actually working out really well, from the business consumer side, I think it’s going to change the way we think about working at home, we’ve we’ve had a shock, and it’s it’s great an impact, and we’re reacting to it. Another one, and I’ll just go through three or four of these and stop and get your comments. Another one of these is is kind of how right? I think what employees and everybody really not just employees are starting to find out is that before they may have used phones, and you know, internet to connect up with doctors sort of as a by the way, but now that nobody wants to go into hospital or into a, you know, into a doctor’s office, defining that, having sensors, you know, that allow them to monitor their, their body temperature, pulse rate, etc, and community to make getting that with a doctor, maybe even to a video link so that the doctor can examine them physically without being the is starting to take off as well. So that’s the second one. The third one is remote learning. And you know, all of our kids are, you know, trying to learn from home, they have these lessons on the computer or an iPad, they’re all starting to figure out that, you know, how learning at home could work for them. Now a lot of them are are very socially oriented. So they’re finding it a challenge to not be with their friends All the time. But I think again, we will find out that there are things we can do with remote learning that we haven’t done done before. Another one is events. You’re starting at conferences, you starting to see tech shows, you’re starting to see, you know, not just entertainment, but business conferences are starting to go to virtual events. Again, is that necessarily the most efficient, most effective way to connect people to people? Probably not. But if I could do more of them by being making virtual as opposed to having to go to physically to conference, but actually make things different for us going forward. So I think some of these four things that I mentioned, will, you know are really questioning the way we used to work for COVID-19. And I think that’s what this transformation will help us on the b2c side.

Will Bachman 04:55
Yeah, those that list of four things CV really resonates. You I certainly work from home, a lot of independent consultants, law listeners a shower. And I’ve been doing that for years. And it certainly has always felt way more efficient to me because you’re not doing FaceTime. And you know, you’re not required to just show your face and stick around. And you don’t have to sit through long meetings, always feels more efficient to me in terms of, and I think, in what we’ve seen is because people are forced to do it now and have tried it out. When the world eventually goes back to normal, it’ll be well, we worked for remotely for three months, why can’t we do it now? So a lot of exactly what employees want. And then same thing on the remote learning side, like I’m wondering, so many school kids are now learning from home in the future state. I’m wondering, you know, will parents be asking, why does it make sense that the kids have to go to school and be in place all day other than nice daycare, but I’m wondering if some if maybe New York City or some places, just like they have some charter schools that are specialized for one reason or another? Well, they come up with a specialized charter school, that’s all remote. So you can send your kid to a high school, it’s all remote. And that would allow different people to, you know, maybe people that that need to move around a lot or travel around a lot their kids can come with them. So it really opens up a lot of opportunities in terms of learning at the grade school level, as well, as, you know, high school and college and beyond. My kids are, what 812 and 15. And they’re all, you know, going to school now from home, in terms of actually making these transformations possible. What do you see as some of the, you know, changes that businesses are going to need to make in terms of, you know, driving internal projects to meet the new customer demand to be able to do more things remotely?

I think, I think well, the way you’ve got to think about this is, you know, about you know, 20 years back, the whole notion of outsourcing. Got a lot of traction, right? So things that were not critical for your company, you outsource to third party vendors. And that was a huge cultural shift, then when people figured out that, yeah, I could have analytics and design done in India, while you know, my customer facing people are in, in New York, or California or somewhere. And I think we’re gonna see the same thing here, which is I think every business is going to now ask unless they are a completely hands on customer service business, they’re going to ask themselves, you know, what is the right balance between remote work and on site work? And I think that, you know, obviously, we will not go as far as we have, because of this pandemic, but it will start every business asking the question about, you know, what can be done more efficiently, more, humanely more, better quality of life? balance? If I let workers do say, 30 40% of the work at home, you know, from home? And can they manage their time better? And the question that always gets asked is, well, how do I know that that’s better for the company? Right? And I think the, the answer to that is, you have to put some metrics in place, you have to measure productivity. So so that, you know, if you let’s say, you were getting, you know, five units of work in the old model? Well, let’s see if we can get more than five units of work in this remote working model. And sort of, you know, have a very practical way to kind of track how work is actually getting done better. And with better work life balance, which I think in this new millennium area, I think it’s actually going to appeal a lot to the people that are working in the workplace, they can manage this.

Will Bachman 08:52
So for serving a client, and how would you approach that conversation and do that kind of diagnostic effort to systematically review all the activities of the company and think about what could be done remotely in the future?

I’ll give you an example. We’re doing that today. Okay. So, for example, for one of my clients, we’re starting, basically a purchasing cost reduction exercise, right? And they are nobody’s at work, and we’re not at their site. So what we’re doing is we’re setting up a fairly systematic process for the client, to you know, start with the data, do a set of interviews with a client on the phone, start working with their suppliers on the phone, and then hopefully, as things open up in the next couple of months, follow that up with more on site workshops, and, and, and meetings, and discussions and negotiations. So I think what we’re saying is that in, so say, a year from now, we could use the same model To be a lot more efficient in the upfront piece of the work, right? So, you know, it’s not to replace the face to face discussions, the face to face meetings, but you get a lot done without necessarily having to be in front of somebody in Germany or in California. So I think that’s, that’s what I would, you know, it’s just that the balance is going to be questioned about having to be always on site. Okay.

Will Bachman 10:30
Let’s talk a little bit about the b2b side. So how do you see that world changing in terms of the impact of the Coronavirus?

Yeah, now, that’s a much more complicated one, right? At one level, and as China is figuring this out, as they’re coming back is that there’s no demand. So even though they are ready to produce, their their customers are calling them up and saying, Hey, hold off, you know, you can’t start producing because I have nowhere to sell this stuff. Right. So I think on the b2b side, the COVID, has a very deep impact on demand and therefore supply in, you know, let’s say the next three, four months, right until the consumers start coming back to the business again. And then on the other side, what I think the even bigger impact of this COVID is, especially for us in the US, is a number of companies are starting to ask themselves about, again, again, ask themselves the question about extended supply chains that cross you know, multiple bodies of water, and asking themselves, whether nearshoring allows them to have a better total cost for total, you know, value of the product that’s being delivered. So I think from a b2b standpoint, I think there’ll be I think you think of it in separating it in two buckets. One is staff that can be done anywhere in the world anytime, right? Like, for example, managing, you know, a database in the cloud, right? Anywhere, it doesn’t have to be physically in any one location, that could be done in India and the Philippines and China, wherever, wherever the sources, right. But then if I have to get some witness made for what I’m assembling in my plans, you know, I think there’ll be an increasing tendency to say, why don’t we think of Mexico first? And the US second, and maybe, you know, Asia third. So I think there’s going to be a b2b impact that, again, will play out over the next few years as a lot of manufacturing distribution. strategies are, are thought through, right. And then the question of, on, you know, for example, and in the food and beverage sector, I think there’s going to be an increasing emphasis on tightening up the risk in the supply chain, from the place where the producers gathered all the way to the shores up in the retail shop, and some of the blockchain concepts that were starting to get used a few years back by cracking products all the way through the supply chain, you know, from source to do to sort of to store shelves, I think that’ll get more impact on the b2b side, and that’ll get more application the b2b side.

Will Bachman 13:22
Okay, so for companies that are planning some kind of digital transformation to enable these efforts, walk me through how we as consultants can think about helping our clients, you know, get ready for those understand what the requirements are, for those kinds of things. And, and how do you scope a digital transformation? Give me an example of what one might look like.

This is, you know, the first thing you know, I mean, the companies that are starting to realize is that this transformation is really just another stage of transformation. What I mean by that is, just like the mechanization of agriculture drove a whole set of changes in the workplace, or in the in the farm. This this transformation is going to do the same thing in every business across the world. So it’s really fundamental transformation just using digital enablers. So in that I think what a lot of companies are starting to do is to come up with a way to think about digital transformation for their whole business. So for example, for manufacturing company, there are four buckets in which companies are starting to think about digital transformation what is obviously the products you’ve sort of connected vehicles and connected TVs and you know, all that stuff on the product side where the data that’s coming off these devices can be gathered, analyzed and used for you know, better services or better products. The second is the the manufacturing and distribution footprint itself. And you know, there’s been a lot of thought given to industry x point oh, and ability Improve uptime throughout the entire business operation, using a lot of the data that’s coming off equipment, analyzing a deep analysis to predict reductions or changes in operating pattern that improve uptime. That’s a big, big part of the benefit on the footprints on manufacturing side, with a distribution side. The third is in overhead functions between the use of RPA bots, in a better use of data, automated generation of reports, seeing a lot of automation in purchasing, finance, HR, you know, and, and the support functions that every company goes through the nasty on the sales side, this transformation is all about trying to get closer to the customer. And so using the data, tracking the data, analyzing the data, getting it back to the Salesforce, so that a dealer and an automotive dealer can close the sale, you know, faster is, is really helpful. In fact, I’m working with a startup that’s doing this, and I’m on the board of directors of a startup that’s in the in the property tech business. And what they’re doing is they’re making the property available to the end consumer in a much, especially new buildings in a much faster way. And that’s taking anywhere from a week to 10 days off the sale cycle, which is in huge amount of benefit to the to the builders of the land developers. So it’s, you know, so I’m just going to give you a number of different ways to think about this whole transformation. And so those are the four big buckets in which, you know, we as consultants are think about working with clients on digital transformation, right? The other aspect of it is, all of this takes money, right? All of the thing, all of this stuff takes money. So when in my discussions with CEOs, the discussion always is where do I start? Right. And so the second one is, he realized that these four buckets, the second aspect is figuring out what the benefit versus ease of implementation versus the cost. You know, putting in an industry exploit on the factory floor, or bots, you know, for the HR function is also something that needs to be thought through very diligently to get this done. And then the third thing that we as consultants need to do is realize that this is not a CIO initiative. digital transformation is a corporate initiative, that requires, you know, HR to play a big role, because, you know, people have to do things differently, they have to behave differently. You know, finance has to have a different lens on it in order to make sure that the, the benefits get realized. And so we have consultants not only have to think about what is digital transformation, but you know, the sequence, doing this for clients, so that it’s beneficial. And then lastly, you know, how the change management side of, you know, any transformation agenda, especially digital, really needs to play to the organization.

Will Bachman 18:19
See a little bit more about that last piece.

Yeah, so for example, you know, change what is, you know, at the end of the day, what is this transformation, right? It’s about taking massive quantities of data, doing some very sophisticated analysis on it and gain the insights to help run the business differently. Right. So, great, sounds great, right? And, you know, yes, all that can be accomplished. But if I, as an operator, or a salesperson, or you know, a service person, do not change my behavior, with the insights that I’m getting, all that stuff done behind the scenes is wasted. So, for example, a good example. So, you know, there’s a lot of Fleet drivers out there, right, driving, you know, fleets of trucks, and vans and all this stuff, right. A lot of the technology that is available today allows the fleet manager to tell a driver, whether his or her driving behavior is appropriate for maximizing fuel efficiency, or whether his rather hard driving behavior actually allows them to increase the number of jobs they’re doing in a day. Right? Now, the fleet managers get only provide this information to the driver. At the end of the day, the driver has to believe there’s some value in this for me as a person to change my behavior. So that’s what I mean about that. You know, there’s a there’s a, there’s a intellectual side of digital transformation. And then there is a people set of digital transformation, which a lot of clients don’t seem to get their hands around. And it was And then the benefits don’t come and then they get frustrated. But it’s because, you know, I really think HR has just as much of a role in digital transformation, as does the CIO. Because end of the day somebody is going to change behavior. Wow.

Will Bachman 20:15
Could you tell me the story of a digital transformation that you’ve been involved in? Maybe can end to end? What was the initial context? And then what do you do? What were some of the challenges? What was the result is just walk us through a case example. Maybe it sanitized something that you’ve that you’ve done?

Good, exact? No, there’s some really good. This is the thing we look at when you when you start work with clients and lots of great situations that have happened. I’ll give you one Michelin because it’s an easy one to understand. Michelin makes tires, right. And they sell tires to a lot of Fleet customers. And they used to sell tires by the tire. And when the tires were out, the truck would come back in and tires get replaced. So what Michelin wanted to do this is going back a few years, because these journeys typically are multi year journeys. A few years back, what Michelin decided was they wanted to put sensors, on the tires, collect the data from the sensors, and set up a business that was more about selling tires by the mile to its customers, as opposed to tires just as a tire. Right? And so what would the what the journey was, the first thing is you’ve got that’s the concept that you have, right? So first, you got to figure out the technology side of it, you know, what sensors? Can you put on it? How can you collect the data? You know, how does it get analyzed? What sort of feedback can you provide, during the change driving behavior, or to bring the crux back in to replace the tires before they need replacement? Right, almost like a preventive maintenance kind of attitude. So that’s the technology side of it. Then there’s the business side of it was says, so we had to figure that out. It’s like, who’s making the money here? You know, if if the profit pool is $100? You know, what is the driver get? What does the fleet manager get? What does Michelin get? What does you know? This? Is the car say last? So the repair guy, what is what, what part of the pool does he get? Right? So you figure that business side of it. And then third is what you realize is that this is all very well, I’m good. But the current business cannot do this as a normal course of business. So what we actually ended up doing permissioning was setting up a separate business about 800 people that did nothing but sell tires by the mile. And, and so the journey was, you know, from the idea to the technology and analytics to the business case, to to the if you call it change management, to allow this to be successful. Right. And and I think it’s that kind of thing where, you know, in a big way, this idea is going from products to a service mindset, right. So instead of sending a product as a tire, you’re selling a service that is, you know, maybe 10 cents a mile, you know, for the tire, and that I think we’re gonna see more of the service model for the products will transfer more to the service model. And I think just this example is one one example of, you know, how we kind of went through the whole journey. And it was successful.

Will Bachman 23:25
Yeah, that’s a that’s a great example. CV, if I know that you produce thought leadership and you have, you know, you’re served, you know, a wide range of clients. If folks wanted to reach out to you to find out more about your firm, where would you like to be? Go? Do you want to give a website?

Yes, actually, there is a website, it’s called digital transformation takes a village, right? It’s probably not anywhere close to being a great website, but I’m just starting to work on it. But more importantly, somebody wants to, you know, have any discussions with me, the easiest way to reach me is through LinkedIn. My contact information is there. And I think if you were to want to set up a discussion, I’d be glad to, you know, engage on any one of these topics that we’ve talked about. Well, fantastic. Well,

Will Bachman 24:15
CV, I’ll include your LinkedIn URL in the show notes along with your website. And thank you so much for joining today and sharing our perspective on on how the world may be changing.

I think this is a amazing time and I think it’s just accelerating everything we’ve thought about in terms of digital transformation well, so I’m excited to be a part of the journey.

Will Bachman 24:40
Alright TV, stay safe. allow you to

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