Season 3, Episode 7 - "How does platform thinking fit into digital transformation?" with Maya Agaskar, Managing Director, Accenture
Andrew: Hey, it's Andrew. And welcome back to season three of Network Disrupted, where I, along with some very smart guests, help fellow technology leaders trade notes on navigating disruption in our space. This season, I've set a goal of exploring the issue of enterprise cloud adoption from as many angles as I can. Today, I'm joined by Maya Agaskar, who is a managing director at Accenture, working with tons of fortune 100s on all angles of their digital transformation strategies. In this episode, Maya and I talk about the digital transformation journeys that we see many of our customers taking on and what it will take to support those from a talent and a technology perspective. We dig into the concept of building platforms all over the business, and now that can support innovation that impacts and customers. As a fun addition, we talk about where we think the businesses we've grown up knowing are headed. So let's go. And if you have a moment, please, don't forget to leave a review on Spotify, apple podcasts, wherever you listen to these, the feedback is always so helpful and you'll be helping more people like you discover the show.
Speaker 2: Maybe you can give me a sense of the complexity
Speaker 3: We love the pilot proof concept approach
Speaker 4: Influences everything. It influences the human experience.
Speaker 5: There was several failures along the way.
Speaker 6: we want to be early adopter Customer.
Speaker 7: You are handling sensitive information.
Speaker 8: Yeah, inaudible
Andrew: Maya, thank you again for joining. We're thrilled to have you today. And why don't you start by just telling us a bit about what you do at Accenture.
Maya Agaskar: Great, Andrew, and thanks for having me. So I am a member of our interactive practice, which works with our customers to focus on driving out what we call the business of experience. So historically we used to talk about customer experience. We now are looking at every business, being a digital business, and specifically as those customers rotate to digital, how they can focus more on employee experience, how they can focus on partner experience and how they can focus on in customer experience. So every touchpoint, a customer partner or internal employee has, is thought about in a meaningful and delightful way. And those touch points are connected and informed by deep data analytics and predictive experiences. And so I'm fortunate enough to be a member in that space of a team called Bloom. We work on driving growth strategy and innovation with some of our largest customers. So customers who want to innovate in the experience space, haven't quite done it before are thinking about white space disruption, or establishing new products and services, or taking their existing products suite and adding digital services to it. I'm fortunate enough to get to both work with our internal teams and those customers to help identify what those experience led services can be and then ultimately get to build them with our customers.
Andrew: Yeah, that's fantastic. And I love how you, how you take it sort of from the expansion of customer experience or where a lot of that started. I used to always say, well, going back 10 or 12 or 14 years, if a company doesn't know who its customers are and how they're using its products, then they're eventually going to fail or they're not going to be able to grow at least.. That was critical and was working with customers that launched amazing strategies like Nike around connected fitness in an industry where they were completely disintermediated from their customers initially, right? Like the retailers knew their customers or John Deere, something we talked about before on connected tractors and or agricultural farming solutions, really what they're trying to build. But I realize now it, it's well beyond that, as you just said. Yeah, for sure. You need to understand your customers. You need to understand how they're using your products. You need that data to inform strategies, but there's employees, I mean, it's every single touch point has got to be digitized. So when you're working with your customers, are they just, I guess they're probably all over the place, but are they just starting this journey? Are they, they're trying, they've failed. Where are they along that life cycle and how much transformation has occurred already? And how do you sort of measure where they are and assuming some sort of model in terms of how you interact with them, sort of understand what their goals are, where they're going, where they are today and, and what do they need to do?
Maya Agaskar: Oh, it's a great question. And, we have customers that are on all sorts of different stages of maturity of their digital journey. We have ones that are very sophisticated. They have platforms in place, they've centralized their data. They have what we call digital factory models stood up where they have an innovation pipeline that is running in parallel with multiple application development pipelines. They've reorganized their workforce into services oriented guilds. They have very specialized talent that they're able to bring together for short periods of time to drive out innovation or to drive out development depending on whether or not they sit on that innovation segment or the development segment. We have other customers. I worked with one last year that for example, aren't yet on cloud. And what they're finding is there's pressure for them to move more of their data information the way they work to the cloud. Because they're finding that some of the things, all the shifts that we've already talked about, shifting to digital products, shifting to value added services, they're not able to make when they're still in a very traditional infrastructure environment. They don't have the skills, but beyond that, they don't even have the technology capabilities to be able to support some of the work they want to do. If you're a utility company and you are still on a physical backend server in a data center, it makes it awfully hard to have a customer facing portal where a customer can come in and see their bill and pay it online. Again, it sounds like something that is so simple that due to the liquid customer expectations that we talked about at the beginning of this call, customers are expecting. Yet, the company has so many barriers that they have to make from a raw technology standpoint, to a talent standpoint, to an organizational standpoint, before they're able to do what should seemingly be fairly simplistic? Because a portal requires the integration of all of that customer data and all of that internal data and all of that financial and billing data, much of which oftentimes is in backend systems, which in many companies, historically, it's been siloed. On the other end of the spectrum, again, we work with customers that have actually gotten to the point where they are able to rapidly evolve potential value added services and test them in the market. You had mentioned the Porsche example where you can do Porsche for a day. Companies oftentimes don't know whether or not they want to stand that up as a full separate business line. So they want the opportunity to have, innovate around an idea, be able to almost beta test the business or product idea in the same way we might beta test software and then see if customers are going to buy it. If customers are going to buy it, what is the uptick in it? What is the right price point? And how do you maximize the value of bringing that new product or service to the market before you actually launch it.
Andrew: Right. Some of it goes back to the lean principles and other principles that are the larger the company, the more difficult they are to embrace normally, because you're used to the, to use software development terminology, you're used to more of a waterfall type business plan versus a we're going to experiment here, we're going to launch this, we're going to learn. And based on that, we're going to do something else, but we're not quite sure what that something else is yet. It's a different way of thing together. So what, we talked a bit about this idea of platform thinking, can you give me some color on what you mean by that?
Maya Agaskar: Yeah, so we think about the next evolution. I know you and I talked a bit about digital products and digital services. If we think about some of who the most effective players are today in high tech, we tend to think of Microsoft, we tend to think of Amazon, we tend to think of Google. And one of the things that has made them as large as they are, is their ability to have a platform model where they only serve as a connector. Good way to think about it is they serve as the glue between potential customers and between companies who are leveraging their technology to be able to expand their own products and services. And so you have this almost circular economy where you have customers coming to Google to consume something that they like, and you are providing a ready market for other companies who are developing other innovations to be able to develop their products and services on that platform. That's probably not the best way to articulate it. But I mean, you're essentially serving as the glue in between extremely large audiences. It allows these companies to grow extremely fast. Essentially think about it as your product scaling itself. You are allowing other people to build on top of the foundation that you have created and that allows you to almost, again be the glue, but also create a much larger market because you're reselling products and services that you're not having to create or invest in.
Andrew: When I think of it from like a technology standpoint, I sort of look at the transformation of IT over years, where things used to be project based, right? Like we need this value and so we're going to submit our requirements to IT, and IT is going to go build this value and they're on the hook for selecting it, purchasing it, deploying it and the SLAs around their providing the value that I ask for. Versus today where companies, business units need to build that value on their own. They're on the hook for that on the digital side, on the technology side. And therefore the IT team needs to think about building a platform for them to innovate on so that we can expand rapidly so that we can still control for cost reliability, security, all of these core things that are our jobs, but we have to hand the reins over to somebody else. So basically, it's IT as a service to sort of connect to what we're talking about before. It's the servitization of IT from a more project product focus to a platform focus. Where success is people madly using this platform to build and build and build, because now they're connected to revenue versus contractual value for delivering a new purchasing system.
Maya Agaskar: A hundred percent. And we've talked on this call about a platform that really is externally facing. One of the other things that we're seeing our platforms, as you've mentioned, that that are internally facing within an organization. So if we think about one of the things I've talked a lot about is that I work with our customers to help them achieve what we call the business of experience. If we think about really building an experience layer within an organization, you're going to need access to all sorts of backend systems. You're going to need access data stores and companies that can shift some of their internal IT onto a platform that can have these different layers that are served, that has a standard DevSecOps layer, that has a kind of a standard data processing layer, and then can have an experience layer on top of it can actually help enable some of these experiences for the end customers and for the employees and for partners who might be coming to create B2B transactions or so forth with that company. And so it's one way for companies to better serve their customers, to better serve their employees, and to better serve their partners. You know, you don't always have to be in the business of platforms to be using a platform.
Andrew: Absolutely. And I think that thinking, I'm reminded of a podcasts we did a couple years ago, somebody was working in the federal government and just trying to build that platform out of data. And part of it was around customer experience. This was part of the department of agriculture, I think. And the number of times that their customers, so commercial farmers, had to add the same data into different forms was ridiculous. So they were creating customer experience issues, and therefore they weren't getting the data they needed, but also they internally, they weren't able to leverage that data to drive out better decisions, better solutions and everything else. And it's just another example of, another agricultural example of, the same point and I think it's a critical point. You start working with a new client, is that idea new to them, or they're thinking along those lines and, and that's why they're speaking to Accenture?
Maya Agaskar: It depends on the client. Some of our clients know that they want to head that direction, right? And they say we want to become an experience led company. We want to revamp our entire customer experience, or we want to revamp our entire employee experience, or we want to create a digital B2B sales channel that can drive a billion dollars in sales for us next year. Sometimes it comes with that amount of specificity. Other times it comes as a need. So, I had a customer probably five years back and they wanted to deliver a single page web application so that customers could pay their bills. And so that if a customer was in default in their bill and they hadn't paid their bill, they could resolve that default online. And this was a utility company. So the nuance here is that if your bill goes in default, they have to give you, I think, three times to contest it before they shut off your electricity. And certainly in Canada, but also in Northern states, shutting off your electricity in the middle of winter becomes kind of a human issue. And so it's setting up these systems so that customers can interact in a way that's familiar to them on their mobile device or on their laptop is a big deal. With this customer, they knew that they wanted to be able to serve this single page application. But one of the limitations that they found was that most of their customer data rested historically in SAP backends. And you couldn't build your experience directly on the SAP backend, or you could, but it would be extremely expensive. It would be extremely brittle. The testing of it added huge overhead. And so one of the things we've seen with many of our customers, and they started this journey, many them started maybe five or six years ago. We still have some customers who haven't haven't trudged this direction yet, but they're looking at decoupling those monolithic backend systems from this lighter experience layer, this lighter analytics layer, so that you have this flexible layer on top that can interface via APIs into your SAP or your Oracle backend. And you can customize your experience with much greater frequency than you touch the backend. So if we think about our conversation earlier in this podcast about the car companies and how you have this physical products and you have this series of software products, and the software products are moving in a much faster pace, we are seeing the same with customers as they can digitally decouple these systems. You have this massive ERP system, which is your slow pace and then you have an experience layer, analytics layer on top of it that can be much more nimble and flexible, and you can change with much greater regularity to evolve or flex to your customers changing needs. And they're doing it again through this layer of almost open APIs and microservices, which serves kind of the plumbing between the different platform layers.
Andrew: No, for sure. And it's also been amazing to sort of see this whole idea of system of record versus system of engagement. And the number of companies SAPs bought over the years, whose business model was to create a better system engagement on top of that incredibly important system of record. It's sort of a huge part of that strategy. It lowers entries to barriers, which I think is fantastic. Well, super. It's been great talking to you. I learned a lot and we'll catch up again soon and just thank you for your hour.
Maya Agaskar: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Andrew, great chance to talk about a lot of key ideas that I think are top in line for us every day.
Today on Network Disrupted, Maya Agaskar is here to discuss platform thinking. Maya is a Managing Director at Accenture, where she works with fortune 100 companies to help with their digital transformation strategies and focus on driving out the business of experience.
In this episode, Maya shares what her customer's digital transformation looks like and how she approaches elevating their strategy. She and Andrew also dive into what it means to have a platform thinking approach and how Maya helps customers achieve "the business of experience." Listen now!
Let me know what you thought of today’s discussion! You can tweet me at @netwkdisrupted + @awertkin, leave a review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.