While the technical conversation is essential in any digital transformation, it’s all too common for companies to overlook the business side of the equation.
Technical know-how is in high demand across the region, so one company has focused on hiring people with strong business knowledge and training them on the technical side, thus bridging the gap to an improved digital transformation.
Grupo Assa is global firm with 1,400 consultants in 11 offices in Latin America and the United States. The company’s core focus is on digital transformation consultancy services, which it provides through long-term business relationships with its clients.
Ariel Capone, VP of Life Science, Managing Director for accounts in the US, and Diego Lozano, Chief Sales Officer, explain the challenges in convincing companies to embrace the digital transformation, and how the business conversation should be the first one on the menu.
Nearshore Americas: What are the biggest challenges in offering digital transformation services? What obstacles do you face in ensuring the process goes smoothly?
Diego Lozano: The segmentation of our expertise combined with real demand in the market have been our two main challenges.
Five years ago, the demand for these types of services was unclear and there has been an ongoing debate over the true scale of that demand. Nowadays, we have no doubt about it, because the demand is there–it’s in the market for global accounts and for Latin American customers. However, people have not always been talking about the kinds of processes we want to approach.
The challenge is that you need to have very specific skills and develop the proper talent in a wide type of services. Three years ago, everyone was talking about customer experience, and of course that is a key element of digital transformation services, but many things were more prototypes and pilots than real digital transformation programs. Nowadays, you also need to know how to deal with your talent inside the company with HR processes, you need to transform the supply chain processes, and also look at more platform-like processes, so it’s vital to have that vision alongside the correct skills to apply the same vision in the field.
Nearshore Americas: In terms of automation, AI, and analytics, to what extent are you seeing clients adopting this technology today?
Diego Lozano: In Latin America, the level of investment on this is comparative with the developed world. The issue is that this investment does not reflect the productivity wins that you have in the developed world. The money has been there for two years, but the investment was not impacting effectiveness.
The big Latin American giants are more mature: cloud is here, software-as-a-service is here, and now the questions are more sophisticated while everybody takes advantage of the immediate impacts. Today the maturity in the market is resulting in real business results.
Ariel Capone: In the US, it’s the same pattern. The money was there and there was a lot of expenditure in new technologies, or SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud), but the business still did not see the payback in investment. This is because most of the projects were driven by IT. On the near horizon, most businesspeople should be involved in these kinds of transformational projects.
We consider ourselves a business-driven company, which is highlighted by our recruiting process. We hire people from business backgrounds and we teach them the technologies. Even in application maintenance, we want a business conversation on every ticket, so it’s a business-driven approach. Information technology has been driving things like automation, but businesspeople should be far more involved for it to be fully successful.
Nearshore Americas: How is the company educating clients to think the same way? How do you convince executives to get involved in the implementation of automation and other new technologies?
Diego Lozano: It’s very important that C-level execs are involved from the very beginning, such as the CFO and CEO, not only the IT guys. The reason we develop such long-term relationships is that you need to develop some empathy and confidence at that level. The relationship between the CDO, CIO, CFO and business partner is a complex one, and there are no rules to follow that are good for all cases. You need to add business content to the conversation and have a clear understanding of the internal dynamic of the customers at C-level. We’re not saying this happens in every single transaction, but it’s definitely our aspiration.
Nearshore Americas: Where do you see the key opportunities for digital transformation services in the immediate future?
Ariel Capone: We see a great opportunity in Latin America, especially in Argentina. After many years of discussion about the real potential of the country, we today have an optimistic view. Even after everything Mexico has faced in the last few months, we have a solid pipeline there, but there is also a big opportunity in global accounts with a dual-shore approach. Our Latin American footprint is strong, giving us the flexibility to react quickly and creating a shield for global clients. Our asset in this IT industry is talent, which can change direction quickly, unlike fixed assets. Our approach for global accounts is dual-shore, so we are trying to increase US participation.
We are convinced that this is an excellent moment for Latin America to replace the third shift from India and bring it back to U.S. business hours. This will not only improve the quality of the service perception because of talent availability, proximity, cultural affinity, and time coverage, but it will also reduce the business risk for those companies that have heavily concentrated their outsourcing in India. At this moment, we all have to remain attentive and stay agile to ensure a quick response to potential changes.
In the last few years, Latin America has lost a lot of talent that has migrated to the US. In the mid-term, we will see a counter flow that will bring part of this talent back, which will be great for the region.