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5 big questions on innovation

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Saum Mathur, SVP for Big Data Analytics and Information Management, CA Technologies

Saum Mathur, SVP for Big Data Analytics and Information Management

CA Technologies has emerged as one of the world’s largest independent software companies, based on a mission to "create software that fuels transformation for companies and enables them to seize the opportunities of the application economy.” Its consistent approach, across 40 countries of operation, is to work with...
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1

How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?

The CA Technologies Business Analytics team is a global corporate team that provides business insights to stakeholders across the company, including sales, marketing, customer support, customer success, product engineering, HR, finance – you know: everybody.

The charter of my team is to help improve the top line of the company by changing our culture so that decision-making is very data and insight-centric, enabled by analytics. We have been quite successful in that goal.

Today my team is changing the game by influencing the strategy and operations of the company. We are helping personalize the customer experience at every touchpoint by injecting customer insights at every point of engagement. In that regard, especially when it comes to large enterprise software companies, we are unique. In fact, over the last year, Forrester has published 'best practice' reports that have cited what we are doing at CA.

If you think about retailers like the Amazons, e-tailers, and Googles, they all have B2C models that have used analytics to propel their business forward. We are leveraging concepts from the B2C world and bringing them to B2B, specifically in an initiative to transform CA from a traditional B2B enterprise software company to what we call a B2I, or “business to individual.”

This is a response to how buying software has changed drastically. Millennial buyers have a very different mindset, even when it comes to enterprise buying. They are higher risk takers as compared to the traditional CIOs and the baby boomer buyers, which means they will not sign very large enterprise deals. They want smaller scale deals that they can test and get in and out of quickly. For enterprise software, companies need to foster a better connection with millennial buyers and engage them continuously throughout the buyer’s journey. This means marketing and selling to them in the digital realm in a way that recognizes them as individuals and personalizes their experience.

Our strategy calls for analyzing our customers not just from a firmographics standpoint, but also demographics, psychographics, and technographics perspective. Many companies are thinking about this approach, but they haven't embarked on this path because this type of transformation is a very difficult thing to accomplish. It requires top leadership, a very thoughtful process, and the right team geared towards innovation.

To deliver the value our internal customers have now come to expect, we put a significant emphasis behind educating people in the art of possible. Our stakeholders don’t always know what is possible with analytics. It is my job to show them. For example, last year we were able to pinpoint customers who will not renew contracts with a high degree of accuracy. This was a first in the company, and opened many eyes. Another example: Our chief customer support officer wanted to reduce the number of calls coming into his call center, and have more collaboration occur in the online communities where customers can discuss and solve their own problems. Essentially, he wanted to go into an omnichannel direction for support. With analytics, we were able to offer insights as to why people call the call center and suggest solutions to best leverage online communities. Calls have since been dropping, and engagement through online communities has increased.

2

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

Culture is the biggest barrier to innovation. If you are in a legacy company, there can be a certain mindset that I call the "not-invented-here" syndrome, or “this is how we do it because this is how it has always been done,” ideology. That to me is one of the biggest impediments, because it means that no matter how the world is changing, we are insular and we will keep doing things the same way. 

3

How has innovation become engrained in your organization's culture, and how is it being optimized?

The culture that I found when I arrived two and a half years ago is drastically different from what CA’s Business Analytics organization is today. Many companies are controlled by top-down policies, but I believe to foster innovation, you need to set people free; let them think. Senior leaders can establish aggressive goals, but then need to let employees go on their own. They will make mistakes, so leaders must provide the air cover. Of course, if somebody makes the same mistake again and again, then there is a problem. But if an organization wants to succeed in innovation, employees cannot be afraid to try new things and sometimes fail.

In my opinion, innovation is a drug. Once people get used to that mindset, the feeling of moving fast and being creative thinkers, you can’t stop that, or people will actually leave.

A start-up environment is a good example – they are free, they are innovative, they do cool stuff. You have to change the way an enterprise company operates to mimic that mindset and create an environment of innovation.

So, we essentially created a start-up within CA’s Business Analytics organization. Innovation is key at CA, and our culture, as defined by our internal Mission & DNA, is one of innovation, customer-centricity, and collaboration. When it comes to hiring new employees, I look less at their technical skills because in our industry technology changes very fast. Instead, I ask: “Are they passionate about what they do? Are they customer-centric? Are they collaborative? Are they curious? And do they have the willingness to learn and grow?”

4

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

Artificial intelligence and robotics are the two things that will change the game in our industry and the world at large. In a succession planning discussion with my boss last year, he asked, "Who's your successor?" and I sent, in jest, a picture of a robot.

I've been in technology for about 28 years now, and I have never seen a pace of change as rapid as I am seeing now. If you think back to the Hewlett-Packards and IBMs, why were they successful? Because they created something a customer valued. That measure of success hasn't changed.

What has changed is the definition of value. We Baby Boomers used to value automation. There was a focus on productivity improvement, which was of value. But now, when I talk to my daughters, when I talk to the millennials, they value Snapchat or Instagram. The value system, and how long that value lasts, is fickle and rapidly changing.

To be successful in this new millennial-driven market, companies must track their value system. It is not humanly possible to do that, due to our own internal biases. So, when it comes to artificial intelligence, it's not just about having data, analytics and insights - it’s about using that information to analyze: How are values changing, and thus how are buying patterns changing? How does that influence your products and services? The only way to do that is through artificial intelligence.

5

Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?

Start-ups are entirely focused on product innovation and creating products or services that solve people’s problems. Innovation is not an easy task, but it is simply easier to innovate when you are a start-up and don't have quarterly pressure to report performance to shareholders.

Innovation must be customer-centric, and you should think about it as solving somebody's problem. To me, a perfect innovation strategy is when not only are you creating products and services that are absolutely moving the world in a new direction, but also satisfying shareholders and customers.

I think two companies that are doing this successfully today are Tesla and Amazon. That is the magic sauce for innovation. 

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