Even a native digital business may need to undertake a digital transformation if the business model changes or the company shifts to different business goals. For West Corporation, their current digital transformation results from two business model changes:

  • Moving from a services model to selling products
  • Changing from a holding company to an operating company

These changes forced West Corporation to rethink how core parts of the business function, and the technology needed.

Listen to Thomas Squeo, SVP of Digital Transformation, describe the company’s digital transformation. He discusses the spectrum of customers they serve and the importance of customer experience.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: I'm Michael Krigsman, industry analyst and host of CXOTalk, and we're here at Future Stack '16, and thanks to New Relic for inviting us to be here. And I'm talking with Thomas Squeo, who is the Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation for West Corporation. Thomas, how are you?

Thomas Squeo: I'm very good!

Michael Krigsman: So, tell us about West Corp.

Thomas Squeo: So, West Corporation is a communications business. We operate five segments: unified communications; safety services; and an interactive services group, which is primarily call center-based software. We have a special agent services business, which is primarily around health and wellness, as well as also revenue recovery. And the last area is a traditional telco media business.

Michael Krigsman: Now, you're Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation at West Corporation.

Thomas Squeo: I am.

Michael Krigsman: What does digital transformation mean for you?

Thomas Squeo: So, digital transformation at West is really consists of everything from how products are developed and managed inside the organization, to how finances are managed, how they're reported, [which is the] IT / Finance [function]. [It] also includes how the business actually implements its business models as well. So you see this spectrum that relates everything from concept to cash, and all the effective processes around it.

West as an organization was born digital, but it was born in a services model as opposed to a product model. So, part of the transformation is: How do you move a customer abstraction from a one-to-one implementation to a one-to-many implementation? So that requires us to take a different perspective, and with all of the technologies, tools, and techniques that are available to us that weren't available before.

Digital transformation incorporates how you implement that, and how do you do it in such a way that it doesn't run faster than the business can actually consume. And implement that.

Michael Krigsman: So you're changing, or you've changed from being a services company to a product company.

Thomas Squeo: In the process of it. We have a couple different levels of change. One is the service-to-product orientation change, and the other is to move from a holding company model to an operating company model where we’re not only centralizing services and functions, but we're looking at economies of scale, [and] efficiencies. But we want to be able to look at our IT organization as more than just an efficiency play. We're looking at what nimbleness and agility does it bring to the business, not only looking at what's coming out of the vendor community, the academic community, or the open-source community. All those factor into how do we actually affect our product delivery.

Michael Krigsman: So what are your expectations of IT, then?

Thomas Squeo: To be a partner to the business, so we don't see ourselves as a vendor to the business. We see ourselves as just as much a part of the business solution as traditional sales, marketing, business development ─ all of those functional areas─ customer success, and so on. Because when we deliver an SLA internally, or to our end customer, every aspect of our business is technology.

Michael Krigsman: I know that enterprise architecture is very important to what you do as well. Can you establish the connection for us there?

Thomas Squeo: Sure. So, digital transformation is a big buzzword in the industry, and you could drive a truck through the definition pretty easily. It typically originates around the marketing side. So, in about 2014-15, there was a decision to unify our marketing presence and all of our brands under a common umbrella. In '16, we reorganized our technology organization to be able to unify all of those aspects; and we associate digital transformation with the architecture function. Whereas if marketing is dealing with the product management and development

Michael Krigsman: I'm Michael Krigsman, industry analyst and host of CXOTalk, and we're here at Future Stack '16, and thanks to New Relic for inviting us to be here. And I'm talking with Thomas Squeo, who is the Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation for West Corporation. Thomas, how are you?

Thomas Squeo: I'm very good!

Michael Krigsman: So, tell us about West Corp.

Thomas Squeo: So, West Corporation is a communications business. We operate five segments: unified communications; safety services; and an interactive services group, which is primarily call center-based software. We have a special agent services business, which is primarily around health and wellness, as well as also revenue recovery. And the last area is a traditional telco media business.

Michael Krigsman: Now, you're Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation at West Corporation.

Thomas Squeo: I am.

Michael Krigsman: What does digital transformation mean for you?

Thomas Squeo: So, digital transformation at West is really consists of everything from how products are developed and managed inside the organization, to how finances are managed, how they're reported, [which is the] IT / Finance [function]. [It] also includes how the business actually implements its business models as well. So you see this spectrum that relates everything from concept to cash, and all the effective processes around it.

West as an organization was born digital, but it was born in a services model as opposed to a product model. So, part of the transformation is: How do you move a customer abstraction from a one-to-one implementation to a one-to-many implementation? So that requires us to take a different perspective, and with all of the technologies, tools, and techniques that are available to us that weren't available before.

Digital transformation incorporates how you implement that, and how do you do it in such a way that it doesn't run faster than the business can actually consume. And implement that.

Michael Krigsman: So you're changing, or you've changed from being a services company to a product company.

Thomas Squeo: In the process of it. We have a couple different levels of change. One is the service-to-product orientation change, and the other is to move from a holding company model to an operating company model where we’re not only centralizing services and functions, but we're looking at economies of scale, [and] efficiencies. But we want to be able to look at our IT organization as more than just an efficiency play. We're looking at what nimbleness and agility does it bring to the business, not only looking at what's coming out of the vendor community, the academic community, or the open-source community. All those factor into how do we actually affect our product delivery.

Michael Krigsman: So what are your expectations of IT, then?

Thomas Squeo: To be a partner to the business, so we don't see ourselves as a vendor to the business. We see ourselves as just as much a part of the business solution as traditional sales, marketing, business development ─ all of those functional areas─ customer success, and so on. Because when we deliver an SLA internally, or to our end customer, every aspect of our business is technology.

Michael Krigsman: I know that enterprise architecture is very important to what you do as well. Can you establish the connection for us there?

Thomas Squeo: Sure. So, digital transformation is a big buzzword in the industry, and you could drive a truck through the definition pretty easily. It typically originates around the marketing side. So, in about 2014-15, there was a decision to unify our marketing presence and all of our brands under a common umbrella. In '16, we reorganized our technology organization to be able to unify all of those aspects; and we associate digital transformation with the architecture function. Whereas if marketing is dealing with the product management and development activities, enterprise architecture is now able to look at the underpinning technology and systems: How do we rationalize the portfolio that we have? How do we infuse techniques that are actually highly valuable and move things quicker? And, that also gives me the ability to be in the business conversation with general managers and presidents of the lines of business and segment, as well as also in deep, technical conversations with architects and tech leads, and folks that are actually responsible for the implementation of, and management of the plan, build, run process.

Michael Krigsman: So the enterprise architecture, then, helps you create technology that will link back to the customer experience, using that as the reference point.

Thomas Squeo: So, customer experience is very much a part of how we're contextualizing our entire portfolio. When we think about enterprise architecture, it really is the plan function for the organization. So, I work very closely with a team of folks that in turn, work with the build function ─ your traditional engineering capacity; your run capacity, which is your traditional operational capacity... But ultimately, we have to be able to be a ... almost a consultative aspect of the organization. Rather than always bringing in external expertise, we need to bring the context of what the business currently does: How we can actually move the needle with our legacy portfolio as well because with an install base of any kind, you have to manage the fact that that transition is a journey, not a destination.

Michael Krigsman: Thomas, I know that you're very data-oriented. So what's the kind of data that you collect, that again, helps give you inside engineering, digital transformation, enterprise architecture, into what customers actually want?

Thomas Squeo: So, West as an organization is very diverse. So, when we look at some of the ways that business actually delivers business value to its customers, it could be at Layer 2, low-level telephony, all the way up through how applications are delivered, and products are delivered. When we think about products and services, ultimately what happens is we need to be able to make sure that we not only understand what is happening in the customer experience. Whether that be in a browser. Whether that be in a mobile application. Whether it be in a device. We need to be able to have that in such a way that operations can make decisions about how they're managing that software, and our data scientists have the ability to understand things like customer churn, customer retention, and looking at Steve Blank's ‘R’ metrics. And how those are actually being overlayed on top of what we do as an organization.

Granted, we're a B2B player for the most part. It is not uncommon that that B2B play is actually affecting a consumer at the end who has no decision in the buying process. So, when we deliver business value, we typically have sensitivity to what that end customer experience is. So when a utility buys our service, and they are interacting with one of their constituents, they don't have to do so in such a way that they're not aware of that experience. All of the data that's produced, from the point of the delivery all the way through the consumption, and how the preferences are managed on that endpoint, is all couched in the customer experience.

Michael Krigsman: So, hypersensitivity to what's going on with the customer.

Thomas Squeo: And we consider the customer not only the buyer, but the user of the system or the recipient of messages [in other words] the recipient of the traffic that our system generates. For example, if you're thinking of a 911 customer, a 911 customer is usually at a point of duress. They're not in a situation where they're having a great experience. That experience has to go exactly as they expect: Minimize the friction in the process for the person that's calling it in; the dispatcher that's at the public service access point; all the way through [to] the EMT, police force, fire department that needs to actually be deployed out to be able to solve that problem.

Michael Krigsman: Wow. Thank you so much!

Thomas Squeo: Excellent!

Michael Krigsman: Thomas Squeo, who is the Senior VP of Digital Transformation for West Corporation. Thanks so much, Thomas!

Thomas Squeo: Thank you! Appreciate the time!