Colm Sparks-Austin, On the Way Towards Creating a More Resilient Economy

Small Business Canada

Colm Sparks-Austin is the President and Managing Director of Capgemini Canada. CanadianSME Small Business Magazine got a chance to interview him recently. He has a deep focus on the industry. His team is always focused on accelerating Canada’s growth strategy by making great use of human energy through technological inventions for an all-inclusive and sustainable future. Before joining Capgemini, he was in various leadership positions with IBM in Canada and the United States. Read on to learn more about his journey of becoming an experienced leader with more than fifteen years of experience managing large, go-to-market teams across North America, Europe and APAC.

What are the top competitive risks that businesses face today? And how can businesses navigate these risks and stay ahead of the competition?

While the migration to digital is nothing new, the pandemic has accelerated the journey by 2-3 years. As countries across the world were forced into isolation, customers flocked to businesses that were able to provide a seamless digital experience regardless of industry, product or service. Today, embracing the digital experience aligned to the customer is necessary to maintain relevance. This shift is founded on capturing and interpreting the right data, leading to insights that are actionable for businesses and creating more opportunities to deliver value for the customer. However, most mature businesses are currently constrained by the lack of end-to-end functionality from legacy core systems out to the edge of digital where the client experience is happening.

Navigating these risks involves adopting a digital-first approach across all business areas and investing in disruptive changes required to enable these approaches. This involves investing in a series of technology solutions to generate quick returns, as opposed to slow technology implementations of one or two solutions over a longer time period. Businesses must act fast to remain competitive and keep up with technology advancement, and these quick investments need to be accomplished with the larger goal of re-architecting core systems. 

How do you think technology can help businesses grow? What are some of the most important considerations when choosing a technology solution for a business?

Across all industries, we are passed simply deploying technology. Businesses need a plan supported by the right insights to deliver positive outcomes. Technology implementations should be accompanied by a robust value case that provides a clear benefit to the business through increased value-add for the customer, and how that translates to their bottom line. The plan should also outline how technology solutions would interact with other processes that impact operations.

Preparing a technology implementation plan involves several key stages. Businesses must start with identifying a friction point for the customer and understand how this barrier impedes the experience. Once determined, pinpoint the cause within the core system and the end-to-end process. The range of technology solutions must meet the basic criteria of connecting the back-end function to the front-end experience. Businesses need to then ensure the proposed solution has measurable business outcomes to highlight the return on investment prior to implementation, along with potential risks. This typically leads to the growth of the business in areas such as customer generation and retention, productivity, and ultimately, revenue.

How do you think customers’ expectations have changed with regards to their interactions with businesses?

Customers have grown to expect more adaptability from a business’s customer experience and to become more intuitive in addressing consumer friction. This is particularly true in the retail space, as consumers are faced with a range of brands in each category. Services such as same-day delivery or curbside pick-up have become a standard, rather than a perk.

Customer rewards have positively impacted business outcomes. With customers showing a preference for digitally-supported businesses, digital solutions offer an additional platform to leverage customer interaction data that allows them to anticipate customer needs and consistently refresh their technology and processes on a timely basis.

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What are some benefits of having a customer-centric experience that incorporates digital elements in a business model?

Implementing the right digital elements can streamline processes on the back-end while offering a more seamless process on the front end. For example, a real-time online ordering system allows customers to track their orders or empowers them to choose their preferred delivery timeframe. The more information is exchanged between the retailer and the consumer, the more efficient the process. As the value of the organization increases, so do the investment opportunities that can support the growth of the business in the areas of talent, operations, and customer awareness.

The trickle-down impact of this adoption goes beyond the individual business. As businesses become more intelligent, it develops clusters of competitiveness within industries, creating stronger, home-grown businesses and economies that insulate themselves from further disruption.

What’s your advice for businesses that are considering implementing technology solutions?

Businesses need to act now, but technology solutions cannot be implemented for the sake of it. These solutions must deliver measurable value to the consumer in under 12 months. The main challenge for technology to solve in businesses today is client experiences restricted by years of technical debt.

To identify measurable value, businesses must take time to understand data. An organization’s data is the first step to understanding the customer – if you understand the customer, you can drive technology investments that benefit them.

It’s also important to take risks, especially for those who are considering becoming early adopters of a particular technology. The key is pushing investments that return value in a short window that can be demonstrated to current and prospective customers. One of the biggest challenges for Canadian customers is that our businesses don’t move fast and often enough. 

Businesses can no longer afford to wait and see – they must act now to digitize and implement digital-first business strategies that bring them closer to their customers, produce quick returns on investment, and expand Canada’s competitive landscape.

About Colm Sparks-Austin

Colm Sparks-Austin is the President and Managing Director of Capgemini Canada. With a deep focus on industry, his team is focused on accelerating Canada’s growth strategy by unleashing human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. He is an experienced leader with more than fifteen years of experience managing large, go-to-market teams across North America, Europe and APAC. Prior to joining Capgemini, Colm held leadership positions with IBM in Canada and the United States.

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