Becoming more Customer-Centric
Don’t be confused by the title. This is actually a personal blog post about global organisational structures and why companies sometimes change them to serve the customer better. It’s about becoming more customer-centric. Honestly!
What triggered me to write this blog was today’s announcement of a new global organisation structure for Atos, a client of ours and a true leader in the IT and digital world. Atos is also a great case study in how leaders change their organisation to become more customer-centric.
Today, the new CEO of Atos Elie Girard announced a major global restructuring of its operations. You need to read between the lines to figure out how dramatic this change actually is. No longer will counties the UK, France, Germany and other countries be responsible for their own P&Ls. These will now be run by six global industry heads. The axis of power will shift and the shift is seismic.
Paris, 19 February 2020
Moving the Group to an Industry approach
As of 2020, the Group initiates a transformation, called “SPRING”, aiming at reshaping its portfolio of offerings, reinforcing its go-to-market approach, and setting-up an Industry led organisation. In this context, six Industries are created:
Manufacturing Financial Services & Insurance Public Sector & Defense Telecom, Media & Technology Resources & Services Healthcare & Life Sciences
At the same time, the Company gathers Global Business Units into 5 Regional Business Units (RBU), each of them under a single leadership:
North America Central Europe: former Germany, and Central & Eastern Europe excluding Italy Northern Europe: former United Kingdom & Ireland, and Benelux & The Nordics Southern Europe: former France, Iberia, and Italy Growing Markets: former Asia-Pacific, South America, and Middle East & Africa
It all sounds a bit complicated: GBUs, RBUs, Industries and so on. And yet Atos is moving to this new organisation structure in order to become more customer-centric. Here’s why.
Atos’ customers are typically large international organisations. To serve them better, Atos needs to move to a more global organisation structure, with deeper industry skills that can be deployed across international boundaries for the benefit of those clients. If your clients are global, you need to be global. This change is absolutely the right thing for Atos to do. That said, there will be challenges along the way. I’m only saying this because of personal experiences in a previous life.
Becoming more customer-centric requires four elements to be in place: Leadership, Strategy, Execution and Culture.
Atos has shown leadership and determination in making such a significant restructuring of its business. That leadership has driven a new strategy for delivering more effectively to global clients. Profit & Loss will no longer reside in each country. It will reside in an Industry or Global Business Unit (GBU). Now Atos is in the Execution phase. This is where the new organisational structure must work for both clients and employees. If Atos gets this right – and I’m sure it will – the culture of the new company will be changed utterly. And that’s good for Atos’ clients. The trick in the Execution phase is to involve both customers and employees in transformation. In other words, don’t just think of Execution in terms of ‘hard’ activities such as processes, technology, targets and KPIs. The human side of the equation is arguably more important. We call this Investing in the “Soft Side”.
A Personal Experience
More than 20 years ago I used to work in Andersen Consulting (since rebranded as Accenture) at a point when it was moving from a country-based organisation structure to a global GBU structure just like Atos is now doing. It was a painful experience for a number of reasons but – no different to Atos – it was absolutely the right thing to do. Accenture’s clients were large global organisations and that required Accenture to become a truly global organisation as well.
More than 100,000 Atos staff are now going through the very same restructuring process as I did all those years ago. For most, the impact will be small; for many it will have a significant impact on their lives and careers. As for Atos itself, the impact will be transformational.
So here’s a small personal perspective on what it’s like to be a small cog in a large wheel going through a global organisation restructure. In the late 1990s I was working with Accenture in Dublin, having transferred from its London office a few years earlier. My boss in Dublin was a guy called Mark Ryan. We both worked in the Irish Financial Services practice – our clients were the local banks and insurance companies. When the new organisational structure was announced, Mark called me in to his office. He said: “John, you’re no longer working for me. We’re now part of a European group within Financial Services. Your new boss is Kim Zimmer.”
Who the Hell is Kim and Where is She Based?
I don’t remember my exact response but it was probably something like “Who the hell is Kim and where is she based?” Mark laughed. At the time, I didn’t really see what was so funny.
After a while, Mark stopped laughing and said “Kim’s actually a guy. And he’s based in Oslo.”
As it turned out that Kim Zimmer was a wonderful man. Kim and his fellow partners had built a great business for Accenture in Norway based on long-standing relationships with senior leaders in the local banking and insurance community. For me, it was a great opportunity to work in a more European role (and spend more time on a plane). The European aspect of the work was great but the time spent in airports and hotels eventually got to me. A few years later I resigned from Accenture after a wonderful 13 years in what was always a very international company. I ended up in Deep-Insight where I’m still travelling but on a more manageable basis.
I was going to name this blog “Who Do I Need to Buy Drinks For?” One of the most important aspects for anybody in a large multinational company is knowing who to talk to in order to help you develop your own career. Mentoring is important in any large organisation and organisational changes disrupt the linkages that people build up over time. It’s something that senior managers need to bear in mind when they suddenly find themselves with a brand new team of people reporting into them. Being customer-centric also means being employee-centric.
Similarly, for staff, it’s important to get facetime with new bosses. You don’t need to ply them with alcohol but it is important to engineer the opportunity to spend time with them to understand what their motivations are and how you fit into their plans.