Judy Buchholz, global managing director for CitiGroup at IBM, shares some insights on how digital is transforming businesses of all industries. She explores how companies should take information about the customer and apply it to make better messaging, better products and better business decisions.
Judy joined an impressive lineup at the 2019 Executive Forum as a keynote speaker. She shared some insights in this executive interview with Gary Tubridy of the Alexander Group.
Gary Tubridy: This is Gary Tubridy here at the 2019 Executive Forum. I’m here with Judy Buchholz, global managing director for CitiGroup at IBM. Judy, welcome.
Judy Buchholz: Thanks.
GT: Great to have you here.
JB: Nice to be here, Gary.
GT: IBM, which I worked at 35 years ago, is a very different company today.
JB: Yes it is.
GT: So tell me a little bit about the new IBM.
JB: Okay. I think there’ll be things about IBM that if you were to step back in would be the same, right? I think the passion for people, our culture, those things haven’t changed. The clients we served is changing though, right? I think we, we still have, our core clients, our large accounts, which I’m part of, that we clearly are a strategic partners and work with them from end to end, but we’re also very focused on new buyers and new clients, especially ones that are looking to really transform their business and really have a new operating model in this digital world.
GT: Tell me a little bit about the customer innovation and what that means.
JB: If you think about it, all the industries are transforming. Think about Uber or Venmo and all these companies that didn’t exist. They’re coming up in a world where technology or their legacy systems don’t exist, so they could have a new operating model. Our clients are trying to innovate to keep up and also to outpace some of this disruption happening. What they’re trying to do, really, is figure out how they reach clients in a new way and how they really have a more modernized approach.
GT: So innovation relates to them getting to their customers as their customers want to be served.
GT: How does that then wash over you at IBM? How were you helping them do that?
JB: Most of their systems of record were things that were developed in our products and services, so the key thing is you can transform the front end. Think about everything you do on your phone, right? All the applications you have. But the data and information has to tie back to a repository that typically may be on an on-prem solution. What we can do is better understand their business, what they’re trying to accomplish and tie the information and data that’s critical to those front end applications.
GT: It seems to me that the digital technology wave that’s coming over now is kind of the backbone of all of this, I’ll call it possibility. It makes a lot of things possible. It creates a lot of challenges. Let’s talk about the possibilities. Is digital behind all of this?
JB: It’s a big part. I think it’s the transformation factor that’s happening. It’s just the way, I believe, what you do in your personal life and how you like to transact transcends right into business. You expect your insurance company, your bank, your retailer to be able to give you instant information, instant credit, instant. Just because you could do it on your phone. That’s the challenge. Digital is now forcing the brick and mortar to also have a digital way.
GT: We speak here at the forum about the need to put the customer at the center of everything, because they’re kind of demanding it and this means marketing and sales and service. The customer touching functions really have to work differently together. Tell me about how this is happening at IBM.
JB: That really is a continuum, I think, from the client’s view, they don’t want to see seams. They want to work with someone who is going to utilize all of those functions for them and not show them there’s a stop and start.
GT: Do you deploy marketing, sales and service managers together to the fields, to customers onsite?
JB: I bring all that together as I’m working with my client. It’s really important. We have folks who are helping us get the message out through marketing, through events, through seminars, but we use the sales team as part of that, so we can drive the conversation further in the next interaction. And on the delivery side, it’s really important because what we sell, we have to make sure we understand the impacts, the delivery, because sometimes that’s the big disconnect and the last thing you need is an unsatisfied client.
GT: In this day and age, where so much is going to be through subscription, a dissatisfied client is a former client.
JB: Exactly. Exactly. You really don’t have time to recover. It’s immediate.
GT: How does all of this change the role of the revenue leader?
JB: You can’t just be thinking about that transaction. You’ll have to think about the whole client and how that will affect them and make sure you’re very tied to your colleagues regardless of size of your company. You need to be working closely with your marketing and delivery colleagues to make sure. I think your role has definitely expanded and the client expects that.
GT: We said at the forum this morning that digital can enable this sort of collaboration, but you got to have culture behind that to actually cause that collaboration to occur. Tell me a little bit about how the culture has evolved to make that possible.
JB: You’re right, because cultures are usually the harder part. You can give someone a tool, but they may not use it. I think it, it happens over time. It’s not overnight. You can implement these tools and technologies and people have to feel comfortable using them. You also need to set up an environment that encourages it.
GT: It’s so fascinating that you point out if you want to change culture, you can’t do it with a stick. You’ve got to do it the right way over time. What’s your prediction? What’s the next big customer innovation that you see around the corner?
JB: When you think about all these digital applications, that appliance is all on the edge. It’s around how do you gather the information together and more like an internet of things, because the companies that can figure out how do I mine the information that’s coming from all these fringe applications to help me get to my clients faster, make better decisions, make better products, will be the ones who advance. It’s using that data from those appliances to make you better business decisions. I think is really the next wave. It’s about data is the next natural resource.
GT: Outstanding. Judy, thank you so much for joining us today and being at the forum.
JB: I appreciate it, Gary.
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