Exploring Digital Transformation and Customer-Centricity
Christo Conidaris, Vice President of Sales for Curvature, the global leader in independent IT maintenance and support for storage, server, and network hardware jumped in the Supply Chain Digital hot seat recently, to discuss Curvature’s ongoing partnership with HCL Technologies, and his personal feelings about the global supply chain networks.
I really wanted to get a feel for exactly who Christo is, as a VP, and he didn’t disappoint. “As you can see from the colour of my hair; I’ve been doing this for a while. I’ve been managing sales organisations, and I’ve had sales leadership positions for the last 15 years,” the increasingly chatty VP stated.
“Originally, I actually started life as a programmer, though,” which, unfortunately, Christo wasn’t too good at according to his peers at the time. “Okay, they said, ‘well you know you won’t make a good programmer, so you’re probably going to be much better in pre-sales”. And so started Christo’s adjacent-stepping journey from computer programming to sales and into sales management.
Today, the industry-leading Vice President of Sales finds himself overseeing Curvature’s EMEA sales, and rather uniquely, rolling up his sleeves and fostering some of the strongest relationships in the industry today. One such relationship comes in the form of Curvature’s tight-knit partnership with HCL Technologies, an Indian multinational information technology services and consulting firm.
“We have different tiers of salespeople all over the world, and I’ve spent a lot of time working alongside them, and we’ve worked very closely with HCL Technologies’ staff to ensure that HCL is always successful as a company with us. There are two reasons for that. The first: the propositions that HCL bring us are always complex ─ they’re never straightforward and simple, often because they need to make tough decisions very quickly, in order to maintain their competitive edge.”
“It’s important for us to get a strong partnership together, and my role is really to foster that and make sure that the business understanding can flow between the two companies. Ultimately, we can meet the objectives of the company, and HCL can meet the objectives of their campaign. It's about making sure those two aspects come together.”
On fostering a strong relationship, Christo stated, “One of the things that really gets me excited about working for Curvature is the customer-centric approach. And HCL is similar, right? When they take on a customer, they put several people on the task, and they push until they’ve provided everything requested. I think that’s part of the success story. When somebody asks why it works so well between Curvature and HCL, I would say that it’s because we have the same vision for the customer.”
On the topic of recent technological development across supply chains, “I think there are a couple of things happening, currently. There is definitely an inclination to move technology into the cloud. At Curvature, for example, we use Microsoft 365 and Salesforce. These are all cloud-driven technologies.”
Through the adoption of cloud technology, Christo believes companies have learnt that industries need to find the perfect hybrid solution ─ “you can’t have everything in the cloud, and you can’t have everything in a physical data centre. It’s about how you use the cloud to benefit you; I think a lot of companies are on a journey, and that journey is to go to the cloud, place some things there, and then come back with other bits. It's about how that whole ecosystem is going to work in the cloud.”
Christo also noted that virtualisation would definitely be a game-changer in the future of supply chain, “Virtualisation is allowing companies to do more with less. So you can take one server, and suddenly you can transform it into ten ─ that means you can get far more out of your existing technologies. Broadly speaking, technology, as a whole, continues to innovate at a rapid pace. From a services perspective, technology is becoming more efficient in the way that it operates and because of that, it’s forcing companies like our own to change our approach to daily business operations.”
Harnessing APIs to unlock and operationalise your data
Data is the fuel that powers modern businesses. It’s widely accepted that unlocking insight from data is key to driving successful digital transformation and competitive advantage. Yet the gap between understanding the importance of data-driven insight and being able to achieve it remains stubbornly wide, as critical information remains locked away in silos. To overcome these challenges, businesses must try a new approach. API-led connectivity offers a reusable, standardised way to integrate data across multiple platforms, systems, and applications. When done right, it can be the fast-track to IT and business teams productivity, innovation, and growth.
A data explosion
The past decade has seen a data explosion. Analyst firm IDC predicted that over 59 zettabytes (ZBs) of data would be “created, captured, copied, and consumed” in the world last year alone. In the next three years it’s predicted to continue growing at a CAGR of 26%, during which time more data will have been created than during the past 30 years. At the top of any CIO or business leader’s wish-list is the ability to extract insight from these vast troves of information in order to make more effective decisions. According to McKinsey, data-driven companies are 1.5 times more likely to report revenue growth of greater than 10%.
Unfortunately, just like much of the population for much of the last 12 months, data is locked down and isolated. MuleSoft’s 2021 Connectivity Benchmark report reveals that data silos and existing IT infrastructure are making it difficult for most firms to integrate new technologies and make changes to IT systems and applications. In fact, currently less than third of enterprise applications on average are integrated, so there is still significant room for improvement. Those organisations that are able to connect the dots between their data stand to realise increased customer engagement, business transformation and innovation benefits.
Journey towards API-led integration
Legacy custom code point-to-point integration may have been fine a decade ago when enterprises ran relatively few applications. But today’s businesses need something altogether more agile. Point-to-point can be expensive and complex, which means IT ends up spending too much of its time on maintenance and not enough on innovation.
This is where APIs come in, offering a more seamless and cost-effective way to drive integration through discoverability, self-service, and reuse. Rather than building the same point-to-point integration for use in 10 different projects, which requires each to be maintained individually as unique sets of code, a single API can be developed to be reused across them all. An API-led approach therefore means companies only have to unlock each data set just once to empower business teams across the organisation to use that data in their own projects.
The value of this approach can be extended even further with today’s low-code tools, which support drag-and-drop integrations. This can help to ease the burden on IT teams and empower business users to deliver their own integration projects.
The LendingTree experience
One company that has driven major improvements through reusable APIs is online loans marketplace LendingTree. Originally its 16 different business units were operating with siloed, incomplete data, meaning 360-degree customer insight was impossible—affecting sales and the end-user experience. The firm was not able to capture or analyse call centre data, limiting its ability to improve experiences for its customers.
Using APIs to draw in data from multiple systems and databases in real-time, LendingTree was able to consolidate its customer data on Salesforce to create a single source of truth for cross-departmental teams. This approach empowers service agents by giving them access to individuals’ loan application history from a single console, drastically reducing the time it takes them to consolidate various sources of customer data. As such, its API-led integration approach has allowed LendingTree to free up time and resources to launch new capabilities faster.
The future’s digital
Organisations have been affected in many different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. But across the board, the desire among business leaders over the coming months will be to emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. Data-driven insight will be vital to this achievement, as businesses push ahead with digital innovation. API-led integration can help them to ensure that data strategies are long-lasting and sustainable, paving the way for long-term success and a brighter digital future.