Revolutionize Your Enterprise With Nigel Vaz, CEO Of Publicis Sapient
Nigel Vaz, CEO of Public Wis.
Courtesy Publicis Sapient
Haley Crawford, a graduate student at Ivey Business School, contributed to this story.
As CEO of Publicis Sapient, a digital consulting firm dedicated to revolutionizing the way companies interact with their customers, Nigel Vaz is an expert on the impact of technology on business. His book Digital Business Transformation explores the myriad of ways companies need to develop their digital skills in order to best serve their customers.
“Digital used to be a tangential business idea,” explained Vaz. “Today it’s an existential idea that’s one of the CEO’s two or three top priorities. And of course, the last year has tightened it so much that even the skeptics stopped by. A retail CEO informed me that there is no contingency plan for every store around the world that could close at the same time. We now have to redefine retail in the context of the digital. This is exactly what my book and our work as a company focus on. “
While this new world may seem the opposite of traditional retail, these companies can actually benefit greatly from digitization. Rather than relying largely on in-store salespeople communications, the customer journey can now include myriad facets of digital storytelling that bring customers closer to the brand’s universe.
At the helm of Publicis Sapient, Vaz is responsible for ensuring that companies develop the ability to create new sources of value in a digital world. That means you work the way digital companies do. Vaz claims this is not just about acquiring technology. It’s about bringing the five SPEED functions (strategy, product, experience, engineering and data) together to produce products, services and experiences that use digital to increase both customer and business value.
“The people in this story are the most important,” said Vaz. “How do I change the organization to create a better experience for the employee, who in turn can create a better experience for the customer? And from a customer perspective, they don’t want the complexity or dysfunction of the organization to manifest itself. “
The CEO discussed the example of airlines showing getaway vacations in their advertisements and the resolution of that dream once someone’s luggage is lost. Cognitive dissonance can occur for the customer when the advertised product or service and the actual experience do not match.
By sticking to old norms and only listening to those responsible, they will hold back from finding never-before-seen solutions to long-standing problems like lost luggage. Pricing for generating new ideas will only improve the customer experience in the long run, and companies that don’t risk missing out on exponential growth.
“When you think of most Fortune 500 companies, at some point they were entrepreneurial,” said Vaz. “However, as the organization scales, a culture of structured decision-making develops in opposition to this entrepreneurial spirit. A lot of the work we do with clients is determining how decision-making should be distributed to the lowest possible part of the organization […] Establish a company start-up culture. This prioritizes ideas based on merit where there is value that can be unlocked quickly. “
The willingness to risk failure by hearing new ideas is the only way companies can get out of a fear of outdated thinking.
Companies that innovate in established industries by using new digital tools are on the rise today. The Dollar Shave Club, for example, disrupted the established razor industry with its digital subscription model, showing big players like Gillette that they are not necessarily invincible. Other companies like Tesla have taken this type of transformation even further by changing the way the entire industry is perceived.
“The paradigm shift that Tesla has brought about in the automotive industry is interesting,” said Vaz. “It’s not just about electric vehicles, it’s also about the fact that now, like any other aspect of our lives, the car is both about software and the physical product.”
While discussing a Publicis Sapient customer company in the automotive industry, Vaz said that 30% of the company’s cars were purchased online after the pandemic. The consulting company’s job is to help the brand redefine a whole new world of options for online configuration, from vehicle specifications to test drives and vehicle delivery. While many employees are interested in this type of redirection, others are more resilient.
“What we’ve seen in organizations is a term called the stuck center,” Vaz said. “You have people at the top who see the big picture and want to move very quickly. And you have people below who are new to the organization, looking for inspiration and ready to take the helm if you point them in the right direction. But then there is a group in the middle, all of which have become successful within the current construct. As you think about how to get this group of people to change, you need to think about incentive structures and help them learn, unlearn, and relearn. How can you take them on a journey of continuous learning versus continuous knowledge? “
To advocate for new ideas and digital transformations, companies need to give young employees the opportunity to share their vision of a new approach the company could take. After all, one of Vaz’s top tips for CEOs to get a fresh perspective on potential products and services is to ask their kids whether or not they would use them.
By breaking the cycle of habit and introducing a learning culture, companies and their employees can embrace new perspectives and digital solutions with open arms.