The Right Frame of Mind: intive’s CCO Rolf Pasel on Customer Centricity and Digital Business Continuity

The role of purpose-driven innovation is to cut through the complexity of today’s business environment. The Covid and post-Covid-19 landscape presents companies with new challenges and – in many cases – forces businesses to accelerate their digital transformation or even pivot entirely. Today, more than ever, people-centricity and customer-centricity are the decisive factors for a company’s success. We’ve asked Rolf Pasel, intive’s newly appointed Chief Commercial Officer about his plans, his view on today’s business landscape and the role of digital business continuity.

You joined the company in August. What are your main priorities for the next couple of months?

I’m still excited about joining intive and I’m meeting our people, online for now, every day. It’s a very interesting and dynamic phase for me. Before drawing any strategies, you must listen and learn a lot – that’s what I’m doing right now.

I’m also meeting our clients, getting to know their challenges, understanding their needs, and translating all that knowledge into an even better support from our side. Once this first step is completed, I’ll be ready to take a more strategic direction when it comes to our portfolio and our client coverage.

New phases in our customers’ organizations' growth and new business opportunities for them all benefit from a fresh, closer look. I’m thrilled to have a chance to tailor our services more carefully to our partners’ needs.

How does getting closer to our customers work in the times of coronavirus-related restrictions?

Everything is a bit challenging, indeed, but it’s the same for everyone: clients, partners, employees. By now we’ve all gotten used to the “new normal”. We still have teams on the ground, though, and work closely with our clients. Some of our account managers go to see our partners in person, respecting all the applicable safety guidelines.

Some say you can’t have a meaningful business conversation without being able to shake hands. Well, in many places in the world, shaking hands was never an option. For many cultures and regions, close physical contact is neither necessary nor appropriate when doing business.

Generally, yes, for us in the West it’s much easier to build trust during a face-to-face meeting. However, after months of lockdowns and travel limits, I can confidently say it’s possible to close new deals and keep on moving, even with new client logos. You can observe two things: video communication is a must now, along with multiple valuable client references. You need a solid basis for trust.

intive’s long-standing partnerships with global brands stem from our company’s customer centricity. Can you elaborate on that? How does a modern, customer-centric business approach its partners?

For me, it’s very simple: it all starts with the client. You need to understand what their business priority is, their business strategy, and their long-term plan to be successful. Once you’ve understood this, you can take appropriate actions to support them, and propose solutions that’ll contribute to their success.

It’s a very different approach than simply “looking behind you”, that is, checking what you have ready in storage and trying to push your fixed services into the market. Client-centricity is about listening to the client and taking advantage of the insights you obtain in the process – and throughout the years – to come up with an offer that is carefully tailored to the industry and the company, and presents an immediate business gain.

You don’t necessarily talk technology or capacity – naturally, it’s all part of the solution later on – but you mostly talk business value. Clients expect us to be on top of the most recent technologies and understand their digital transformation options. They also expect us to be the manager of this process: We need to be able to explain why a certain solution is the best way to achieve certain business goals, and we must always find the best match.

One last thing: Client centricity doesn’t mean you say ‘yes’ to everything the client states or asks for. A proper relationship – which is a direct result of client-centricity and grows over time – leads to a continuous open discussion and true partnership. A company like intive brings to the table experience. In our case it’s over 20 years – there is a lot to lean on and learn from.

According to IDC's Worldwide Digital Transformation Spending Guide 2020, global investment in digital transformation services is forecast to grow 10.4% in 2020 which is notably slower than last year (2019: 17.9%). Let’s talk about pockets of growth opportunities: How can digital transformation companies sustain their growth during the economic fallout from the coronavirus?

How analysts view the market is one thing – how the market later behaves, is another. The good news is – no matter the estimation models – the digital transformation market is growing, despite the circumstances we’re in. In some domains the market is even growing as a result of this new business environment.

Remote setups call for communication and collaboration tools, all kinds of digital employee experiences, online platforms that enable seamless transition from onsite physical processes to fully digital operations. Many companies, in search of business continuity, turn to new digital channels with their customer-facing services and products, and are disrupting their traditional business approach. Also, for a number of enterprises the post-Covid-19 landscape will translate into a need for cost reduction. Digitalizing processes will support businesses in their search for cost-efficiency.

Our current work mode is a remote model. Are you at all concerned about the impact of remote working on efficiency and business growth?

Multiple studies have shown that – for the time being – remote work hasn’t resulted in a productivity dip. Having said that, I’d like to make one thing clear: Whatever we work on, we build and innovate as teams. Connection is key to a good collaboration. Therefore, we will be looking for ways to get our people together again when it’s safe and possible. It might mean they’ll meet from time to time and work in a mixed remote/office setup.

Fostering this connection and a high-trust environment is indeed a challenge when face-to-face meetings are scarce, but it’s a challenge for all businesses worldwide. How do you understand the role of people-centricity in general?

Everything we do is based on the knowledge and experience of our people. You can have the best strategy and the most thought-through value proposition, but if you don’t have the right people behind it, to deliver on your promises, you have a serious problem.

One thing I believe in is that we all need a bit of inspiration to work our best. intive’s services portfolio and client mix are attractive to our specialists – they know that their work is purposeful and has real impact. Supporting Fortune 500 companies across the globe, they come to work to make a real difference.

They also know that at intive there’s a lot of space to learn, challenge themselves, and develop new skills. Another important thing is that intivers find here the kind of people they feel good with. We pay attention to fostering a culture of collaboration and trust, as without these two no business can be successful. We’re only as strong as our teams.

Do you believe that the distinction between ‘people organizations’ and ‘process organizations’ is a real one?

What is a truly people-centric organization and what is a fully process-driven one? Usually, when you talk to people who come from more people-driven environments, they’ll appreciate some structure and some processes to help them navigate through everyday tasks. On the other hand, those coming from more structured organizations are sometimes stuck within processes and tools.

The best culture is somewhere in between. Rules are there to guide us, however when you trust your people and their judgement, you know that rules sometimes have to be bent for the best of the business. If your people act as empowered owners, if they play for the team and keep the business focus, flexibility is something you’d expect, and not fear.

At intive, we have so many experienced professionals, so many people who’ve come a long way with the company, and so many long-lasting client partnerships that I believe we have a strong foundation to build on moving forward.

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