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Digital Transformation? In This Economy?: Join Postlight on 10/20 for a panel discussion on Digital Strategy. RSVP.

Something wonderful happened recently — Postlight joined NTT DATA Services! This week, Chris and Gina sit down with Wayne Busch, NTT DATA’s Group President of Consulting and Digital Transformation. They discuss how NTT Data thinks about digital transformation and what this partnership means for Postlight going forward. Don’t worry, Postlight lives on — in a bigger and better version.

Transcript

Gina Trapani Turns out that we’re bigger and better than ever. You should get in touch. Right?

Chris LoSacco Right. Bigger and better than ever.

GT Bigger and better. 

[Intro music fades in, ramps up, plays 10 seconds.] 

GT Hello world. Welcome to the Postlight podcast. I’m Gina Trapani, CEO of Postlight, and as always, I’m joined by my partner in this business and president of Postlight Chris Losacco.

CL Hi Gina. How’s it going?

GT Hey Chris. Oh, I’m having a good day. It’s a good day at the Postlight office today.

CL It really is. We have a special guest here with us in the podcast studio. 

GT We do. 

CL Wayne Busch. There’s a lot of words in your title, Wayne. 

Wayne Busch Yeah. 

CL Group president of consulting and digital transformation services.

[0:50]

WB It does sound very long. It’s quite a bit simpler than that.

GT It’s got authority though. I like it. [Laughs.]

CL Yes. And Wayne is from NTT DATA, who are our new parents.

GT Yes. A kind of crazy thing happened to us about a month ago, two months ago. We became an NTT DATA company. We joined this incredible organization that is at a scale that I have not—I haven’t digested the org chart yet at all. I think it’s gonna take me a couple of years, but I’m so excited to have Wayne here and talk about what is NTT DATA and what does the future look like for digital transformation, which is like a big, heavy phrase. [Laughs.]

[1:26]

WB Yeah. Well, first off, welcome both of you, Gina, Chris, and the whole Postlight team. 

GT Thank you. 

WB I’m excited to be here in New York today with the team and talking about where we’re going together. I’d say it’s a lot less like a parent than it is a collaboration. So, you know, something weird may have happened, but I think it’s something wonderful.

GT This is why we’re doing this. This is such a great, great, great arrangement.

CL So tell us about NTT DATA. Like, what is it, there’s a relationship to this larger group NTT, lay it out for the listeners. Like, what is this company? How does it fit into the larger world?

[2:02]

WB Sure. Well, it’s the best little big technology company that most people don’t know. We’re part of one of the top 75 companies in the world, NTT—Nepal, Telegraph and Telephone. One of the worl’’s largest telecommunications and services businesses. NTT DATA is the technology services arm of NTT. And it’s been a business that’s been grown by acquisition, as you’ve witnessed yourself. Its brand in North America isn’t as well known, based upon us coming together from a number of acquisitions. And so a number of people may know the company from some of its historic acquisitions, like Keane or Dell Services or Carlisle & Gallagher, or like yourselves, Nexient, Corium, others who’ve joined the fold. But broadly we’re a global telecommunications and technology services company. You know, really our intention is to be the best technology company serving the modern clients with modern technology and transformation of their businesses. 

GT Early in my career, I was working at a startup on some wireless stuff, and we were keeping our eye on this really interesting company in Japan called NTT Docomo that was doing the next level of mobile stuff. It was like, oh, America’s so behind. And do I have this right? NTT invented emoji.

[3:21]

WB That’s true. That’s true.

GT See that sealed the deal for me, Chris. I was like, this is pure innovation. [Laughs.]

WB Yeah. It’s actually quite amazing when you look at simple things like that that were part of our legacy, our history’s incredible. And you know, you look at us spending three or four billion a year on, you know, R&D and innovation. And you think about how telecommunications and digital technologies transformed everything we do, right? Between our phones and the data and the advice that we get. And, you know, we’re part of all that in one capacity or another.

CL Tell us a little bit about your story, Wayne. Like where did you come from? How did you end up at NTT DATA?

[3:57]

WB Sure. Yeah. Well, a weird little thing happened to me in my career about about four years ago. 

GT Yeah. [Laughs.] 

WB So I was blessed to spend the first 26 years of my career at a little company called Accenture.

CL I think I know that. 

GT I think maybe that rings a bell.

WB Yeah. A great, great company. And I really enjoyed my time there, but you know, frankly, after 26 years I was getting a little bored and I felt like I had done everything that I wanted to do there, but I still had plenty of career left. And so I was looking for opportunities to up my game, and life is all about growth. I care about the growth of businesses, of people, of communities, of us as human beings. And so I was looking for the next opportunity to think about how can I contribute to the growth of an organization that I think focuses on three things in this order: One is their clients. The second is their people. And the third is themselves. And I got the right call at the right time as I was exploring that.

[4:50]

WB And you know, what I found as I explored a little bit more the legacy and the history is it’s a fantastic organization. And I love the fact that we’re big and small in terms of being a global company, but still local to North America and, you know, thinking about our clients and their business models and their customers. I love our Japanese heritage in terms of how we think about things for the long-term. A lot of corporations think about how do I get to the end of the quarter. Right? Our company thinks about midterm plans as like five years away. I think the long-term commitment to our clients and our employees really makes us unique in terms of where and how we invest and the fact that we’re really in it for the long-term. A lot of people say they are, right? But when it comes down to making a decision at the end of the year about, you know, is it good for you or good for me, that’s when the decisions get tougher. And, you know, I feel super confident that we’re in this for our clients and our employees.

[5:45]

CL Yeah. That’s awesome. I remember you saying to us early on at one point that we think in like 5 or 10-year cycles, and I was like, oh my God.

GT It made an impression on me. A profound impression on me, actually. We didn’t hear that elsewhere. [Laughs.]

CL Right. And we thought in like five-week cycles and it’s just a very different and refreshing mentality. And especially as you’re thinking about long-term strategic client partnerships, which is what we have and continue to aspire to, and knowing that that’s the orientation of your group and the wider company is just fantastic. How do you position CDTs consulting and digital transformation services like in the market? And especially when you compare it to some of the other players that are in the space?

[6:29]

WB Sure. So when we think about digital transformation, you know, there used to be a ton, not too long ago when a lot of our clients would take on a transformation program and they would think about it as, okay, I’ve got this two-year program of change where we need to reinvent some things, add some new products to the mix, maybe replatform certain parts of our business. And then we’ll be competitive and we’re good. Right? And that usually was like, Hey, we’re going to spend $300 million over two years, but then like, we’ve got our new corporate strategy and everything’s great. And I think we’ve long moved away from that. COVID accelerated it in terms of the digitization of everything in our personal and work lives. And so I think we’re in a state of constant transformation where we’re always changing our products, our services, how and where we deliver. So in order to be an effective partner in that environment, you need to understand three things. One is what is the client’s business, right? And that’s what our consulting business is really about. Understanding the products and services and profitability of how a client engages with their customers, how they make money, how they keep long-term value through client relationships. The second is through digital transformation tools. And so what are those big names, like, cloud and data and UX and other capabilities like that. And those are really just transformation levers, right? Things that companies use to create new value for their customers or for themselves as it relates to running a business more efficiently and effectively. And then the last is the long-term proposition of having to run an efficient and effective business in the face of a constantly changing environment. And, you know, everybody’s got to think about how they are resilient and run a resilient business. One, whether we talk about things like COVID or economic disruption and recession that may or may not be coming at any point in the future and, you know, planning for that and creating a flexible model, you look at all those things and, you know, deep understanding of industry, deep understanding of how to change a business model and deep understanding of how to help somebody operate their business most efficiently. I think we present a pretty compelling combination of skills and they’re in different mixes depending upon our client situation. And we want to meet them where they are. And I think that that is also a little bit of our heritage in terms of not being too overconfident in our views of the world or of a given situation, but being humbled enough to lean into those kind of discussions, with our best thinking and our client’s best thinking so that they get the best possible outcome.

[8:59]

GT What is it about consulting and client services—like you’ve talked about, and NTT DATA is very client-centric, clients-first is something that also made a big impression on me. And I think there’s a particular kind of, I think there are probably a lot of people who listen to our show who are in-house, or who wonder about why do you get into client services. Or what is it like to work in consulting? What drew you, I mean, you’ve had a long career, what drew you to it? And what do you love about it? And now maybe what don’t you love about it? [Laughs.]

WB Sure, sure. It has been a few decades since I’ve been in the industry and it’s sort of like dog years sometimes. [Chris and Gina laugh.] To some people I’m still quite young and to others ‘’m quite old, but it’s been a great experience so far. So what drew me to consulting originally was the opportunity to make change in a short period of time. Generally when people engage consultants, what they want to do is they want to make a significant change—either in their products or their processes or their technology platforms, how they engage with their employees or their customers. And there’s a bias for action. And I very much love the intensity of consulting in terms of getting to an outcome in a short period of time. And so, I’ve always found that exciting and, you know, I look back at—probably served well north of a hundred clients personally, and the experience that I’ve developed in doing that creates a unique perspective for me as an individual that nobody else in the world has.Right? Based upon my personal experience. And that makes me, you know, when I’m on my best day and bringing all that experience to bear, it creates a great opportunity for me to offer the very best advice that I can provide a client. And when you combine the ability to provide advice with the ability to execute or to action, that advice, especially at velocity, right? Because these days, one or two year time frames are too long. You’re talking about five or six weeks, right? In terms of agile product development cycles and getting things into the marketplace and competitive landscapes. So when you combine great advice with great execution, there’s really something to be proud of. And I love nothing more than having a client with a problem that they don’t know how to solve and being able to help them figure out both the intellectual solution and then how to implement it. And seeing it in the marketplace, whether that’s with a brand or a product or service, or just seeing it in their results. And often they don’t say thanks to you individually, Mr. Wayne Bush or your organization. Right? But, I know that I’ve got some fingerprints on that. So that creates some personal satisfaction of having made a difference.

[11:26]

GT Yeah. I mean, that makes a lot of sense to me. I walk through the world and every once in a while I’m like, oh, Postlight client, oh, Postlight client, and I feel good. And Postlight, isn’t, you know, maybe our name isn’t anywhere. Like you don’t always get credit necessarily, but you’re like, oh, I helped that happen. There’s a big sense of accomplishment and meaning in that, for sure.

WB Yeah. Something that most people don’t understand about consultants is sometimes they view them sort of as, you know, glory, hounds. What they really, really take pride in is the results of their work. And, you know, you look at the lifestyle of most consultants, it’s not an eight to five lifestyle. It’s a six or seven day a week job with lots of travel and 12-plus hour days. And that’s really all about trying to get to an answer, trying to get to a result and people take great pride in that, both with an individual assignment and over the course of their careers. I know I can mark five or six key moments in my life that are driven by something I did for a client that had a meaningful outcome that really shaped not just my work life, but my life. That’s been something I’ve always been happy to reflect on.

[12:28]

CL So I love that you’ve talked about acceleration and speeding things up because it very much mirrors when Postlight gets brought in. You know, nine times out of ten it’s because the client wants to go faster. They want to enable something that they’re not able to do. And that is both very challenging, but also very rewarding. If you can bring that to an organization that hasn’t been able to unlock it for whatever reason, and you were able to, I can speak personally, I love it. Our teams love it. And I think it’s one of the reasons why our ethos aligns so nicely with NTD DATA and its ethos, because it’s very much the same end goal, you know?

WB Yeah. I think sometimes it’s easier when you’re on the outside to say something that you can take some great personal risk with. Because you’re not part of the organization. And so, you know, we’ve been going through our own transformation as a company, as we’ve gotten more digital and grown our advisory capabilities. And I’ve had to bring a lot of my consulting skills to the table, but as somebody who’s also having to live the results of that—

GT Right you’re inside the political machine of the org and you, yeah—

WB I have to behave slightly differently. I’m not expendable. I can’t be quite as specific and aggressive around some of the immediacy of goals. So it’s really great to be able to experience it from my clients shoes in terms of the kind of transformation and I’ve certainly bought consulting services before and witnessed that as a customer or a consumer of those. And it’s good to be on the other side of the table because it makes you a better consultant. 

GT Yeah.

[14:00]

CL Well said.

GT Tell us a little bit about NTT DATA’s growth strategy involving acquisition. We joined a family of companies that are, I mean, some kind of amazing, amazing sibling companies now. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about how NTT DATA’s viewing that and how you’re viewing those companies and how you choose which companies you’re interested in acquiring and how that goes.

WB Sure. Well, you know, our growth strategy is anchored by acquisition and our history. And I think we’re trying right now to have a really disciplined view of growth and our digital business being roughly 50% acquisition and 50% organic. And so through doing that, we have to figure out where are the areas that we already have the capabilities, the right to win, the brand that is required, and where are some places that we need to augment it. And so over the course of let’s say the past 18 months we’ve added organizations like Acorio, which is one of the leading pure service, now advisory firms, that’s really helped us with our digital transformation capability as you look at the ServiceNow agenda of being a digital transformation tool. We look at other organizations like Hashmap and the Dataspace when we look out at cloud-based data solutions and needing to get more insight out of your operations, your platforms and the cloud. A lot of people think of the cloud as a destination, and it’s really just the start of the journey, right? Now you have better tools and capabilities to leverage. And so with partners like Snowflake and such, Hashmap really extended our capability there. And then we’ve really thought long and hard about trying to help our clients create new products and services. And there’s certainly, we’ve been an expert in modernization for a long time, as it relates to people’s operating models and processes and infrastructure and applications, but really creating new product and service capabilities up until maybe the last 18 months wasn’t a strength of ours.

[15:55]

And so, we’ve acquired three organizations in the past year that have really created a half-billion dollar business that creates both scale and innovative thinking in the marketplace. And that started with Nexient last year and then Vector Form and Postlight this year. And the beauty of each of these organizations is it’s not just a scale player being duplicative. It’s each unique capabilities, you know, market segments, customer bases that I think creates a really powerful opportunity. And so if you can think about digital transformation is going one of two ways, right? Being customer-driven around products and services, right? We’ve got a product design, innovation and delivery capability that’s now backed up by three great brands that are all NTT DATA companies. Or if you think about people looking at their existing capabilities and wanting to modernize those, again, their existing infrastructure, applications, processes, data, a long history of being able to do that. So we can either start from the customer side, or we can start from our client’s side and really meet in the middle where the transformation happens. And that’s where commerce happens.

[16:59]

GT Yeah. Wait, let’s paint a picture. You’re at a backyard, barbecue, it’s family and friends, and someone says, what do you do? And you give them the title. And they say, what is digital transformation? I really struggle with this myself. So I’m curious to hear what your answer, the backyard barbecue answer is. What’s digital transformation?

WB Well, I’ve long struggled to explain my career to my parents. And so I always try to think about it in that context. So the backyard barbecue’s a good metaphor in this case, you know, I think, digital transformation is quite simple. It’s using technology to make sustainable change and to create new value.

GT I’m stealing that. That’s good. That’s real good.

WB So, you know, technology, I mean, every company’s a technology company now. It used to be a department, right? A while back it was the data processing group. In fact, when I was born, my mother worked the overnight shift doing data processing. I hate to say, it was probably with punch cards and stuff to handle their finance systems every night. So like, that’s what it looked like when I was in the womb. And so things have changed quite a bit. But you know, with each successive innovation that comes through technology, it offers chances to rethink, not just to adjust or replatform or enhance, but to rethink business models. And again, I think with what we’ve seen, you know, in the COVID-driven environment over the last couple years is it accelerated digital transformation by five or ten years. Where there wasn’t a discussion not too long ago, or digital was a channel. We talked about multi-channel architecture and digital being one of those channels. Well, now digital is the way people engage. And so it is no longer an option. It is a way of doing business. And I think it creates new disruptive models. You know, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the stock values for some of these companies that have created innovative new business models that are anchored by technology. You know, longstanding companies are trying to figure out how to be relevant in that model and what do they need to do? They need to think about how to transform their existing business and to monetize their customers and the assets and the capabilities they’ve got by transforming them into a digitally-led mindset.

[19:09]

CL As you think ahead and you think about the broadened capability set, both with the acquisitions and with the growth that the team has had organically at NTT DATA, what kind of clients do you want to attract? Like who do you think—I mean, some of the problems you just kind of outlined, they’re a step or two behind, and they want to catch up, they can approach us—but who shows up at your door wh’’s a dream client, who you feel like we could do tremendous work for them?

WB Well, I mean, we serve enterprise clients as our primary market. So a pretty diverse group of, you know, large middle market and certainly some smaller clients, but broadly we serve the enterprise market. And so, you know, when you think about it, we’re talking about—large companies have large problems, right? Small companies have small problems, large companies have large problems. And so a typical client for us is a client who’s demonstrated some success in the marketplace and are trying to figure out what the next wave of growth looks like for them. Largely their approach to the market is looking for both advice as well as execution support so that we can bring both of those capabilities that we have to the table. And I think there are people who are interested in long-term relationships and win-win, you know, we don’t aspire to help a client once and walk out the door and say never more, but we’d like to help them be successful in the marketplace today, tomorrow and in the future, by bringing the best things that we can to the table. And so when I look for those clients, we could say that they’re clients who are already winners in their industry, they’re investing in how to maintain that leadership. Sure. There are clients who may be losing some of that leadership and trying to figure out how to reposition those businesses, or at least a portion of those businesses and capabilities. And so, I think what we are able to do applies to a broad array of clients, and I think what makes this job and this industry so exciting is each one is unique.

It’s the first thing every client will tell you, Hey, we’re unique. And the reality is they are. We may have some solutions that are common to the industry, but applying them and making them unique to that client’s mission, that client’s history, that client’s customer set, their brand proposition. That always makes it unique. And that’s why it’s not rinse and repeat. That’s why it’s exciting each and every day, where you don’t feel like you’re doing the same thing you did last week or last month or last year.

[21:33]

GT Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of the best parts of the job actually, that you get to do new and interesting things every time. It is never rinse and repeat.

CL Yeah. I mean, we talked about acceleration before. It’s also something Gina and I say is working in an agency like Postlight or the like, it’s a career accelerator because you do get a lot of these different experiences. You do have to customize what you’re doing to meet the needs of your client and that industry and that landscape. And you’re going to be solving new and different problems. Some of them may look similar to problems you solved before, but you’ve got to have enough of a broad capability set to apply to a lot of different kinds of things, which is great.

WB Yeah. I’ve always viewed it as like building blocks. Right? Yo’’ve got an array of things that you’ve built experiences in and are trying to figure out how to bring to a solution. And, you know, maybe, you know half of the answer or a third of the answer, maybe you’re lucky and you know three quarters of the answer. I think the art to being a consultant is being a great listener. And understanding what your client’s real issues are. Right? And being humble enough to bring what you’ve got to the table, but also know that you collectively are gonna learn new things. And to your point, that’s great in terms of co-creation and innovation and that specific scenario. But it’s also great to a practitioner who’s developing a long-term career because it does accelerate their development. They learn new things. I tell people if I’m not doing something differently this quarter than I did last quarter, I’m not happy. 

[22:58]

GT You’re stagnating. That’s a failure state actually. You want to be growing. You have to kind of get comfortable with being uncomfortable and maybe not knowing, collecting the blocks, knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, like being both opinionated and having a point of view, but also being humble and listening and being open to learning. I mean that’s true. That’s true.

CL Absolutely. Yeah. I think about it like, I’ve never designed buildings, but I imagine an architect doesn’t want to draw up the same building time after time. They’re going to work with their client, figure out what they need and then bring their experience, but also like some new co-creation and some newness to it, which is very satisfying.

WB Yeah. Yeah. I think there was a time when a lot of technology was repeated. We’ve implemented SAP 700 times, so we’re the best SAP implementation company or whatever. Right? And experience certainly counts for a lot. But as we’ve gotten to a place where innovation and expanding the solution beyond what’s been done before requires multidisciplinary cross-functional teams in order to solve problems and to do it in a nimble or flexible way. And I think that brings a whole new set of capabilities and learnings to the table where flexibility and willingness to be a little uncomfortable and to lean into that. And to be confident in doing it, but not overconfident in knowing exactly how it’ll turn out, I think creates the best possible outcomes. Because that’s where the spark gets lit is in a place where people are willing to bring what they’ve got to the table, but not presume they know the answer.

[24:34]

GT So Wayne, we have joined just, like I said, an incredible group of companies with Vector Form and Nexient and now Postlight’s an NTT DATA company. And the question that I get from clients, from friends, from my mom, which is like, so Postlight was acquired, so what does that mean? And I say, it means that we’re Postlight, an NTT DATA company, but we get to keep being Postlight. And everyone’s like, really? I’m like, yeah, that’s what’s awesome about this. How do you think about—I mean, you know, you’ve got a collection of brands here. How do you think about the brands that you bring in via acquisition and how does NTT DATA view those brands and move forward into the future with them?

WB Sure. Well, I guess first off it is still Postlight, an NTT DATA company, which means it’s definitely still Postlight. And you can view short and long-term brand strategies and marketing capabilities and whatnot of how brands have value in the marketplace. But I think the most important part to this, our strategy in terms of acquisition is magnifying and retaining culture and capability, right? Because each name means something, but what’s behind it is a set of capabilities of people, of a culture that exists that make up that brand. And one thing we’re committed to as an organization is retaining and enhancing that versus trying to integrate and digest it. There’s a large number of organizations that think about it as, you know, I’m going to bring it in and make it my own. I think we look at it the other way, which is how do we magnify all the great things that you’ve done for your employees and for your clients and make it more relevant in the marketplace and make people even happier to be part of a larger organization.

You know, we’ve talked about it being the highest common denominator—we want the best possible experience and service and offerings—I’ll steal that from our colleague Aaron Millstone—but yeah, he’s right. We want the best possible combination of those things. And so in doing so, the goal here is to make sure that you continue to do what makes you unique, right? We help you do that at an even larger scale to create more impact for our clients, to create more growth opportunities for your employees, and frankly, to have a greater impact on the business over time. You know, that may mean as we move forward that different names come and go. But at the end of the day, it’s the culture that ends up being the thing that’s most important, not just the capability or, the name or the history.

GT There it is from the horse’s mouth.

CL I mean, that was wonderful. And it’s something we so appreciated, I think, as we got to know you and the rest of the team when we were talking during the process, knowing that you saw the value in our culture and the fact that we’ve seen it happen in the other with the other acquisitions and their cultures have been maintained and it’s been—

GT And their capabilities are actually amplified.

[27:23]

CL Exactly. And it’s been wonderful to sort of see everything coming together under this umbrella. Super, super excited. 

[Outro music fades in, ramps up.]

GT Postlight, an NTT DATA company. We get to be more Postlight, yeah.

WB Even more Postlight than you were before.

GT Even more Postlight than we were before. I love that. Wayne, thank you so much for joining us today, both in the office and on the podcast, we were really excited to start to introduce all the really smart and thoughtful folks at NTT DATA. I’m so glad you were the first one to join us on the show. It was really great to have you. If you’re listening to the show and you want to get in touch, you should. So Postlight, an NTT DATA company. We are a digital strategy, design and engineering firm. We are based in New York City, but spread throughout the United States. And we want to hear what digital transformation efforts mean to you. Yeah. What have you got going on in your org, products and platform? You should send us a note. How do people get in touch, Chris?

CL Hello@postlight.com. We would love to hear from you. And now we’ve got a much wider capability set that we can tap into in addition to the core product design and engineering work that Postlight is so good at. So we’d love to hear what’s troubling you. What’s keeping you up at night? Send us a note.

GT Absolutely. Say hello at hello@poslight.com. Thanks everyone. This was a lot of fun. Thank you again, Wayne.

WB Thank you. Thank you.

GT Bye.