Hitachi Vantara CIO Leads CRM, Data Transformation

CIO Renée McKaskle framed the technology leader’s new CRM deployment as a business conversation that could deliver insights and ROI to the marketing, sales, and services organizations.

Back in 2015, when Renée McKaskle joined Hitachi Data Systems-a $4 billion, Santa Clara, California-based subsidiary of 108-year-old Hitachi, Ltd.-her role was not pitched as that of a traditional CIO. “There was an understanding the company would go through a major transformation, requiring someone who could look toward the future and lead the company down an unbeaten path,” she says.

At that time, the company was re-examining virtually every aspect of its operations as it shifted its business model to move with its customers. Market changes and digital transformation were-indeed, still are-disrupting traditional purchasing behaviors and companies alike. Hitachi was rethinking its own businesses, and there was no time to waste.

Hitachi Vantara debuted in September 2017 as an integration of the data center infrastructure business from Hitachi Data Systems, the data software expertise of Hitachi Insight Group, and analytics capabilities from Pentaho. The new company can identify, develop, and deliver data-driven solutions to an ever-expanding customer base, using Hitachi Vantara’s core expertise to help create and share meaningful, actionable insights to improve business decisions.

The technology underpinnings of this journey are crucial differentiators in rapidly changing markets, necessitating an innovation-minded CIO motivated to bring fresh perspectives to legacy IT tools and thinking. McKaskle fit the bill, and she knew many challenges lay ahead.

CRM, Redefined

As just one part of Hitachi Vantara’s transformation, McKaskle and her team were charged early on with transitioning from an end-of-life, on-premise CRM system to a state-of-the-art cloud solution to improve the use of critical company data for market-sell-serve -the full cycle of customer relationships. In doing so, IT would enable Hitachi Vantara to help its customers transform and become disruptors themselves.

For this transformation, McKaskle and her team re-envisioned the IT organization’s structure, business processes, capabilities, and legacy technology stack, including physical architecture and applications. They created two road maps-one focused on enterprise architecture, the other specifically on business value-and presented the business case that would serve both the current and transformed organization.

“From the start, this was a business transformation conversation, not a technology and platform discussion,” says McKaskle, who served as executive sponsor of the deployment-appropriately named “OneView”-for marketing channel services, customer relationship management, and field and managed services.

Treating the initiative as a business-led program rather than an IT re-platforming effort challenged McKaskle to communicate effectively with non-IT audiences. “It was a storytelling journey, requiring IT teams to demonstrate business acumen rather than lapse into ‘geek speak,'” she says. For example, in testing sessions, “I had to expand my role as a CIO and be a business partner. IT developed a common language to collaborate with the organization in business terms it used and understood.”

Two outcomes of migrating CRM to the cloud were to generate better understanding of the ROI of the company’s marketing campaigns and to help salespeople use marketing leads and forecast future opportunities to sell Hitachi Vantara’s products and services. Sales leaders also sought better contact, asset, and entitlement management, improved dashboard reporting, and increased self-service functionality for business users.

The IT team quickly recognized the success or failure of the deployment would rest on the availability of accurate, detailed data, which meant changing ingrained behaviors across the company. “The problem usually is not the tool; it’s the culture, data hygiene, and processes,” McKaskle says. Many salespeople had been maintaining their own customer data repositories on laptop spreadsheets, but sales leaders expressly communicated that offline data would not be part of Hitachi Vantara’s culture. With the business transformation, “everyone is now sensitized to the role we all play in sustaining quality data, and we hold each other to account,” she says.

With enhanced data and the new CRM solution, salespeople are now better equipped to respond in real time during customer service calls. “We have intelligence built in, with quality data driving augmented intelligence and automation,” she says. “We can identify customers when they call, so they don’t have to answer the same questions over and over and we can materially improve their experience.”

This customer-centric approach expands the scope of Hitachi Vantara’s selling capabilities. Previously, close to 50 percent of renewal calls were for contracts that had already expired, but leaders knew better data could help reduce or even eliminate these missed opportunities. “We now know when contracts will expire and can auto-renew them. We can have proactive conversations with customers before that occurs,” McKaskle says. “Moreover, we can use that opportunity to deliver more value to our customers. The conversations have improved dramatically, moving beyond our classic products into new offerings such as predictive analytics, maintenance insights, smart data centers, and other internet of things (IoT) solutions. To communicate IoT’s benefits, you need a strong value proposition, which quality data can help to support.”

Transformation: First Business, Then Technology

The IT team is also using data to improve call resolution and help customers enhance their digital experiences. Better access to information from the field is a critical business value that is part of McKaskle’s commitment to near-real-time access to data.

Implementation of Hitachi Vantara’s new CRM helped IT and the business talk about transformation in the same language and prototype together to prepare for multiple go-lives, which entailed iterative technology releases that continue today, McKaskle says.

Bobby Soni, chief solutions and services officer at Hitachi Vantara, sees the results. “I am excited about the transformation journey to date. It is both challenging and exhilarating. We are now working closely with IT to further build out the digital business capabilities, including end-to-end processes and system architecture for our key everything-as-a-service and IoT offerings in the market. This allows us to streamline, automate, and proactively enable customers to extract the full value from our offerings.”

-by Rachel Lebeaux, senior writer, Deloitte Insights for CIOs

The company’s front-of-house business processes are now increasingly automated and focused on as-a-service offerings, but more work remains for the back-of-house processes, which are still based more on selling equipment. Meanwhile, culture change remains an ongoing priority. “Human capital is huge in this. Managing the way employees are feeling about the transformation is my priority. It is the executive committee’s biggest focus to ensure success,” McKaskle says.


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