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Cloud Computing

Talking SMAC: Hitachi Consulting Embraces the Cloud to Capitalize on Expanding IT Services Market

by Sasha Banks-Louie

June 2015

While it’s no mystery that demand for IT services is on the rise, Gartner estimates of 2.5 percent annual growth and a $981 billion market size is sending shockwaves through an industry that was mired in flat growth (0.4 percent) only two years ago.

According to IDC, this economic windfall is fueled by businesses from nearly every sector in the world making a combined $450 billion investment through 2020 in social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC).

To service this skyrocketing demand and deliver on the promise of faster innovation, lower costs, and more meaningful customer engagement, IT services firm Hitachi Consulting is aligning its own business operations to SMAC. With an immediate focus on modernizing sales and marketing operations in the cloud, management at Hitachi Consulting has turned to Oracle to restructure the entire business on a single global cloud platform.

Driving much of the firm’s rapid growth has been an aggressive acquisition strategy. In 2000, Hitachi Consulting entered the market as a US-based, 450-person company generating $80 million in revenues. Fifteen years later, the firm has acquired nearly 20 companies and employs more than 6,500 people, who help generate $740 million in annual revenue.

But rapid growth came at the cost of productivity and speed. With each acquisition, the firm inherited multiple data sources and myriad ways of managing the information. Not only was the information difficult to access, it wasn’t integrated with the firm’s core business applications. This lack of integration caused confusion, impaired decision-making, and became costly to maintain.

“It was very difficult with our legacy applications,” said Chris Buri, chief information officer at Hitachi Consulting. “Moving to the cloud will make us much more readily able to acquire companies, bring them into our infrastructure, and integrate them.”

If Hitachi Consulting was going to succeed as one of the fastest growing global consultancies, it would need a new business strategy, technology architecture, and customer engagement model.

Sales SMAC Down

As Hitachi Consulting moved to leverage SMAC technologies to make business processes more effective, sales was one of its highest priorities. Management began analyzing existing sales business processes, reporting, and consistency of data, and found critical gaps.

Moving our entire business to the cloud has enabled us to execute faster and deliver more personalized solutions for our customers.”–David Sheridan, Vice President of Customer Experience at Hitachi Consulting

Often situations arose where field reps were pursuing an account in Europe, while simultaneously another team was closing a deal at a different division of that same account in the US. “We needed to collaborate more effectively and have a complete view of our customer’s entire organization,” said David Sheridan, vice president of customer experience at Hitachi Consulting.

But a complete view of its customer’s organization was obscured by a cluster of on-premises tools, which undermined data integrity, diminished agility, and impaired decision-making. In fact, due to the myriad acquisitions, the firm was entangled in a messy web of shelfware, apps, and spreadsheets.Yet, none of these tools offered a structured sales process, social integration, or mobile connectivity—and the firm’s sales data was segregated across multiple business units and territories.

“If we wanted to get a true pulse of what was going on in our client’s organization from an opportunity standpoint, it took several weeks and sometimes months to pull those pipelines together from different systems,” said Sheridan.

By replacing these on-premises tools with a single SMAC-enabled sales platform, Hitachi Consulting now supports its mobile sales force with up-to-the-second insight into global account activities, social network integration, and a forecast that consistently hits a 97 percent-plus accuracy target.

“That is a huge win for us as a business, because with our legacy systems, field reps were often not mobile-enabled, so unless you had a place to plug in and get on your laptop, it was very difficult to access information,” said Chris Buri, chief information officer at Hitachi Consulting.

SMAC has also enabled Hitachi Consulting to improve the way it collaborates within its own organization. “We are now able to come together as a global sales organization and understand exactly what’s in position, where the buying signals are, and come up with a universal plan that we can cohesively come together on and execute.We just never had that organization-wide perspective before,” said Sheridan.

Modern Marketing Makeover

A second area of the business to get a SMAC-down was marketing.

“Previously, our sales and regional marketing organizations were disconnected. We weren’t leveraging the potential of working together to drive demand,” said Jennifer Lasida, director of alliance enablement for Hitachi Consulting.

But bridging the demand-generation gap was critical. If Hitachi Consulting was going to reach its goal, it had to change its approach.“By creating personal messages for target customers and using the cloud and social to capture the entire digital conversation, we can now prove a campaign’s success to the field,” said Lasida.

Armed with insight into which customers clicked through to a message, Hitachi Consulting’s marketing team can create personalized campaigns to a target list customers with specific interests and channel preferences.

“We can show our sales force exactly what the roadmap was that generated a lead, identified an opportunity, and helped close business with strategic clients more effectively,” said Lasida.

Tying it Together in the Cloud

As the firm completes the consolidation of its entire business onto a single cloud platform, it is tying together all of its business systems, including sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and procurement.

“We know that the growth we want will not be achievable with a number of isolated on-premises tools. Moving our entire business to the cloud has enabled us to execute faster and deliver more personalized solutions for our customers. It has also allowed us to do this well ahead of the curve—and ahead of our competitors,” Sheridan said.

Photography by Shutterstock