The world has changed dramatically over just the last few weeks, and industries worldwide are learning to adapt and evolve to these changes. In this week’s Emissary Live, Emissary CEO Allen Mueller led a panel discussion focused on the technology sector. She was joined by three members of the Emissary community: Cheryl, former SVP of Technology at Salesforce, Jim, former CIO of Microsoft, and Geno, former Senior Director of Technology at Expedio, who shared their insights on the ways the technology sector is evolving to meet these changes.
Panel Discussion Highlights
Cheryl, given your experience as a Senior Vice President of Technology at Salesforce, we’re seeing many large firms like Salesforce and Microsoft and some others using data modeling tools or supply chain prioritization tools. Do you think that this event will uncover technology solutions that can help these providers bridge new gaps? Is there a new frontier for them?
Yes. We’ve been seeing this outpouring of remarkable examples of ingenuity and creativity just across individuals, companies, organizations in every sector. That’s what I’m feeling optimistic about. Where we once had significant obstacles getting in the way of digital transformation, we’re just seeing those obstacles fall away in a matter of days across industries.
Especially in the case of supply chains, what’s become very apparent is we need improved resilience I think in many capacities, but in particular resilience and adaptability. So you’re seeing tech companies really rise to the occasion to try to get in there and help with this, matching need to resources, and I’m predicting we’ll see meaningful technology innovation coming out of this pandemic.
How does that translate for vendors who are constantly crafting messaging and looking for the best talent? How should they be thinking about integration?
Firms like Salesforce – and there are many others – they’ve been driving this sort of digital transformation agenda for a couple of decades now. I think what’s become more apparent now more than ever is just the criticality of that agenda. And you see it from the tiniest of companies to some bigger ones adapting to the limitations of not being able to do business in person and sort of scrambling to put something in place. Therein lie the opportunities. I think many industries will course correct after this and maybe even over-correct by driving more and more of their brick and mortar or person to person experiences to digital experiences. I think the big B2B tech firms like Salesforce and others are really poised to enable that.
Geno, I’d love to dive into your outlook here and specifically as we talk about your former employer, Expedia, which all of us could appreciate just going through an incredible time. I’ve been hearing a lot around the concept about paused industries, right, where the underlying economics were sound and then as soon as we get through this we expect those businesses to bounce back. Do you see the travel industry as simply paused, or do you see a longer term impact here?
I think it is a pause but it’s not a short term pause. This is going to be a longer term pause. Let’s fast forward to that great day when we don’t have stay at home orders in place and we can move a little freely. What will consumer sentiment be at that time? Consumers will continue to be cautious at best for quite a while. When will we be able to trust crowded airports or cities, close quarters on airplanes, or stay in unfamiliar hotel rooms, renting cars and wondering who had it before us and if it was properly disinfected? Those things won’t go away on short order, and the revenues for Expedia and OTAs, they will take a while to rebound due to that.
There’s really nothing that they can do about the revenue piece, but there is an opportunity following that, right? Those who take good care of their customers during this timeframe will be in the best position for a rebound when people are ready to travel again. They really stand the best chance of coming out of this doing well. So from an OTA or Expedia perspective, who is providing the best customer service when I need to cancel or change my travel plans? Who’s offering fair and reasonable policies around change and cancels? Consumers are taking note of those things and they will vote with their feet once this thing recovers.
And if you were trying to sell into some of these industries or some of these organizations and you are a technology provider that’s got a solution that you think is helpful, do you believe that there’s a willingness to invest? If that solution can be truly impactful at this time or going forward, do you think that there would be appetite for that even in an environment that’s as dramatic as it’s been for Expedia?
Absolutely yes, and there are some great opportunities to do so. The leaders at these companies are brilliant people, and they understand that this is just a moment in time. However long this moment is, it is just a moment in time and they want to survive it and come out on the other end doing well, being able to accelerate. I think for vendors looking to build relationships, it’s how you approach them that will matter most. Understand that you may need to let the dust settle a little before the deal can be made, but that doesn’t mean you should delay in making introductions or being willing to explain the value proposition in what you’re bringing. I think it’s going to be very critical that you clarify your value proposition and the differences between you and your competitors in that moment.
Jim, I’d like to ask about what you see as the opportunity for some of these big technology companies to lead during this time. You said specifically, we’re seeing really interesting collaboration from organizations that maybe hadn’t naturally worked together before, and they all have an incredible kind of mental horsepower, capabilities and skill sets. I’d love to get your thoughts on what you think the tech firms specifically have to offer the marketplace during this time, and what responsibility do they have to support people and other organizations as we try and manage through this time of change?
A lot of big tech companies have the cash or the wherewithal to not just weather the storm, and that puts responsibility on them to really participate and help hospitals, help the community.
They have the ability to really look at not just what they had planned already that they could transform faster, but also what is the world going to look like and how can we address that? And on the transform faster piece, it’s back to the same: never waste a crisis.
A lot of things that make bigger companies go slower is just fear of breaking something. Right now is the time where I think people will give a lot more tolerance to a huge amount of change, and you can go and break some things from an ability to take just a big leapfrog forward on the transformation that would have taken longer otherwise. I think big tech can help the marketplace with that in both seeding technology or seeding opportunity or just seeding some of the innovative mindset to help companies really transform even faster right now, kind of taking advantage of the crisis to do things.
I appreciate you saying that, because I’ve said let’s not waste a crisis in a couple of environments and I think I almost feel, insincere isn’t the right word, insensitive is probably the right word, right? So it is such a global crisis that’s touching everybody emotionally and personally and professionally, but I think the concept around looking at everything across your business workflow or supply chain or whatever it might be, even if it’s not what we would have asked for, it’s a healthy opportunity to reconsider.
And I will say I’ve talked to a couple of CFOs in the last few weeks talking about big investments, and there’s some that are saying, we’ve got to really cut back on costs because of what’s happening in the economy. But I’ve talked to a couple – and these are the ones that you’re looking for if you’re trying to go help somebody – they’re saying, it’s going to be bad anyway, I can make it a little bit better. A good CFO will load up the bad times so that the future will be better. And I think that there will be some people that know that the profits are going to be down and won’t have that same view that they didn’t perform well because profits are down, it’s because of the crisis. If they took advantage of the crisis, that’s going to be the thing that will be looked at I think more positively as we go forward.
Check out more insights from our second panel discussion with Jim, Cheryl, and Geno here.
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