For Valtech COO, business transformation means agility and access to data

Olivier Padiou points to customer expectations of personalization, product identity and user-generated contexts as the key drivers.

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Most companies — even ones that have thoroughly gone digital — are “organized like the Roman Army.”

So says Olivier Padiou, COO of global digital agency Valtech. Padiou pointed to his own Paris-based company as a model of how an ancient military structure — top general, rows of soldiers in a descending hierarchy — can become something more appropriate to today’s environment, something like highly mobile Special Forces.

Founded in 1993, Valtech began as a tech development/IT services company. In 2009, Padiou and two partners bought the company and began transforming it into a flexible global agency for digital marketing and advertising. It’s now in 16 countries, employing about 2,500.

Padiou specializes in helping his clients with transformation. But he doesn’t call it digital transformation, especially since virtually every company is now digital in at least some respects.

Instead, he said, “it’s a business transformation, triggered by digital and by what customers are expecting from a company.”

Olivier Padiou

Olivier Padiou

COO at Valtech

A key feature of customer expectation is a consistent experience between all of the company’s customer-facing selves, including the website, the mobile app, the contact center, even a physical store.

Why should this experience be consistent? So that customers can feel the same way about the product and the company regardless of where they connect, Padiou told me.

But, he added, most companies are “not set up to achieve that.”

“The merchandising team often can’t speak to the [web/app] team, which can’t speak sometimes to the IT people,” he said. “Sales is not involved in the process, you don’t have a full view of the customer, and your supply chain is not ready for ecommerce.”

Another reason for the consistency, he said: customers have come to expect that the information they’ve provided should be available across the brand, such as your prior purchases or pending issues.

“Why are we talking [to them] about a product they bought two months ago?” he asked.

The customer is also increasingly expecting the submitted info to be used for personalizing the interaction. Part of that personalization, in fact, can come from them, in the form of user-generated content that wraps the product in their experiences.

Padiou agreed with me about another factor that distinguishes the modern product universe. So many products are made so well — and they often fit the user in a personal way — that there is a greater tendency to feel protective of that brand.

‘Constant feedback loop’

Smartphones that learn about you, increasingly intelligent cars that shadow your moves, sneakers that seem molded around your foot, dinners-in-a-box that are designed for your tastes. These and countless other products and services didn’t exist even a few years ago, much less decades ago when many companies first got started.

Marketers often talk about brands becoming a symbolic extension of consumers, but it’s not the brand per se. It’s the experience of the product, which is increasingly so well tailored to your need it’s difficult not to embed memory and personality into the experience.

Padiou noted the many ways that brands are now adding additional post-sales services that further personalize the experience, like video/TV programming services you can later add to your smart TV or remotely administered maintenance contracts. Brands have always wanted to add these kinds of services, he pointed out, but now it’s possible to offer them at scale.

All of which means marketing and customer interaction involves a constant flow of data, which needs to be shared equally throughout the organization. Some describe the need for a Customer Data Platform to centrally house all the data and make it accessible, while others talk about Customer Experience Orchestration Services.

Padiou said that however the data is made available across silos, the key thing is capturing and disseminating customer feedback and quickly responding to it.

It’s a “constant feedback loop,” he said, where organizations need to “be able to act on feedback, take advantage of feedback with a distributed intelligence DNA.”

Every part of the organization needs to absorb the feedback, process it, respond wherever and however they need to, and act decisively and quickly.

Not exactly the Roman Army’s job description.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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