Digital Dexterity: Capgemini's Dee Burger on taking advantage of a new tech landscape

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Digital dexterity, or how quickly a company adapts and incorporates new digital-based technologies, is rapidly changing the business world. With so many possible paths to take to harness this technology, companies sometimes find themselves reaching out blindly and hoping for results. The bottom line is, companies need to change fast to keep up with this rapidly evolving technological shift. Consulting caught up with Dee Burger, North America CEO of Capgemini, who shared his insights on this changing landscape and how companies can take advantage, and perhaps most importantly, avoid falling behind.

Consulting: What are some ways Capgemini is helping companies become more digitally dexterous?

Burger: Through our IT research we’re trying to separate the hype around digital from what’s really occurring. We’re seeing our clients all doing something, some are going faster or slower, some are doing it in a more or less focused way. We’re really trying to chart the evolution there so we can figure out where they are so we can figure out better how to align ourselves to help them.

Consulting: Are some industries further ahead than others?

Burger: There’s a follow-the-leader sort of thing happening there. Everybody is doing something, but what “digital” actually means is widely different in different industries. Digital is such a broad word it tends to lose some of its meaning. From what we’re seeing there’s a lot of activity across the board. Consumer products and retail are certainly big, the insurance sector has been big, financial services in general has done well. But we’re even seeing it in industries you wouldn’t think of, life sciences and others. Frankly we’re a decent example of this. We’re a $15 billion business we’ve had to organize ourselves and do things just like our clients did. The hard part of that equation for us and our customers is that a central digital group can’t change an existing business. Digital needs to be about how the whole business is changing rather than how one new element is changing. One of the real risks is moving in a very uneven way.

Consulting: What are the consulting opportunities to arise out of this?

Burger: In my career, which is almost 25 years, there’s never been a time clients need to change more. There’s the normal sort of defensive mechanism of how do we keep up, but there are offensive opportunities all over for clients, which varies by industry in terms of what those are. The dynamics now if you think about it. Any industry you pick there is now a digital alternative. It’s even happening in the consulting industry. There are different ways we’re trying to think through how it’s going to impact us based on certain things that are going on with things like new models on how to deploy professional services. Clients are going about it in offensive and defensive ways, the best of them are probably following both sides about equally. For us, we’re looking at it and saying we’re very careful to make sure we’re not building our services as if digital is one of their service lines. A big failure for us would be a digital as a service line and then the other 80 percent of our business is something else. We’ve got to look at it from the vantage point that says all the things we do have to be valuable in the digital age no matter where we’re going.

Consulting: How important has digital become in the business world over the last decade and a half?

Burger: Digital is the foundation for everything. There are no aspects of business that can go unchanged by what’s going on in digital. At a broad level, our clients need help more than ever before because the world is so dynamic. If you go back to the Internet bubble bursting, the Internet was going to be the biggest thing ever. The NASDAQ went up to 5,000 and burst. And that just means maybe babyclothes.com wasn’t the greatest idea in the world, but it didn’t mean the Internet wasn’t actually going to be the most important thing that occurred in our lifetime. As it’s evolved we’re seeing the impact of digital across every aspect of your life. Our clients looking at that, none of them go through this unchanged.

Consulting: How can companies get up to speed?

Burger: There isn’t a shortcut. But I think the era of taking a long time to make changes is over. In the past one of the greatest things that could ever happen is we’d sell someone a three-year project to do something. We’d have milestones every 6 to 8 months, tens of millions of dollars spent to ultimately do it, business cases that get renewed each year. We haven’t seen that in a long time. Clients are looking at how do I change things in three months? How do I change things in six months? How do I establish a new revenue stream? I think if you are somebody in a business that hasn’t moved I think the key is to go do something. It’s not like there’s a digital finish line. It’s not like somebody gets done and it’s OK now we’re digital. The world is evolving really fast. There’s new technologies, new startups, new ideas coming out all the time. If your company is a laggard it’s really about getting in the game.

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