The Art of the Possible: Elizabeth Spaulding on ADAPT, Bain & Company’s new digital advisory offering

Emerging digital technologies like AI, machine learning and virtual reality are generating mass excitement at the consumer level, but their rapid evolution and adoption creates unique challenges for companies to keep pace. To solve some of those pain points and help companies create value and drive results, Bain & Company has expanded its digital advisory services with a brand new offering, called ADAPT (Advanced Digital and Product Team). Consulting caught up with Elizabeth Spalding, Bain’s Global Digital Practices lead, to learn more about this new offering. 

Consulting:  What was the impetus for starting ADAPT?

Spaulding: We’ve been working with our clients for a number of years on digital transformation, and really helping bring more innovation into their businesses and the application of new advanced technologies to really create value. Whether it’s customer experience on the back-end, inside the supply chain with their sales force, we’re seeing things like automation and robotics to mobile design to digital marketing, and the expansion of advanced analytics and machine learning. All of these areas have been focus points for us as we think about digital transformation. What was beginning to happen was one-off hiring of experts within Bain as well as a number of points of light of third party partnerships we were beginning to engage on to really bring to life the art of the possible, I think what that made us realize is we needed a core team of technical experts who would enable us to do this work in tandem with our case teams and really create more of a hybrid case team approach to bring technologists, design thinking and the expansion of our data science team together with the work we do.

Consulting:  How will ADAPT broaden Bain’s digital offering?

Spaulding:  The hope would be it helps our clients, as our longstanding mission statement has always pointed to, to achieve new levels of success and value creation as a result of being able to bring this more closely tied to the work we’re doing. So this being attached to, and becoming a seamless part of, our raw offering is I think a big help. I do think it will open up new areas for us that we’ll be able to participate in more fully in than we have in the past. That’s kind of the benefit of the accessibility of technology now; we’re seeing a migration of so many businesses to leveraging it more fully than they have in the past. Being able to achieve new levels of results of our clients integrating this into the work we’re doing across the board as well as participate in areas that are maybe newer to us, more breakthrough innovation, new products and services with our clients, more involvement in certain functional areas like marketing. A big part of it is a continuation of what we feel like we’ve always done well in delivering results for our clients and help extend the curve on that by being able to bring the benefit of technology into that work.

Consulting: How will the addition of ADAPT be felt by clients?

Spaulding:  It just feels like a way we’re further accelerating results and impact through technology. Most of our engagements right now it’s almost like a blended team with the core consulting folks that would feel very much in line with the kind of change programs and strategy programs we’ve done in the past, but now with an infusion of this technical talent we can rapidly bring to life a new data visualization tool for a sales force. We’ve done all the work on their pricing strategy, all the work on how they can be doing a better job converting and winning bids. We now have the ability to prototype and bring a tool like that to life in a very short order number of weeks, and we’re differentiated there relative to an agency that can build a tool like that because we’ve done the work on really developing the strategy and that bigger picture together with the CEO, their head of sales and their product teams. We’re finding it to be an accelerator to change and an even better way to ensure we’re capturing the results we identify in the diagnostic and strategy phases of our work. I think in many ways it feels seamless and it should feel even better in terms of our ability to capture results and create impact with our clients.

Consulting: Where’s the demand for digital transformation projects?

Spaulding: The customer has always been at the center of so many things we do, so continued evolution of customer experiences is one big theme. Whether it’s a migration to mobile, a migration to bringing more technology into a physical experience like building an interface a sales force could use in a physical environment or a self-service tool in a physical environment. On the back end, one of our product areas is in digital, which is really about transforming a business and really creating episode-driven strategy and finding ways through analytics and automation to create efficiencies. So as we see things like robo-automation continuing to take flight, how do you identify the ways that could have the most impact. Another thematic area would be on the industrial side, using big data and analytics and using things like predictive maintenance, managing cost and creating better service experiences. The shift to programmatic and digital is another big one, I think that manifests itself in a couple of different ways, one would be the migration from traditional media to digital media and how to get on that journey, we’re doing more and more of that work. Also how to really optimize a mobile or site experience once the customer is there. A lot of the groundbreaking work we’ve done is in experimental design which really takes A/B testing to the next level to be able to drive profit improvement, higher conversion rates, improved campaigns and direct response.

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