What this global B2B marketing chief has to say about transformation

HCL EVP of sales and marketing shares how he's worked to transform the IT service company's brand, marketing and collaboration approach

Marketing can’t just be about classical marketing principles today, it has to have a higher-level purpose and be the glue adhering an organisation together, HCL’s Arthur Filip believes.

“You have to fill in the gaps and be the lubrication between a lot of different engine parts,” the global EVP of sales and marketing of the technology services behemoth says. “We’ve really adopted this mentality in our team.

“We don’t just do all the things expected of us; we also get involved in many other areas to support and keep the company moving in the right direction.”

Getting there meant working closely with the CEO, and putting a hand in strategy through to tactics with each major HCL business leader.

“I have specific managers day-to-day interfacing with these leaders and I interface with them formally and informally,” Filip tells CMO. “We know these business leaders don’t care about eyeballs onsite either, or MQLs. It’s about revenue and satisfaction growing, if they can attract more customers in the market, if partners want to work more with us, and if customers want to testify on their behalf. I’m constantly reminding the team that’s our goal.”

Filip joined HCL in 2016 initially as VP of sales, and was tasked with a sales transformation remit. Nearly 18 months ago, he also took on the marketing leadership position. The role comes off the back of more than 25 years in the information technology space, working in sales, strategy and business unit leadership positions for the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Filip says his approach was always going to be to transform by putting the customer first. “I came in working for the CEO to lead the company’s sales transformation effort. I was an instigator and spark plug but it took all leaders coming together to do that,” he explains.

“We were doing a good job but what we’d realised was that with our biggest customers, where the relationships are just so large and complex, we needed to be even more bespoke and put in more red carpet treatment for those clients.

“At the same time, we’re constantly attracting new clients and it’s a different sales model and motion. We had to think about care and feeding of the sales force, more delineation between sales motions, and how to get granular in our thinking not only about every country, but cities and industry segments.”

Filip focused on honing the new business team and client partner model, and says he’s worked to create a super-class of relationship leaders globally. As leader of the marketing function, he’s since instigated a transformation aimed at taking advantage of HCL’s global footprint while also making sure it’s sympathetic and respond to local cultures and market needs.

“We are very woven into all the sales and business units, from strategy and brand down to how we work with clients on a daily basis, conduct events, marcomms and run analytics throughout the company,” he says of marketing. “My aim was to bring our great marketing leaders together to orchestrate as a team, looking at both global and local challenges we had.”

One of these hurdles was functional break-ups and discrete ways of doing things. “People had their own sciences and crafts to practice, whether it was our internal digital agency, brand team, content team,” Filip says.

“A lot of my focus has been to eliminate stovepipes, and to get the leadership team to take on each other’s challenges. We changed a lot of in-house metrics so we sink or swim together, along with the sales team and rest of the company.”  

The biggest change has been around what ‘success’ is with HCL’s customers and in turn, their customers.

“It’s manifested exponentially in how people are working together and teaming together to orchestrate strategy through to specific campaigns,” Filip says.   

Filip is also a big believer in getting teams around the table and solving it together. “It was painting the case for everyone –bring all talent together and we can look at the overall experience we can create for customers, and the type of data, analytics and view forward we can bring to the company,” he says.  

Marketing strategy

HCL’s big emphasis is on its ecosystem, and Filip and the team have been overseeing internal and external celebrations marking the company’s milestones in different regions. The ‘global to local’ initiative includes celebrating 20 years in the A/NZ region, 30 years in the US and 10 years in the Nordics.

Another emphasis is on telling the stories of how HCL has worked with customers over its 42-year history.

“There are so many human stories where we helped clients be successful in so many communities,” Filip says. “Figuring out how to bring some common denominators together and our heritage, which is not just one country but people from 144 nations, for more of a common story and purpose, is key.”

This has to be a two-way street, rather than corporate reigning down on the local market, Filip says. “It’s an opportunity to both learn and share together and take best practices from different countries, cultural elements and customers to weave into our global brand,” he says.  

“We have been known as a strong tech company and innovator, and a world-leading engineering services company, with very strong IT services. We’re the fastest growing company among the top 10 largest tech services companies globally, for eight quarters globally. Customers are buying into the value proposition; it’s now about bringing the whole story together.”  

Corporate social responsibility plays a big part here. HCL has always focused on helping all types of people disadvantaged in life. As well as allowing its 137,000 employees to work with platforms they choose to further that cause, and sizeable investments into innovation labs and teams, HCL runs a number of diversity-oriented programs. One of these is Women Lead Australia, a one-to-one mentoring initiative now in its third edition this year.

Diversity, from boardroom down, has become a key thing for HCL and we know the industry has to get better at this,” Filip says of the ICT sector. “It’s about very disciplined programs – from metrics, to every executive to specific hardcore board-driven programs – and we’ve made good progress. But we’re hungry for more.”

AI and B2B customer power

Filip also acknowledges HCL’s customer base is getting broader and more complex as every enterprise becomes reliant on digital and technology.

“Today, in every relationship it’s still primarily the CIO, or the chief digital officer, we’re dealing with, but the CMO, sales, line-of-business heads and CEOs are also getting involved, especially in strategic decisions. It’s really a collective fabric and that is how we’re trying to enhance our relationships,” he says. “Our goal is to bring our experience into bear to help marry the business problems with the technologies.”  

Alongside strategy and partnerships with world-leading tech providers, this increasingly sees HCL tapping into the power of artificial intelligence (AI) via internal R&D, algorithms, partnerships and proprietary methodologies. HCL also partners with 20 companies on overall customer journey as well as how it thinks about markets to not only predict but run and govern its business.

“AI gives you specific technology through partners but also the power to create things you can’t see yet,” Filip says. “We’ve used basic AI to take care of repetitive tasks, speed up different parts of the customer journey. We’re now brainstorming with in-house labs on how we totally redefine how marketing is conducted within the organisation.”

A big area of focus is helping customers better predict their journey with their customers. “The better we get at that, the stronger our marketing is and the more value for the rest of the business,” he says.

Filip also agrees B2B marketers have the biggest ground to catch up on personalisation and says it’s clear enterprises relationships are far more one-to-one than many would previously have credited.

“Having just a relationship with a CIO or 2-3 procurement people, you’ll never be successful. In a very large organisation, there could be 2000 people you need to interact with to truly get a pulse on things and understand what truly makes them successful,” he points out. “If you don’t have those relationships, points of view, data elements around it and the technology to support it, I don’t know how many can remain successful in the next couple of years.”  

Helping make this a reality is teams like digital, content and thought leadership along with external communications all working together with common purpose on accounts, Filip says.  

“People do now speak in terms of the account, how we help crack the code in the account plan, and create an ecosystem experience that brings together the local community, government players, education players, business partners and we all solve a problem together,” he says. “It’s been a part of our culture; now we’re really doing it from a marketing perspective.”  

In terms of ongoing priorities, Filip highlights HCL’s four core pillars of innovation, education, diversity, and CSR and sustainability.

“You’ll see us weave in everything from arts and sports, and the EQ side into our business,” he says. “One of our philosophies is human potential maximised and you’ll see that in campaigns, because that is what we stand for.”  

Read more: Cricket Australia's digital ambition to bring fans and communities closer to the game

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