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Driving Change in the Digital Era

No matter how successful your company is today, there is no such thing as “too big to fail.” The unpredictability of the future makes it impossible to know what investment or innovation will prevail. The only solution for companies is to lean into that inevitable change; to focus on disrupting yourself before someone else does. This means creating a company culture that embraces and enforces systemic changes. But companies cannot transform unless the people in them, and the executives who run them, actively drive the agenda… unless these executives are passionately dedicated to transformation. In this keynote, Carlos Dominguez, Executive Chairman of the Board & Chief Evangelist of Sprinklr, will share advice on how business leaders can personally embrace change, and then apply it to their organizations.

About the Speaker

Carlos Dominguez joined the PROS Board of Directors in 2020. He is a seasoned technology veteran with over 30 years of industry experience. Dominguez currently serves as President of Sprinklr, a global, social-media-management company. Prior to joining Sprinklr, Dominguez spent 22 years at Cisco Systems, Inc. where he served in a variety of executive roles, evangelized Cisco's vision and strategy and dominance in strategic markets, such as Financial Services, Pharmaceuticals, and Media. Before his time at Cisco, he held management positions at Timeplex, Inc., and New Jersey Bell/Bell Atlanticom. Dominguez has more than 10 years of experience serving on public boards as well as 12 years serving on the boards of directors of Sprinklr and The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

Full Transcript

Carlos Dominguez: Hi, I'm Carlos Dominguez. And welcome to my session on driving change in the digital era. I want to tell you I'm super excited to be here with you today. And I'm very, very happy you're joining me remotely for the first ever remote virtual PROS conference. So, welcome. Want to tell you a little bit about myself. I have the privilege of being on the PROS' board of directors. I've also been the present CEO... Sorry, present COO. I just gave myself a promotion for six years at a company by the name of Sprinkler....

And before that, I spent 22 years at Cisco. When I was at Cisco, I had probably a pretty cool gig. I was actually in my last seven years there the futurist for the company. And I don't know if you are ever going to get the opportunity to be a futurist but if that gig ever becomes available, I highly recommend it. It's like being a weatherman, right? You can predict anything you want. If you're wrong, it doesn't matter because nobody remembers. But the real key there while I was doing that role was I really got to interact with a lot of companies from all around the world dealing at the most senior levels and helping them think through how technology can transform their business.

And what that did for me, it made me see the world through a very, very different lens. And what I'm going to try to do today is share with you some of those insights that I was able to learn when I was playing that role and having a lot of fun and learning exponentially. So, what I'm going to try to do as a goal is my conclusion here today is I hope to make you think differently if you're in a leadership position that you lead differently but at least at the individual level that you're taking different actions. And the world today as we'll explore in just a moment is going to require a very, very different approach.

So, how are we going to go about this? We are going to really explore two questions. Question number one is really more on the business side is to really think about how do companies remain relevant and what's required to survive in this new world. Then we'll also explore from a personal level, right? The thought of, hey, how do I not become obsolete? How do I remain relevant in this world that's changing exponentially? So, those are the two things we're going to explore. The agenda is going to be really, really fast. We'll talk a little bit about the new world, what's different about it, what impact is it having on business.

I'll try to give you at least my assessment of the DNA of successful companies or the futures that are going to have longevity. We'll talk about one of my favorites topics, which is change. It's fun in one end and very painful on the other. And I'll give you some maybe thoughts on how and what you can do to remain relevant. And then one last closing thought. So, let's kick it off. Let's start with the characteristics of the new world and what's different. So, right off the get-go, when I ask you a question and think about this is how many of you think the world is moving at a comfortable pace?

I normally do this in a very large audience and maybe about 50% of the hands go up and everybody looks at each other go, "Are you kidding me?" So, a couple of things. Yeah. And I think it's really important to note technology and the way people are connected have totally transformed everything. Everything has changed. As a matter of fact, if you start thinking about it, that is driving exponential change and it's happening at a speed that is daunting, right? And just a couple of things. And this is one of my favorite quotes from Mario Andretti. He says is everything seems under control, right? You're going too slow.

And that's not true in this case but it gives you a very, very good indication that things are moving very, very fast. The other thing I want you to do is to think about just for a moment how much life and your business have changed over the last six months, right? And just ponder that for a moment, right? In the last six months, the world has been temporarily closed, right? We're operating in very, very different dimensions. Think about how you've been working at home, right? For those of you that have a family trying to balance school for the kids, right? Your work and everything else. It's quite crazy. On an average, I think we're all having multiple video calls a day, right?

And we're working even more because we're so readily accessible. And as a matter of fact, think of this conference, right? This is the first time that we're having a virtual conference. We would have had it in-person and we would have been together. When you think of all the things of this new world and the speed and the connectivity that we have, all the rules have changed. How we learn about your brand, how we form our opinions about your company, how we buy your product, seek support, look for a job, give you feedback, invest in your company or even as we've seen over and over how we protest governments or communicate with government has radically changed.

One of the things that we should explore is what impact is this connectivity and change having on business. And this is a very sobering slide for me. Companies aren't lasting as long as they used to. As a matter of fact, right now it's predicted that an average company is lasting about 20 years in today's day and age and it's going to decline all the way down to 10 years. So, one of the questions to think about is why is that happening, right? And here's another very interesting fact, 52% of the Fortune 500 firms have been disappeared since 2000. They're gone. And there are a whole bunch of drivers that are there.

Again, it's the 3.8 billion people connected and communicating with changing expectations. The millennials have a very different approach on what they expect and what they want from you. There's a whole bunch of new business models that have totally disrupted everything, right? Everything now is SaaS and cloud-based. And they're over 50 billion web-enabled devices. As a matter of fact, the CEO of Accenture said that digital is the main reason just over half these companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000. Or said differently, those that have disappeared haven't been digitally ready.

Satya made a very interesting quote recently talking about COVID and the impact it's having on business at Microsoft. He said, "We've seen two years worth of digital transformation in two months." And that's absolutely true, right? Everybody that wasn't digital has to really make an effort to leverage these technologies in order to survive. Now, let's explore an industry that was ripe to be disrupted, right? And this is retail. And this was a very sobering slide. Look at the number of companies. Because of COVID-19 and since the beginning of the year, have filed for bankruptcy. I mean, there's some big names in there.

There's not all small companies. But these are model or companies that basically relied on very traditional models, right? Which was face-to-face interactions or very, very little e-commerce. And when COVID hit, they couldn't survive. Let's take a look at some other facts. Yet, many of the folks that were doing traditional retailing did survive but those that are online merchants have gained an extra 107 billion in 2020, right? And that's being driven by the pandemic. So, having been digital and being ready before COVID started, really gave them an advantage.

If we go one little bit deeper, I've been a Costco member probably for 15 years. And as my wife will so affectionately say is I spend way too much time and too much money at Costco. And when the pandemic started, we're all, right? Trying to find toilet paper and trying to find food and being prepared for the unexpected. I went, of course, to Costco. And my experience there was really, really bad. I'm going, do they deliver at home or do they deliver it to me? No. Can I do curbside pickup? No. I couldn't do that.

I went on on their e-commerce site and I started putting things in my cart. And when I went to check out, they said, "No. I'm sorry. This is not available. That's not available." I finally purchased some things. I get an email from them in a couple hours saying, "Hey, by the way, I know you bought this but we don't have any," right? It was a mess. The experience was horrible, right? And even with that horrible experience because of the demand and the business that they're in, right? Their e-commerce business grew by 91%. I mean, that's pretty substantial. And that was just in Q4. In retrospect, my daughter who lives in the same town that I do was a BJ's wholesale shopper.

And when the pandemic started, she started shopping at BJ's. And she started telling me about they're delivering the food, they can do curbside pickup. She's getting everything and anything she wants. And I was really perplexed. I went to the BJ's website. And as you can see right at the very beginning, the first thing they tell you is same day delivery. Shop at BJ's and you'll get same day delivery. You can also do free in-store pickup, right? Or we'll ship it to you. Totally different model. Their systems were much more prepared for this. They did partnerships with Instacart, right? The delivery piece. They're not doing themselves, they partnered up with Instacart to solve a problem.

So, very, very tuned to a change in environment and the actions that they took to be able to really maximize the opportunity and the challenge that were being faced. And as a matter of fact, it paid off for them pretty handsomely because Costco grew 91% in digital sale. But as you can see here, they soared more than 300% and they're going to continue to operate and build more and add more. And they brought now their total customer base to over 6 million. And by the way, I'm one of those 6 million that added. So, here's an example of a retail business that's being totally decimated to very, very large companies that survived with the e-commerce but yet one did much better than the other and look at the difference in performance.

So, now let's talk about what does it take, right? To be successful. And one of the questions I always ask when I'm doing this with an executive team or senior team in one of the companies that I go visit, I always ask, "If you were to build your company today right from scratch at this very moment, would it look the same?" And I've asked that question hundreds of times and not one single time the CEO has said, "Yes. I'd build it the same way." And then I would ask, "Well, why don't you change it?" And he goes, "Well, it's not easy. It's hard," right? And that's the mindset that you have to have.

You have to be constantly thinking of disrupting yourself. So, way I think about it, there's a set of genes or DNA that the company has. Another way of calling it is what is the company culture? And this is basically how the business operates. And one of the things I've really noticed is this notion like the example that I gave you of BJ's is noticing a change happening in the business or in the world and adapting very, very quickly to it, right? In whatever business you in, you may be the king of your jungle, right? But if the environment changes and it has a new set of characteristics, as you can see now with the lion trying to catch the zebras on a motorcycle.

If it changes, it changes the ball game, right? And in this case, in the world we're living in today, people have more power than ever. We're seeing constant disruption. The speed is amazing. Complexity is incredibly on the rise and every organization has to be leveraging digital and they have to be data-driven and all the customer expectations have changed, especially with COVID-19. So, one of the really really important things is the rules of survival 101 is that when the environment changes so must you, right? And right now the environment is radically different than anything we see.

Another DNA characteristic is this notion of relentless innovation. I know we've all heard the comment is disrupt yourself before someone else does, right? But if you think about it for a moment, who's going to disrupt your business? It's not going to be a traditional competitor. It's going to be somebody that comes out of the blue and basically changes the game for you. And a couple of examples that we've seen here is think of Netflix in the entertainment, right? They were shipping DVDs to your home, right? Then they started offering it online and then they started creating their own content.

And if you think about it, Roma won the Academy Award for best picture last year and Netflix a product, Schitt's Creek just won seven Emmys recently at the Emmy Awards, right? Again, Netflix. And if you take it even one step further, is there's outspending every Hollywood studio. Who would have thought of that, right? Someone who's shipping DVDs. So, in this case, someone out of the blue in a different industry has totally disrupted the entertainment industry, whether it's television or the movies. Another one which is my favorite is Tesla, right? Founded in 2003.

Think of watching a pitch from Elon Musk in 2003 saying, "Hey, I'm going to build a car," right? "It's going to be electric. I'm going to sell it in a mall," right? "And by the way, there's no place to charge it anywhere or anything like that. But that's what I'm going to do," right? And if you think about it, everybody would have thought he's insane. Especially GM and all the other car makers that have been around and founded since 1908. They experimented with electric but never took it too far. If you think about it, in 2017 Tesla overtook GM to become the most valuable U.S. auto maker, right? With a market cap of 63 billion and a market cap for GM of 47.

And let's carry it one step further, if you just searched today, Tesla is worth almost 380 billion, which is more than the sum of Toyota, Volkswagen, Daimler, Ferrari, BMW and General Motors. And probably we can throw one or two more in there. But it's incredible what they've been able to do. And again, back when he first started, people would say he's crazy. But again, someone disrupting you from a place that you weren't expected. So, when you think about innovation, this is really core. You need to make sure it's one of your core values and it's strategic inside the company. I always ask the question, does your culture support experimentation?

In most places it does. And they say, "Yeah. Experiment on something or take risk." And as soon as someone does it and failed, they get fired, right? One of the other questions is, are you leveraging all your assets? If you look at your business, there's tons of assets. You've got people, you've got partnerships, you've got technology, you've got all these things, your employees, right? Are you leveraging all your assets? Are you leveraging what's available in the technology front? One of my favorite is listening to your customers, right? Or monitoring trends between those two. You have a pretty good insight on what's going on, right?

Understanding like COVID-19, the changes in society or people wanting to be more green and things like that. And again, understanding the competition or emerging players. These are all very, very important things to explore. And I'm sorry I went so fast but I'll make sure I cover a few of these in a little greater detail in just a moment. Another really important DNA of successful companies is this notion of leveraging data and analytics, right? It's all about data and analytics. And if you're not leveraging, you're going to get left in the dust.

I want to give you an example of something we did for McDonald's when I was at Sprinkler. This is already quite old, right? It's really leveraging insights from what people were saying. And McDonald's had a fairly large problem. They had 12 consecutive quarters of declining growth. As you can see, they weren't doing very well. And UCO took over. They had implemented the Sprinkler platform. We turned on listening to hear the conversations that customers were talking about. And one of the things we discovered in this command center that we build, this is pulling in from 380 million sources, a lot of the social channels, blogs and everything else.

And those are very common thing that people were talking about. They kept saying, "Why this breakfast at 11:00 AM?" Right? And what they did very quickly McDonald by getting this customer insight is they went and did an all day breakfast menu, right? Where you can have your pancakes at 6:00 in the afternoon just like you could at 7:00 in the morning. And that singular thing of analyzing data and changing something in your company is fundamental. It's just making the all day breakfast available anytime was profound. As a matter of fact, right? This basically changed the decline that they were having in four years.

And as you can see, it kept growing. Thanks to all day breakfast. Again, you got to leverage data. If you think of PROS and you think of what we bring to the marketplace, it's all about data and analytics. Whether you're doing price optimization and management or you're doing CPQ or anything else, it's really the leveraging of data. So, that's very, very important point that I just wanted to make. As you think about it, there are other characteristics that are important. Some are cultural, some are operational but I'm not going to unwind any of these any more.

But this is really, really important to think about the culture of your existing company, put it and categorize it in these three categories and ultimately make a decision as to what's missing and what you need to drive. And I highlighted and read digital and really be a data-driven because that's one of the gaps that I seem to find more and more. And it's probably one of the most critical in today's world. So, let's move and talk about a very interesting topic, which is change. One of the questions I always ask when I talk about this is how many of you like change, right? And typically, I'd say again, maybe 25, 30% of the people in the audience raised their hand and they say they like it.

And what I wanted to also ask you is... And this is more important than the other ones, is if you had to change your life patterns to avoid death, could you do it, right? Think about that for a moment, right? If you had to change and if your life depended on it, could you do it or would you do it? And one of the interesting things is what percent of patients do you think conform to a healthy lifestyle after a heart attack? And that means you got to eat right, exercise regularly and stop smoking, right? You need a multiple choice. How many of you think it's 10%? If you thought it's 10%, you have no faith in the human race but that's okay.

How many of you think it's 20? How many of you think it's 30? How many of you think it's 40, right? Think about that. And it's not doing it because it's something nice to do. This is about life or death. Well, the answer to this and it may surprise you is 20%. When your life depends on you changing, only one out of five people do it. And as a matter of fact, let's invert this. Let me put this data in a different way, right? When your life depends on you changing, four out of five people choose death over change. And I know it sounds a little bit dramatic but it's insane, right? This is insane.

One of the experiments that if you want to try, you can do at home but please don't hold me accountable for it is very, very simple. So, for one week, right? Just sleep on the other side of the bed with your spouse, significant other or whoever you live with, right? Just for one week. If you slept on the left side of the bed, go to the right and vice versa. What you're going to find is that within a few days, your life is going to be miserable, right? If you're my age and you have to get up in the middle of the night and we won't say why and you're on the wrong side of the bed, you're normally stepping on somewhere or falling out of bed or something really, really crazy.

But something as simple as just switching sides of the bed can create havoc in your life. Change is hard. There's no if, buts or maybes, right? It's very, very difficult, yet, right? As you think about it, it's not the strongest of species that survive nor the most intelligent but it's are those that are the most responsive to change. And that's a quote from Charles Darwin. So, change is very, very important if you're going to survive and you're going to remain relevant. So, let's talk about remaining relevant because I think it's a really important point to make here today.

And I love this quote by Leo Tolstoy. He says, "Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself." And that is so true, right? So, what I want to do now in the eight minutes in change that I have left is really talk about what can you do and why it's important to really focus on you and change, right? And as I answer this questions on how to remain relevant, I'm not saying this. Because this is more dressing and hobbies. By the way, I do look like that every now and again. I try to remain young here. But the key to this is understanding something very fundamental.

And the fundamental thing to think about is change and the mindset around it. And here's my personal take on change. I think it's wonderful if it's my idea and I think it's horrible if it's anyone else's idea, right? And I'm sure all of you are going, "Yeah. Yeah. That's right." And by the way, most of the people that I asked do you like change at the beginning over here that raised their hand or said, "Yeah. I love change," you're probably the leaders of the company that are imposing your ideas on everybody else and forcing them to change. This is a really important thing because you have to rewire your brain to embrace change and say, "Hey, this is really important to do and I'm going to do it," right?

So, as you think about change, it really all starts with your mind and it starts with you and it starts with this process of saying, "I am going to go through this process and I am going to make a big difference," right? So, again, a couple of very, very simple recommendations is we've learned from the exercise on the heart attack that if I force change on you and it's not a change that if you don't do it, you're going to die, right? It's much less severe. And this is more work-related, you're probably going to reject it, right? You're probably going to say, "Hey, I don't want to do it."

So, part of this stuff is as things are emerging within the organization, if you're the one being affected, try to think about it through the context of understanding what benefits does this change bring to you. In some cases it's moving... Let's use the example of being more data-driven and more data and analytics driven. And maybe you don't have that background but if you did have that background and if you said, "Let me learn more about it, let me go to school for it, let me open my mind to do it," what ends up happening is as you learn that, you remain relevant, right? Your net worth becomes higher because you can be hired anywhere, right?

So, it's always trying to look at some of these changes and putting into the context of what it doesn't mean to you. The other thing that's very important... And I'll go through the process in a little more detail in just a moment. But you have to experiment. You got to try new things, right? You got to learn from others. One of the things that I love to do when I'm either with my daughters or with younger people, I always ask, "What's your favorite app," right? "Show me on your phone which are the apps you're using and explain this to me," right? And a lot of times it's really difficult to comprehend it, right?

One of the examples that I can tell you on experimentation is in the early days of Twitter, I saw everybody using Twitter. And I didn't understand it, right? And I kept looking, I'm going 140 characters. What the heck can you see in 140 characters? And I don't want to read what someone had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And that stuff until I saw 2 million, 5 million to 20 million, a hundred million and I go, "Wow, 500 million are using this platform. I'm missing something." So, I went to someone who I knew was very good on social and said, "Hey, how are you using Twitter? What do you do?" And he said, "Oh, it's amazing," right? It gives a voice to anybody. And by the way, here, let me show you an example.

Bill Gates had tweeted something out. I responded to him or asked him a question. He responded to me. So, I'm talking to Bill Gates, right? What in the world would that have happened? Never. So, you start looking at these platforms and try to begin to understand what the value is. And it's really there. And from a leadership perspective, when you say, "We used to do things on Friday, this way on Monday, we're going to do it this way," think of it through the context of what is the benefit to the employee, right? Just like I always started my conversation saying, "Hey, I understand what benefits for you." You have to interpret that, right? And make it in their words something that they can absorb, something that they can understand.

I created when I was playing the future's role, this terminology basically called the technnowist. And it's a play on words, right? And it's really combining and understanding technology, how to use it now to your benefit. And it was really this notion of from an individual perspective, how do you remain relevant in today's world, right? On one angle and then on the other one is from a company perspective, what are the things you need to do to have longevity? Since I'd showed you before companies aren't lasting as long. And you'll see an email here, If you send me a note, I'm happy to send you the whole deck but there's a lot more content that I can give you around the technowist.

And I just pulled a couple of things out of there that I think are important. So, what are the qualities or the DNA of a technowist, right? Is someone who's adaptable, right? Constantly changing, a lifelong learner, definitely tech savvy and digital, right? Resilient, because you need to change, right? Creative and resourceful. Someone who likes to teach and share. Someone who has a growth mindset, right? And every day trying to grow and learn some more. And also someone who's fearless, right?

This is what it is. And the process that I follow is you commit to being a change agent for the world, right? And you embrace change, you're open-minded, you're fearless, that means you're open to try new things. Then what you end up doing is you research. Go through a discovery process, what's hot. I can send you if you send me an email, what is the details of the process that I follow. But I try every single month spending a day or half a day researching what's hot, what's new, what are people talking about, do I understand it or do I need to learn?

Once you uncover and research it, the next thing is to try to experiment. And one of the things that I've done for myself is every month I try something new, right? Every month I'll try a new app or I'll try something new. Like for example, I wanted to learn the ukulele and I found a piece of software and I bought a ukulele. And believe it or not, it's pretty amazing, right? I'm very, very non-musical but through the software and through the practice, I'm getting fairly good. And what you do is you try something, you commit to it for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, you measure it and you figure out whether you're deriving value or not.

And then I always say, talk to others, right? And make sure that you're expressing or learning from them. Then what I end up doing is either you learn whether it's valuable for you or not but either you're adopt it or drop it. And then last but not least, you leverage it and implement it. And normally when I leverage something new, I usually drop something else, right? And as you get all of this stuff, you share and you teach others about what you've learned. And what I found is this particular process that it keeps me extremely relevant, keeps me very much in tune to all the generational things that are going on. And I think it makes us all much more relevant and in tune to the times and what's going on.

I want to conclude with just a closing thought. And Gary Hamel, who's written a number of wonderful books had a quote that said, "Deep change is almost always crisis driven. It's tardy, traumatic and expensive." I don't think any of us can argue that what we're going through is fairly traumatic with COVID-19. It's going to last for a while. And this is the time. This is the time from a business level to make those changes that are required in the business. And if you don't take advantage, it's going to be a missed opportunity. And if on an individual level, if you don't take advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow, I think you're also going to miss an opportunity. Thank you for listening to me. I'm Carlos Dominguez. Very, very much appreciate the time you've given me. Stay well.

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