With 30+ Years in the High Tech Industry, serving as an executive in Chief Marketing Officer roles, Sales GM roles as well as full P&L roles, at various Fortune 500 companies, Joanne is a world-class go-to-market executive and the real deal. In these roles, she drove go-to-market strategies and transformations, that created high value and sustainable growth for customers and shareholders.
How did you get to become an expert in digital transformation?
I have been in technology for a long time now, as you note in my BIO, and I don’t believe Digital Transformation is a new thing, I feel we’ve been digitally transforming for a long time. Today, we are simply accelerating things for 2 reasons: 1) all the right technologies are maturing at the same time: AI, 5G, Cloud, Mobile, blockchain, etc., and 2) because businesses are realizing that technology can be leveraged beyond automation to drive efficiencies and improve business performance; today technologies can be leveraged to create new or improved customer experiences and can create entirely new and highly accretive/asset-light business models.
I recall my early days at Computer Associates for example, we introduced an “IoT-like” technology called Uncenter-TNG in the late 90’s. We put TNG-agents on non-IT devices such as Formula One West-McLaren race cars and soda vending machines, so companies could pick up data from these devices; state data, performance data, consumption data, maintenance data, etc. The idea was to gain insights to improve and automate processes, reduce cycles and create “just-in-time” activities.
Today, the discussion would certainly include process improvements and efficiencies, but because 5G gives us speed, and AI gives us insights, and cloud gives us broader distribution capabilities, etc., the discussion today would centre on monetization of that F1 race-car data (which in fact the F1 organization has done with race teams) and would likely include marketing soda differently at the vending machine, to create more options and a better experience, or creating higher margins by throttling prices up during warmer weather conditions and back down again during cooler conditions, or delivering soda-as-a-service to consumers on-demand. And therein, lays the difference between a 90’s discussion and today’s discussion.
Net, net, we’ve been in a constant state of digital transformation, but today the conversation has shifted from bottom line improvement to creating better customer experiences, and top line growth and competitiveness, i.e. true value creation.
How have things changed since you first started working in technology?
As I alluded to, I think what’s happening now is there’s a great convergence of new and matured technologies, some that have been around for a long time, others brand new. The Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence have become more sophisticated. Cloud and Big Data is playing a huge role, as well as bigger data pipes like 5G. So, I think what’s happening now is that there’s this perfect storm with these technologies all coming together and as I mentioned the appetite to leverage information and data to create new experiences and business models.
These new experiences and business models help companies create net new value, and the beauty is, it’s recurring value. And what’s important to anybody who’s evaluating a company for investment purposes today? Recurring revenue and IP. If those 2 conditions are met, then that company is worth investing in.
Those are the top things that my firm JCurve Digital is focused on. Helping companies determine how to create value in the digital age and helping them execute a go-to-market strategy accordingly.
There is another factor that plays into digital transformation, and specifically insofar as the customer experience is concerned, and that is the notion of “quality”. You see this theme in the consumer product industries. Take the auto business for example; they are hyper-sensitive about quality and safety. Many of the improvements they hope to gain from digital transformation in the auto industry is focused on quality and safety in addition to technology enabled vehicle entertainment, aesthetics, etc. This theme is really driving digital transformation for auto, because the amount of reputational damage that can be done, liabilities and costs incurred in a recall situation can bring an auto maker to their knees. So, when commercial professionals position solutions with the auto industry, they would be wise to do so with safety and quality in mind, in addition to “smart” driving, or vehicle entertainment.
These are the definitive outcomes of digital transformation: efficiency, speed, agility, monetization power and improved human experiences, including life-saving experiences. So, it’s an amazing time to be alive but I think we are at the tip of the iceberg, especially if you close your eyes for a minute and think what 2030 will be like. I have a vision in mind, and it’s very “Star Trek” like.
When do you first remember really seeing the effects of digital transformation?
I had been at CA, HP and Dell before and had worked a lot with software and hardware, but it wasn’t until I got to Jabil that I saw how technology could really be applied, first hand. I realized what it really took to make something from an initial idea all the way to building and delivering it (at scale). I remember thinking “wow, what better industry to apply all the technology I had ever experienced, to digitise things, than manufacturing”?
We started our journey at Jabil, by digitising the entire supply chain, so users and customers could visualize every part and every assembly moving around the globe through one pane of glass. You could see how certain weather conditions might impact suppliers in a certain region, or analyse risk re: long lead times, or visualize a BOM and alternative suppliers, or understand the impact of changing taxes/tariffs or foreign exchange. It was truly a work of art, as far as an application went. And amazing to see your entire supply chain in one place, real-time. Through those same capabilities we started analysing the impact of innovating our manufacturing processes through digital twins, or the use of 3D printing a part, or a tool or fixture or jig, instead of getting it from standard suppliers. There were so many things going on from a digital transformation perspective at Jabil and I was the happiest marketer on earth, learning about it, capturing it, writing about it and helping our company communicate our clear advantages enabled by digital and great people.
There was one new product introduction (NPI) where we really “got the digital” out. That was for a customer called Superfeet. Their NPI for a new line of custom insoles, personalized through a 3D scanned image of your foot, would have typically taken 35 weeks to ramp up and execute on using traditional injection molding processes. Instead, we streamlined this process and used our digital design approach, digital supply chain analytics; and our 3D printing capabilities all tied together through a digital thread and were able to get the product launched to market in seven and a half weeks instead. This was simply unheard of, and the CEO was extremely please. This story is documented in a case study and is available here .
It was funny, when I got to Jabil and uncovered their digital prowess, I pointed out to them that they were more than a contract manufacturing company, that digital really positioned them to be a “manufacturing solution company”, powered by digital.
As testament to that, we created something called the BlueSky Centre, in Silicon Valley, which connected our capabilities and people together digitally, all in one place, so it made innovating with customers a much better experience.
Another digital project I was involved in involved Microsoft’s HoloLens AR device to design a new intravenous feeding tube with one of the big medical device companies and then 3D-print it during the prototyping stage. This project was so exciting, that Satya Nadella from Microsoft, discussed it at Hannover Messe, in Frankfurt the following year.
In 5 years, we shifted the conversation at Jabil, from a build-to-print contract manufacturer to a manufacturing solutions company and went from $15B in revenue to $22B. So, when people say what kind of experience do you have in digital Joanne? I tell them we leveraged digital supply chains, 3D printing, connected devices, AR and VR, IoT, Big Data, analytics and AI to drive a transformation to a “solutions company” through digital transformation. And while my software and hardware were great experiences, bringing it all home, with a manufacturing company, and watching 30+ years culminate into something that exciting, was simply the best part of my career.
What are you focusing on right now?
Well, I had every intention of retiring on November 1st, but I’m having way too much fun helping companies through my growth consultancy called JCurve digital. I help a handful of companies with research and business strategy around digital business models, and then follow that up with the appropriate go-to-market strategy for said business models. There are some important differences between traditional business models and digital business models, insofar as commercialization is concerned, and I help companies understand those differences and adapt accordingly across their entire commercial value chain. It’s awesome because it’s all on my time and it’s all at my pace.
Right now, for example, I’m helping a company out of San Diego figure out how to take a Smart Factory solution to market, and similarly helping a Fintech out of Europe, a cyber security company out of Toronto, a 3D printing company out of Texas, and a digital marketing company out of Atlanta.
So, I’m keeping very busy to say the least.
Which key figures have influenced you along the way?
I’m extremely impressed by Satya Nadella. He’s taken a company that was out of “high-tech vogue” and revived it, essentially creating an entire renaissance at Microsoft. I love that he cares about people as well. To me digital transformation is more about transforming people and behaviours and working with people than the technology. Technology has always been around, and it’s been maturing, but what he’s been able to do is reposition Microsoft completely. I also think Amazon is just incredible, and they continually innovate and leverage. Jeff Bezos had a dream to improve the entire shopping experience, and he stuck to that theme, but then continually leveraged what he created to build more value. He is a “value-creation” machine.
I also really like what GE is doing driving digital transformation through additive manufacturing and 3D printing. And I’m completely blown away by the “human-centered” banking movement in Europe – legitimized through EU’s PSD2 regulation. For example, I’m working with a visionary-genius called Paolo Spadafora who’s got a company called epiphany which is all about bridging open banking and core banking systems, to give IT and app developers an easier path to meeting consumer expectations. This platform has real legs and could eventually be the standard architecture for banking, period.
Essentium is another company that I’m helping with strategy and go-to-market. They are doing mind-boggling things with 3D printing and material sciences, they’re making one of the fastest 3D printers in the world and the best material sets to work under those conditions, without compromising quality (and remember what I said about quality). So, I think they’re cracking the code on digital manufacturing at speed.
To me, it’s some of the smaller companies that are making the real breakthroughs.
How would you describe your offline influence?
I speak at conferences, I write blogs, I publish a news digest for Women in STEM and in Business called the “Butterfly” and I’m doing what I can to influence both women and young people in high schools and Universities to “aim higher” in our incredible tech industry.
If a brand wanted to work with you what sort of activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?
The thing I really love doing is help companies with go-to-market strategy, that’s my bread and butter. I’ve got a few clients right now I’m helping think through their strategy and I’m presenting research back and providing recommendations. I’m a little different than your typical “marketing person”, because I come at it from a sales and product background versus an advertising or PR perspective. To me a good marketer is a hybrid of market strategy and where are things going combined with the here and now in terms of helping sales position solutions today. Too much in any one direction will hurt the commercial value chain. Whereas, a balanced marketer, can be an organization’s best asset, including the glue that brings together product groups and sales groups to create value.
What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?
You can contact me through my website here or via my social pages (links at the top of this blog).