In the second of this two part CIO webinar series ‘Driving business success with true enterprise applications’, we speak with DXC Technology, brewing giant Lion and analysts Ecosystm about ‘How to take customer experience to the next level’.

Today more than ever before, the customer is king.

And having been conditioned – some might say spoilt – over the past several years to hyper-personalisation via the growing number of intelligent digital platforms, delivering them the best possible experiences has now emerged as a major competitive differentiator.

Key to this is ensuring you have the right data and systems to underpin every customer interaction. This means having all customer-related data in a single repository, updated in real time, and accessible by business critical systems.

But as with so many challenges in this business, it’s a lot easier said than done. You need the right strategy, the right teams and the right culture, as well as the right solutions in place. And you need a proper plan to bring everyone in the organisation along with you on the journey.

Brewing giant Lion is one of the most established companies in Australasia, having carried some of our most famous and enduring beverage brands over a more than one hundred year history. And the explosion of new beer brands, especially in the craft space over the past several years, means it’s a more dynamic and complex business than ever.

Back in 2019, before COVID, Lion’s head of customer business process excellence, Nicole Parés and her team embarked a mission to gain a “360 degree view” of the company’s partner customers.

Shortly after, they met and quickly partnered with DXC Technology to set out a strategy to optimise the SAP Marketing solution and provide a customer experience that only a fully integrated tech stack could provide.

Changing customer – and partner – expectations demanded that the company undertake a full transformation if it was going to develop proper systems for managing its many moving parts and remain competitive into the future.

“I recognised that we had, three hundred legacy systems that had very little integration between them, making it difficult to utilise data and analytics, to draw insights and make business decisions,” Parés recalls.

Deployment of multiple SAP modules followed, until one day the legacy systems were switched off and Lion was operating in a new digital world.

Data driven

Perhaps the most profound change, Parés says, has been the cultural shift towards becoming an organisation that properly understands the value of data, especially in terms of driving better customer experiences.

“I can see the impacts through that our entire value chain … it [data] gives you the avenue through the technology of that marketing cloud to be really targeted in who your customer segments are.

“That in itself has been a transformative journey for our business”.

Matthew Varone, SAP CX consultant with DXC Technology says he and his team were initially brought in to work on a fairly narrow use case deploying SAP CX applications and marketing cloud.

From there the remit was expanded to encompass a broader plan to improve engagement with Lion’s extensive partner channel.

“[We started] working towards the right solution that’s 100 percent focussed on excellent customer experiences”.

This meant making sure the solution was right for everyone “and so that involved partnering very closely and doing lots of discovery, and going on the journey together to make sure we get the right outcome.”

Alan Hesketh, principal adviser with ecosystem and author of Start fast: Achieving rapid impact from digital transformation, has himself been at the coalface of several major digital transformation projects, in particular for the retail and fast moving consumer goods sectors.

He notes that for companies like Lion the challenge is how to harness data so that people find it easier – and are more inclined – to do business with you.

It’s essential therefore, to have “accurate data”.

“[It means] you’re able to use the data that they’re giving you to do the right kind of promotional activities to get that the expected returns .. and so when they’re doing that electronic ordering, it just flows through smoothly.”

Varone explains that DXC has helped Lion connect with its customers across multiple touchpoints.

“We’re measuring click through rates and engagement when they’re on the phone with agents and through the CRM system. You know those interactions are coming back, and all of those are being centralized and building this vision of one picture of a customer.”

Parés adds that being able to demonstrate that the project would give rise to new revenue streams was a key factor in getting buy in from the broader executive team. And further endearing her and her team was the fact that there were “zero issues” after ‘go-live’; a remarkable achievement for a project of this scale.

“It’s amazing now to look back and reflect on what that journey was like for us, putting that case forward and getting the buy in. Now we have the right technology, we can turn that into a competitive advantage.

Working on the marriage

Much is made of the importance of having great teams if major digital projects are to achieve their most ambitious objectives. And that also means different teams being able to work well together.

Parés reflects that hers and Varone’s team at DXC were united by strong sense of purpose but without any illusions about what needed to be done.

“We kept each other accountable, challenging what it was we were trying to achieve, and how we would get there.

“I think for me what I really enjoyed was it wasn’t a case of saying ‘here’s what I want to do. Go and do it. It was a partnership to understand, ‘well, have you considered that this is possible, or you are doing this process right now?’.”

Varone feels that that’s what made the “marriage” between Lion and DXC special.

“Did it take work? Yes, like most teams like this, forming and storming and norming, and all of those sorts of progressions that we all make together.”

“But there was always a lot of respect for each other”.


In the first of this two part CIO webinar series ‘Driving business success with true enterprise applications’, a group of leading tech leaders heard from DXC Technology, customer Ventia and analysts Ecosystm about the challenges and benefits of “Overcoming barriers to application modernisation with SAP.

As we all know, enterprise applications were only really put on the c-level agenda when organisations had outgrown their legacy systems.

But as the hyper-competitive digital landscape continues to evolve, and with it ever more powerful and innovative capabilities in the cloud, businesses really need to make deployment of enterprise applications a strategic priority.

For many organisations, legacy technologies are actually impeding their efforts to modernise, while they face increasing threats from new-entrant competitors unburdened by the past.

That said, not all legacy is bad, with the onus on CIOs and other technology leaders to derive value from existing investments where possible.

In fact, Alan Hesketh, principal analyst with Ecosystm defines ‘legacy’ as anything you turned on yesterday.

“Because once in production, those things just increase the legacy that you have in place and that you need to be able to manage – and every organisation really wants to focus on new activities, not the things that they’ve actually done previously,” he says.

“And there are now so many alternative sources of application services, that with each component that you implement – and shadow IT is a particular challenge here – increases the complexity of your environment. And as your complexity increases, so do dependencies.”

The upshot, Hesketh stresses, is unless organisations figure out how to address this complexity and develop more effective application frameworks, they will see their lead times for delivering products and delivering value balloon.

Merging app ecosystems

The challenges of managing sprawling application ecosystems are especially acute during major M&A projects, something Karen O’Driscoll, group executive for digital services with Ventia and Michelle Sly, business development leader with DXC Technology can certainly attest to.

Back in late 2019, the already formidable Australian infrastructure services company agreed to merge with rival Broad Spectrum Infrastructure to form a true powerhouse generating more than $5 billion in annual revenues, providing operational and maintenance services to a wide range of private sector and government clients and their customers. Ventia itself was formed back in 2015 through the merger of latent contractor services, Thiess Services and Vision Stream, further underscoring the integration challenge.

“[With the] the historical acquisitions and mergers of companies, and the way in which the business was structured, there was quite a lot of work to do to be able to bring the platforms and the systems together, and also to standardise those across multiple divisions and operating entities,” explains Karen O’Driscoll, digital services executive with Ventia.

And deciding that this would happen within 12-18 months introduced a whole new degree of difficulty which led to an “awkward silence” followed by questions like “you want to get it done by when?”.

“Whilst we were excited about the opportunity, [we were] pretty daunted .. around the timeline that we wanted to get this done in.”

O’Driscoll and her team opted for the tighter deadline in a bid to reduce costs and ultimately deliver value faster. But the board took some convincing given the task was much more than a ‘lift and shift’.

“You know, there’s a lot of change management required there as well. And a lot of things that we knew that we could break, if we went so fast that we weren’t careful about what we were doing.”

One plus one

The project was run according to the mantra ‘one plus one equals one’.

So we wanted to run the combined organisation at the same cost as we ran one organisation from an IT overhead perspective,” O’Driscoll adds.

“There was a big objective to be able to quickly deliver the value of the integration of the two companies.”

Ventia had also listed on the stock exchange part way through the program, adding further pressure on the team to succeed.

The strength of its partnership and natural cultural fit with DXC Technology was evident at the start, becoming even more apparent as the project progressed, requiring increasingly intense “storming sessions” during which frank discussions often occurred, with more than a few disagreements along the way.

Michelle Sly, business development lead at DXC Technology, recalls a degree of discomfort at the level of risk Ventia appeared to be taking on.

“From our perspective it was very complex, and the aggressive timeframes were quite scary initially.”

“But Ventia knows their business far better than another supplier does and they probably looked at DXC thinking ‘you’re a little bit risk averse’.”

With so much at stake it was agreed that DXC would commission an independent review.

“That independent review gave us other options, and the ability to have very open and transparent conversations with Ventia, which then meant they could see where we were coming from,” Sly notes.

No project is the same, with large undertakings like this underscoring the importance of having a genuine partnership to properly navigate all of the many moving parts, O’Driscoll notes. “You can’t force it – the partnership approach enabled us to pivot and drive to a successful outcome”.

In addition to bringing a strong sense of collaboration to the table, she adds that DXC also brought a highly experienced, disciplined team able to quickly come to grips with the Ventia and Broadspectrum businesses. Furthermore, M&As are also in DXC’s DNA, informing part of their extensive suite of tools, templates and overall knowledge-base developed over many years.

For Ventia, while DXC did seem to bring a more conservative approach to the table, its decision to go with them was nevertheless somewhat unorthodox compared with the alternative of one of the big accounting firms.

Working together the two companies were able develop more agile working teams and processes that led to real value being delivered incrementally throughout the project. And this  was key to maintaining support from the executive.

“What we wanted to do is to be able to not call something that we couldn’t make it until we really couldn’t make it,” O’Driscoll explains.

“DXC would tell us a couple of months before, ‘we’re not sure we’re going to make it’ and we’re like ‘we don’t have to make that decision yet’.”

“And so we pushed DXC to not make those decisions too early in the programme and to actually go further along with us making decisions on the way until we got to a point in which we could go with that phase or wherever we were. And actually every phase, we were able to achieve on time.”