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Leading the way in ecosystem co-creation

Michal Harris
"We aspire to be different. We’re not just any software company – we have something more than that."

In this weeks episode of the ClientSide podcast, Beyond by BearingPoint’s Head of Global Marketing, Michal Harris, joins Nathan Anibaba to discuss the marketing challenges of the connectivity tech space. Tune in to learn more about how Beyond by BearingPoint brings together smart ecosystems to solve the technology problems of today.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: 

This is ClientSide from Fox Agency.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Michal Harris is Head of Global Marketing at Beyond by BearingPoint. For over 15 years she has a record of exceptional performance in senior marketing roles in diverse business environments and communications service providers, large vendors and startups. Michal combines extensive market and business knowledge with a strong drive to leverage marketing for business growth.  

Beyond by BearingPoint is a digital platform solution provider helping businesses to innovate and grow revenue in the face of digital disruption. Michal Harris, welcome to ClientSide. 

 

Michal Harris: 

Thank you very much. Happy to be here today.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Super excited to have you on the show. You’ve got an extensive background in technology and communications, and you say that at some point in your career you realized you had the skill to translate complex technology into simple language for marketers, but that’s not where you started or where you wanted to be at 16 because at that age you wanted to be an ambassador. So tell us how you found your way into technology and marketing.  

 

Michal Harris: 

Yes, that’s correct, when I was 16. I got into technology and telecommunication after the university. It was my first role. I joined the engineering department. Yeah, I joined engineering first, and I did operational roles. But what I found very fast is that I was able to be the bridge between the rest of the organization and the engineering language. 

So as you know, there is a lot of acronyms in technology, and people get lost through all of that. So I was saying, “Oh, what they said is that in reality.” And then I realized that I like it. I really enjoy it. I love technology. It’s fascinating. I really enjoy see all these cool, innovative stuff, but I also love to be in front of people and to explain them how they can take something very complex, but here, here it is. That’s what it does. It’s very simple, and here is its value.  

That was the moment when I moved into marketing roles. And since then it’s … the rest is history.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

The rest is history, as they say. Really interesting. So let’s set the scene for everyone really, and sort of talk about the context that we’re operating in before we go into the details of Beyond by BearingPoint.  

So you say quote, “We’re heading to a world where everything you sell is a result of different players designing the solution.” Explain.  

 

Michal Harris: 

Yes. I think there’s a lot of changes in our world, but in the world of technology there’s a of new, cool technologies that are coming in at rapid speed, like AI, IoT, 5G, the Cloud, Edge. Before you get into what is cloud, there’s already Edge, and you need to wrap your head around it. It’s a lot to ask.  

So I think this is driven by all of these new technologies that are coming very fast, and nobody can master all of them. Everybody, even the big guys, even the hyper scaler like AWS and Microsoft and Google with all their resources and capabilities, even they are looking to partner because they cannot master all technologies.  

So on one hand this fact that in order to build a whole solution you probably need different elements, right? It’s not just the IoT. It’s going to be a bit of a cloud, a bit of IoT, a bit of AI, and obviously some network connectivity to power this. And therefore by default, in order to build it you need to work together with other organizations.  

Adding to that – so this is on the vendor side, you can say, or the provider side, but on the other side, on the customer side, especially if you think about enterprises and small, medium businesses, they look at all these amazing technologies, and they want to embrace them and to bring them and to use them in their context, in their reality. And again, they’re building cars. They are working in finance. They don’t have the manpower to figure this out, what is AI and what is IoT and what each one of them is going to do for them. So they’re looking for someone who will bring this ecosystem together and will understand their context of the vertical. What does it mean, all these technology, all this ecosystem? What does it mean for automotive? What does it mean for a bank? And will develop solution for them. 

And again, nobody can do it alone. It’s too much. Therefore, it’s always going to be a result of people working together, of ecosystem working together, sitting with the customer, understanding their problems and trying to solve it using all these technologies. 

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Really fascinating. So you said that there are many different industries that this applies to, automotive, healthcare, finance, agriculture, go down the list. What are some of the use cases or what are some of the best examples of a solution on the customer side that Beyond by BearingPoint allows customers to solve?  

 

Michal Harris: 

So what Beyond does, Beyond is the orchestration and monetization platform that sits on top of all these separate partners, and it allows them to build the solution together and to sell them to the market, to customers. And of course, to monetize it as well.  

So we are enablement platform. We are not necessarily building the solution themselves, but I can tell you, I can give you some examples of solutions that you can think of in this context of ecosystem working together.  

And I’ll give you maybe the simple example. If you can think of a farmer, right? A farmer, he doesn’t care about IoT, doesn’t care about 5G, doesn’t care about all of that. All he wants, he wants to make sure that his farm is run in the best, in the most efficient way, and he can get the best revenue or the best yield he can get out of this farm.  

So he will be looking to solutions like crop monitoring, or he will be looking to solutions that will secure his farm and secure his equipment. And for that it will be all kinds of smart crop monitoring, smart agriculture solution. That’s what the thing he will be looking to buy. And if you want to sell it to them, you need to keep it simple. You need to say, that’s what you’re getting, smart growth monitoring.  

And behind the scene, you, as someone who is selling it to him, need to deal with the complexity. You need to know that smart crop means a little bit of IoT and some connectivity device and some applications, and they all coming together in order to provide the solution for the farmer. And what we do as Beyond, we enable this let’s say, for example, companies like Telia in the Nordics or Entity in Japan that are looking to selling to this farmer. So we going to come as the layer on top. We will allow them to work with this to bring their IoT solution, but to work with someone else for the applications, work with someone else for the hardware and bring it all, package it all together through our platform, sell it through some kind of digital shop front, so online, the farmer can find it online. He can order it through our platform, and once we get the order, we know who needs to deliver what piece, who needs to bring the connectivity, who needs to bring the IoT, who needs to bring the application. Bring it, fulfill it completely, make sure that the farmer is going to get the solution he needs, and once he does, we know to do the recurring charging for that and split the revenue among all the different players in that environment, in that ecosystem.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Now this provides a very complex and challenging sort of sales and marketing challenge for you because on one hand you are educating the vendors, the NTTs of the world, the teles of the world, as you mentioned, the IoT providers, solution providers, etc. But I guess you’re also talking to the end customer and educating them about the value that connected services, IoT, AI, cloud, etc., the opportunities that presents for their businesses. Considering this is such a new space, and this is such a new sort of offering that you’re bringing to the marketplace, talk about some of the most significant sales and marketing challenges that this presents to Beyond by BearingPoint, and how are you overcoming them?  

 

Michal Harris: 

Yes, that’s one of the things I love this role. When I joined our company around three and a half years ago, we had this vision that we knew everybody’s going to have to work with an ecosystem in order to bring the solutions, but it wasn’t something common. Most of the potential customers didn’t think ecosystem. At least some of them thought they have ecosystem, but if you look at that type of ecosystem, it was more a vendor relationship.  

So there is I’m in front, there is someone behind, and the ecosystem we are talking about is this type of ecosystem that is co-creating. So you sit together, you look at a problem, everyone’s bring their thinking hat and coming up with how I can provide it. And sometimes in this ecosystem, should the customer should get involved. 

So three and a half years ago, nobody thought this. Nobody really thought co-creation. Everybody was very deep into digital transformation. I’m transforming my own business. And the difference is that when we talk about ecosystem, it means most of the value you create is created outside of your organization. So we needed to build almost a whole category of ecosystem, and why is it important, and why is it important in the constructs of telecommunication? Why is it important in the context of other industries? People were so busy in transforming their own organization that they couldn’t look around to understand what’s coming.  

And we spent a lot of time with analysts. We spent a lot of time developing thought leadership, and it was a lot of education that we needed to do at the first years. Now today it’s finally becoming a reality. Everything you’re going to open, people will talk about ecosystem. And the concept of co-creation is becoming very common, but still we feel that many people don’t get the full extent of the challenge. And also all this understanding of what does it mean if you really want to want from an ecosystem together, how do you make it extremely simple for the customer to buy? How do you automate an ecosystem, the business processes of an ecosystem and make them so seamless that from the customer perspective, the customer experience, it will feel that it’s one organization that I’m buying from, and it doesn’t feel all the friction and all the problems that between the different organization that he’s buying from? 

So while we finally see that it’s easier now to talk, we don’t spend half an hour just explaining the concept and why you should care about, we can almost jump right at the issue, we still find out that there is a buying into the concept, but still don’t and not understanding completely what it means. So all of this hard work of continuously educating and working with customers, with partners to come up with better solution that are easier to understand is something that we spend a lot of time.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Really fascinating. So content creation, thought leadership, educating the market, and that’s ultimately sort of what the content marketing philosophy and methodology has been about. Educate enough customers, and then ultimately when they have a problem, they’ll see you as the solution provider.  

Is there a danger though in this strategy that … You are a pioneer at the moment, but more competitors will be coming into the marketplace in the next few years. Is there a possibility that you’re educating the market for your competitors to potentially entering the marketplace and start talking to their customers? Some say it’s better to be a fast follower than a pioneer because they usually, pioneers usually end up with arrows in their backs. How do you make sure that you’re not paving the way for your competitors’ success?  

 

Michal Harris: 

Yeah, it’s a very good point. It’s always like that, right? But we had the technology, and we had the vision, so we couldn’t stay still until the competitors will catch up. So we had to be the pioneers, and we had to push. But what we are constantly aspiring is to understand what’s coming next. What else do you need to understand? And I think while we already see competitors catching up, it’s funny, we are kind of coming to all kinds of RFPs or competitive environment situation where we hear that our competitors pitched something very similar, but I think the proof is in the pudding, right? When you are the one who actually did it, and you have the experience, and you have the capabilities, and having the capabilities, and this is one of the thing we keep learning that once you scratch the pitch, competitors are catching up with the pitch, but once you scratch the pitch and you get into, okay, let’s do an actual demo, let’s do an actual proof of concept, it’s very easy to demonstrate the edge that we have from a technology perspective, but also from understanding the business problem and helping them to deal and to solve the business problem.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

When it comes to the age old problem of building brand, which generally takes a longer time and a lot more investment upfront versus immediate demand gen, content creation, thought leadership to drive decisions at the bottom of the funnel, how do you balance the two? Because on one hand you need to create a brand to establish in the minds of your customers that Beyond by BearingPoint are here, and this is the solution, that you are the natural solution provider. But doing that does take time, and the immediate returns aren’t necessarily there. How do you balance that sort of long-term brand building with the short term performance that’s needed right now to build the business?  

 

Michal Harris: 

Yeah. That’s my daily business, trying to balance the two. And also don’t forget that starting relatively small, and it’s right. It’s a very interesting challenge, and I think one way to think about it, as you gain more customers and you get more proof points, is becoming easier to build your brand. So brand is important, having a thought leadership and opinion and something unique that represent you, that when somebody is, “What is it Beyond Point, BearingPoint?”, it’s not going to be, “Oh, they’re just like the rest of the guy.” So it’s going to be very clear. This is something that immediately we try to aspire to be different. We’re not just any software company. We have something more than that. We have all this business understanding and the ability to help you to work from a business side and not just let’s talk feature and faction.  

So that was the first thing that was very important for us when we build the brand, but obviously we are investing a lot in getting in front of the potential buyers and the prospect, and to see how we can get to them and how we can support the sales process in a better way. And hopefully making them a brand advocate over time, right? Because if they are happy customers, if they did something very innovative, it’s much easier to tell a story where you have proof points versus just building and building and building brand where you have limited resources to invest in it.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

You talked about the sales cycle or the sales process. I imagine that there are multiple stakeholders involved, very senior people, very time poor and busy individuals. How, in a complex sales as such as this, how do you educate your customers and really sell this innovative ecosystem solution when sales cycles are so long and so many different decision makers are involved, sometimes in different geographies with different pressures, functional pressures, etc.? Talk about how you think about sort of the sales process and selling complex solutions.  

 

Michal Harris: 

So yes, it’s definitely a very complex sales, and a lot of people are involved. And what we’re trying to do from a marketing perspective, but also from a business perspective, we’re trying to surround the opportunity to understand if this is the opportunity, how do we get a foot in the door? Who should we go? Who is the person in that organization who suffer most from the problem, and therefore will be looking for such solution? And this is how we start. These are the first target, but then very quickly we map the rest of the organization, the people who will get involved in the process. And we’re trying to surround them through all kind of marketing tools, through marketing communication, kind of a very ABM approach to somebody who is not yet your customer, trying to target and trying to understand and to make sure that they already see the value or they’re well aware of who you are.  

We also working very closely with partners, right? If we are talking about ecosystem, that’s another thing that we are trying to do. We are trying to build our own ecosystem. So when you start to come with different voices, right, so it’s not only you, it’s other people who are coming and supporting the similar message and the similar proof of concept. It’s, it’s obviously make your life slightly easier, and the messages is sim. And of course, working very closely with the analyst community, which is very important in the world of telecommunication and tech, to understand from them what is happening to make sure that we’re working together with them to develop all kind of point of view and opinions that we later use them again in this ABM before sales approach.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

So let’s look at your crystal ball for a moment and imagine five years down the road, and the business is 10X the size that it is today, and you’ve realized your vision of becoming the preeminent ecosystems player globally. What would have had to have happened for that success to have been realized? What are the major milestones between now and five years that would have had to have happened in order to realize that vision?  

 

Michal Harris: 

Wow. We need to be able to move to the next level from being … While BearingPoint is a relatively big organization, we are quite small. So at the moment we’re going to pass this size and make sure that we are more aware. It’s going to be obviously easier to spread the word and to get to the things we want. I think it’s also expanding to other verticals. It’s becoming very important, taking the same learn, all this learning and understanding and bringing them to other verticals, which becoming … It’s relevant to everybody. Everybody is dealing with the same problem. Everybody’s trying to see how to work with an ecosystem.  

So yes, and from a marketing perspective, I think it’s the ability to spread and to get to the different regions and work within the different regions and the different context of customers’ problems.  

I also would love to see some kind of community, right? Kind of this vision of an ecosystem. If we are talking an ecosystem, how do we truly build this ecosystem with our customers, that everybody is fit into this ecosystem, and everybody sees the bigger value that it generates not only for us, but also for our customers, for our partners and for the industry? 

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Really fascinating. You mentioned a moment ago that you’re a relatively small team in the context of BearingPoint. In order for you to execute your vision, you need to work with external partners and agencies to help you solve the marketing challenges that you’re confronted with. When you’re thinking about an external partner or an agency, how do you think about bringing on and working with an agency that will help you solve some of the most pressing marketing challenges that you have? What criteria goes into choosing that ideal agency or external resource?  

 

Michal Harris: 

I think the most important for me is that there are no agency customers relationship, is that we are one team. We are in it together, and I want to see skin in the game. I want to see the same passion that I have for my business. I want to see for my agency the same commitment, and I expect my team to commit to this business. From the moment you’re a part of this, you need to be part of it. And I expect any agency I work with them to challenge me if they believe that the decisions are not … there is a better way to do it. To constantly come up with creative but effective ideas. Okay, how can we do it different?  

As we mentioned, we have the challenge of being a small brand, and of course, every marketing dollar or Euro that we are investing, it needs to count. And therefore we are always trying to be clever in what we do. We are always trying to do things slightly different, which will have a slightly bigger impact or more impact or stand out from the rest of the competitive landscape. And I expect the agency I’m working with for full commitment and to align on this completely. 

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Really, really fascinating. I’ve got one more question before I’m going to ask my final question. What’s your approach to communicating something that you are unhappy with an agency partner that you’re working with?  

 

Michal Harris: 

Yeah, no, they know. I’m all about- again, it’s something that I say to every person I’m working with. When we are in it together and it’s a commitment, nice dogs and trying to smooth things around. We just need to be completely transparent. “No, it’s not working. I expect more from you. Let’s try do something different.” Always respect. There is a lot of respect, but there is a brutal honesty for good and bad, by the way. Don’t have a problem to say, “Well done. It’s fantastic. Very happy.” But at the same time, if something doesn’t work, you will know.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Absolutely love it. And my final question Michal. You’ve had a fascinating career in marketing and technology marketing specifically. What advice do you give to aspiring technology marketeers who want to sort of chart a similar course to what you have? What advice do you give them on how to best navigate their careers?  

 

Michal Harris: 

Wow. I think you need to love it. You need to really feel passionate about it. If you don’t wake up and you say, wow, if you don’t wake up and say, I really buy into the thing that we are doing, I really think it’s important. I really think it’s fascinating. I want to communicate it to the rest of the world, then no. Then change.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

Yeah, sure. Yeah, totally with you. Thank you so much for doing this, Michal. I’ve learnt a lot, and thank you very much for being on the show.  

 

Michal Harris: 

Thank you very much, Nathan. Really enjoyed it.  

 

Nathan Anibaba: 

If you’d like to share any comments on this episode or any episode of ClientSide, then find us online at fox.agency. If you’d like to appear as a guest on the show, please email Zoe@fox.agency.  

The people that make the show possible are Jennifer Brennan, our booker/researcher, David Clare is our head of content, Ben Fox is our Executive Producer. I am Nathan Anibaba. You’ve been listening to ClientSide from Fox Agency.  

 

Speaker 1: 

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