NTT DATA speaks with an American accent while eating its own Digital Dog Food

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Last week, HfS had the opportunity to meet with the NTT DATA leadership team at the service provider’s first major analyst summit in Dallas Texas, since its acquisition of Dell Services last year.  So can the firm live up to its new billing as one of the major tier 1 global service providers?

Making sense of a complex fast growing entity

Analyzing NTT DATA is by no means an easy undertaking, given its complex organizational structure and lower visibility due to its reluctance to invest in marketing.

The CEO of NTT DATA Inc., John McCain, tackled those perceptions head on and vowed to change direction. Much of the purpose of this event was to present the “new” NTT DATA. Building on the acquisition of Dell Services, he pointed to branding campaigns that include TV and broadsheets. This is reflecting that the company has evolved, not least through acquisitions, into one of the largest global service providers. And with these significant investments come higher expectations. So, how should we look at NTT DATA and how does the company stack up in the competitive landscape?

The strategy framework that McCain outlined appeared sound and offers a platform for further expansion. In particular, (re-)packaging the portfolio and industrializing delivery. In the context of the portfolio pillar, McCain was pointing to the aim of deriving greater value from NTT DATA investments and of leveraging the “NTT Group power”. Yet, throughout the two days, we actually did hear very little about the Japanese capabilities and activities that the broader NTT Group brings to the table. When executives actually touched on those capabilities, the differentiation to the broader market appeared at least in contours. NTT DoCoMo, DiData, discussions on how Quantum Computing and Cognitive Computing could solve mankind’s more pressing issues, were providing a glimpse of highly differentiated capabilities. Invariably, the discussion of cognitive evoked strong memories of IBM. However, in contrast, NTT DATA is crucially not constrained by the many legacy deals with which IBM is still struggling. If anything, NTT DATA had hitherto focused on specific project-centric business but is now keen to trade up to larger and broader sourcing deals across multiple domains.

The challenge of bringing together the existing Japanese business units with the newly-acquired international businesses

The marginalization of NTT DATA’s Japanese business points to another crucial issue. The integration of the various business units, including the many acquisitions, is a work in progress. One can point positively to the long-term focus of the Japanese business culture that has seen acquisitions being very carefully integrated over a longer period of time. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling that the cultures of Keane and Dell Services appear to be the dominant reference points in many discussions. Thus, there appears to be a healthy tension between the Japanese core business and the “Global Business” i.e. the multiple acquisitions outside Japan. However, if HfS’ contention that organizations are moving toward to the Digital OneOffice™ (download our POV for a full definition of the Digital OneOffice), where connecting back, middle and front-office is corroborated, then NTT DATA has to eat its own dog food and move toward being a more connected global organization – you can’t deliver true Digital OneOffice capability if you haven’t become a true Digital organization yourself at your core.

NTT Data has real potential to align to the Digital OneOffice

From what we are learning, the seeds for that are already being sown. Around its Digital Services, NTT DATA is suggesting the first focus is through its customer’s eyes. And, similar to our suggestion of a Digital Underbelly, NTT DATA is pointing to the fundamental shift that automation is creating. However, the boldest initiative is to wrap the needs of the customer directly around its delivery priorities through its CUE2, continuous customer experience engineering program.

Let’s start with NTT DATA stance on automation. The prominence in which executives were talking about automation was tangible. Yet, the specifics of the various initiatives might have been lost to many in the audience. Below the radar screen, NTT DATA is running the largest deployments of IPsoft’s IPcenter globally. Tellingly, the Global Management One platform is helping clients with onboarding to NTT DATA’s cloud platform. A task that has been challenged by the many acquisitions that we have called out. Furthermore, the company is helping to adapt IPsoft’s Amelia to the Japanese language and executives were suggesting strong traction. Around more mundane matters, the strategy around RPA was a trifle blurred. While NTT DATA’s BPO business is focused on its proprietary AFTE solution, as executives suggested the solution to be more efficient than any third-party tools, the consulting arm, largely representing the Carlisle & Gallagher acquisition, was pointing to third party tools as the preferred way of engagement. Beyond the nuances of the automation strategy, what really stood out for us at the event, was NTT DATA’s ambitious plan to integrate customers directly into their delivery strategy with the CUE2, continuous customer experience engineering program. This program is not only adapting Agile and DevOps to the requirements of Managed Services but putting the user center stage. In all but name, here it is where the connection to the HfS Digital OneOffice concept is the strongest. Suffice it to say, NTT DATA is still very early in rolling this out across its engagements, but the strategic intent could evolve into one of its strongest differentiators.

Bottom-line: NTT DATA has to eat its own digital dog food to progress toward the OneOffice

As bold as the CUE2 initiative is, in order to catch up with the leading global service providers and to demonstrate its Digital OneOffice credentials, NTT DATA has to advance significantly the integration of its various business units. Only by finding and leveraging commonality across its global delivery units, NTT DATA’s many innovative forays will lead to repeatability and thus margin improvement. In order to reach new clients, NTT DATA should make a virtue of the achievements of the broader NTT Group. While culturally not always accessible, NTT DATA’s strong innovation credentials, often emanating from the Japanese market, provide a platform for a clear differentiation in a market that has been notoriously difficult to achieve a meaningful differentiation. Deep networking and mobile capabilities that can be leveraged in IoT scenarios are jumping to mind. To succeed with the ambitions for the “new” NTT DATA, a broader mix of accents might go a long way, not least Japanese. Then we will start to look at NTT DATA as a truly global heavyweight.

Posted in : Digital Transformation, OneOffice

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