Transforming the Research Function Into a Consulting Agency at HPE

Since splitting from Hewlett Packard Inc. in 2015, HPE has undergone mangy changes. Amidst this growth, Paul Logue, HPE’s Vice President of Growth Analytics, Market Insights and Customer Experience, has been tasked with understanding and anticipating customers’ needs, which, like most things in the tech space, are changing fast.

Charles Trevail

CEO at C Space

Since splitting from Hewlett Packard Inc. in 2015, HPE has undergone several acquisitions and “spin-merges” – essentially, merging segments of HPE’s business with other companies to form new ones. Amidst this growth, Paul Logue, HPE’s Vice President of Growth Analytics, Market Insights and Customer Experience, has been tasked with understanding and anticipating customers’ needs, which, like most things in the tech space, are changing fast.

“We are the hub of what’s going on from a customer perspective,” he says of his team. “We’ve greatly expanded the role we’re playing as we’ve started to be part of this transformation.”

Along with 100 global team members, Paul unearths hidden insights and advocates on behalf of customers. Just don’t call them the research department. According to Paul, who joined me on the latest episode of the Outside In podcast, they operate as an agency model within the company. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Subscribe to the Outside In podcast:

Integrate all sources of customer information to deliver “actionable intelligence”

By fusing customer experience, insights, and data analytics, Paul has created a uniquely integrated service model within HPE. His “clients” are internal business divisions, like sales and marketing. “They don’t want data, they want actionable intelligence,” he explains. “They want triggers, and they want to know specifically, ‘What do I need to do with a given company or with a given market?’”

All of that takes a diverse set of skills. Paul’s team can give a 360-degree view of all the places the customer is engaging with HPE to discover what’s working and what’s not. “You have to be ambidextrous in your capabilities,” he says. “Every single person on our team is building cross-skills, so that nobody is exempt from having that consultative skill.”

Each is trained to look at data, synthesize it, and find the insights that matter. “You can’t just have data. You have to have the data and the consultative [ability to] connect the dots to tell the story.”

Condition the organization to work with you as an agency partner

Building an internal agency isn’t without its challenges. One of the biggest, Paul says, is conditioning your company and your clients to think of you differently. “You’re not a go-fetch, desk-side research firm,” Paul asserts. “You are an agency.”

One of the very first things you do when working with an agency is brief them on the challenge or project at hand. Paul’s team has developed an insight agenda process centered on a briefing document that kicks off every project with probing questions, such as: What decision are we trying to drive? What hypothesis are we exploring? What does success look like? And, Paul’s favorite: How is my team going to work with your team collaboratively on the implementation?

“Once you get people to think about you differently,” he says, “good things start to happen.”

The power of no

“Where I choose to invest is where it provides the best impact for the company,” Paul says. And part of that impact requires saying one small yet powerful word: no.

“If you’re not saying no, you’re doing something wrong,” he says. Paul knows his team can’t be everywhere all the time, so he has built self-service tools to empower stakeholders. “If you don’t have an always-on insight platform, you can’t release your team to do the consultative work,” he says.

For example, Market Vision is a curated, self-service platform employees can access for insights, content, and research. And the Account Health Index is “a green light, yellow light, red light” indicator of each account’s performance. “We know when things are good and when things need to be addressed really early on,” Paul says.

Remember that customers are emotional. Even tech buyers.

Paul has looked to other industries, like CPG, to shape his philosophy about running insights inside a large organization. He learned that many companies are “spending a lot of time on ethnography and the mindset of their buyer and the emotional ramifications of those decisions.”

That same level of understanding is useful for tech companies like HPE. For example, Paul’s team discovered that IT leaders have to say no more than a third of the time, for lots of different reasons. “When they do [say no],” Paul says, “we found that 77% of the time there was a strong negative emotion involved.” IT is a stressful job, with many departments “in foundational transformation”; therefore, the buying process is more emotional than many people may realize.

Paul ends on a cautionary note. “There is an incredible level of emotion, and B2B companies like HPE better pay attention to that and understand how to help our customers with that emotion.”

You may be interested in:

Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer, AMA: Engaging Physicians in a Digital Age

Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer, AMA: Engaging Physicians in a Digital Age Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Founded in 1847, the American Medical Association has a long history of advocating for physicians and advancing medicine in the United...

In Print: Our best thinking

In Print: Our best thinking delivered to your desk Every quarter, we publish the very best thinking from across our global network in In Print. It’s a physical magazine that brings together brilliant ideas, provocative thinking & our very latest insights. Everything...

The Right Insight

The Right Insight What makes a successful customer insights leader? Here’s a guide to the challenges and strategies of some of the best in the business. Robert Howie is Managing Director of growth at C Space, and previously led the...

Where Net Promoter Score Goes Wrong

Where Net Promoter Score Goes Wrong

by Christina Stahlkopf (C Space)
HBR

We surveyed over 2,000 consumers across the United States and the United Kingdom to take a fresh look at consumer advocacy behavior, free of any preconceptions or assumptions. The result: our Earned Advocacy Score™. Based on definable behavior that maps out detailed, clear, actionable data, our framework unpacks the context of actual earned advocacy, uncovers what is really driving the conversation, and provides targeted strategies for growth. Christina Stahlkopf, Associate Director at customer agency C Space, digs deeper…

Kelly Leonard, The Second City: Improv and Business Share the Same Stage

Kelly Leonard, The Second City: Improv and Business Share the Same Stage Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: The Second City is arguably the most renowned and important improv institution in the world. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Stephen Colbert all honed...

Safi Bahcall: Why Do Good Companies Kill Great Ideas?

Safi Bahcall: Why Do Good Companies Kill Great Ideas? Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Disruptive innovation. Visionary leaders. Innovative culture. All phrases you’ve likely seen before in your LinkedIn feed, heard in TED Talks, or read in business...

Nicolaj Siggelkow & Christian Terwiesch: Advantages of a Connected Strategy

Nicolaj Siggelkow & Christian Terwiesch: Advantages of a Connected Strategy Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Companies like Disney, Nike, Amazon, and Netflix are all creating continuous relationships with customers by implementing a “connected...

Bari Harlam, CMO, Hudson’s Bay Company: Inside the Strategy of an Icon

Bari Harlam, CMO, Hudson’s Bay Company: Inside the Strategy and Culture of an Icon Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: From direct-to-consumer to augmented reality shopping, the retail industry is experiencing massive – and rapid – change. It’s not just...

Americus Reed II: Brands and Identity Loyalty

Americus Reed II: Brands and Identity Loyalty Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: An identity theorist is someone who studies how people come to adopt certain visions or desired images of themselves. It’s a term created by Americus Reed II, Professor of...

Jeremy Schwartz: Lead with a Clear Purpose

Jeremy Schwartz: Lead with a Clear Purpose Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: These days, it seems like most companies are talking about their “purpose.’ Those that aren’t are searching for one. But how does purpose get defined? Who defines it? And how...