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:

The Collaborative Advantage

The Collaborative Advantage7 Ways to Combine Big Data Methods with Active Customer Collaboration The huge promise of Big Data also lies in its biggest limitation. There’s a temptation to think that companies no longer need to bring the active, knowing, feeling human...

Getting the Most from an Online Customer Community

Getting the Most from an Online Customer Community

Harvard Business Review

Simply having access to customers in communities is no longer enough. Not when all your competitors have similar platforms. The differentiator is how you use those platforms to make your customers a strategic asset – what you do with the insights and how you draw inspiration from the community to align priorities, create meaningful change and, ultimately, generate new value.

Twitter: The Art of Influence and Discovery

Twitter: The Art of Influence and Discovery Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: It seems like everyone in the world is on Twitter. Including brands. But what works, and what doesn't? Alex Josephson knows. He leads Twitter's global brand...

In Print: Our best thinking

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....

Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities

Report Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities C Space partnered with the Market Research Society (MRS) and 130 client side practitioners to explore & understand how to get the most out of online communities (and the agencies that run them)...

How do you solve a problem for IKEA?

How do you solve a problem for IKEA? "We discovered a happy life at home is a mix of my space, your space, and our space - but people have a hard time really defining my space, within mixed/shared spaces." Lydia Choi-Johansson Intelligence...

The Rules of Community Engagement

The Rules of Community Engagement: A Study of the Motivations for Participation in Online Communities At C Space, we have been studying the art of engagement and honing our craft for well over a decade. We understand that vibrant participation begins with community...

Market Segmentation in Online Consumer Communities

Market Segmentation in Online Consumer Communities: Does it Matter? It is easy to understand why after investing heavily in a market segmentation strategy, companies would want their online consumer communities to represent those segments. But does segmentation really...

Customer Inspired: How to Achieve Growth in the 21st Century

Customer Inspired: How to Achieve Growth in the 21st Century What do In-N-Out Burger, Ace Hardware, Trader Joe’s, Kaiser Permanente, Nordstrom, and Mary Kay have in common? Here’s a hint: none are leading advertisers. Yet all are cherished by consumers over their...

Gen Z & the Future of Mobility

Gen Z & the Future of Mobility Gen Z is diverse, connected, and mobile. Which begs the question: What does Gen Z want from their mobility experience? And how would they make it better? To find out, we brought together dozens of Gen Zers and execs from brands like Bose...