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:

Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities

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...

Stop & Shop customers star in new COVID-19 safe shopping campaign

Stop & Shop customers star in new COVID-19 safe shopping campaign

by Russell Redman
Supermarket News

In a new advertising campaign, Stop & Shop is turning to a trusted source to promote safe shopping practices during the coronavirus crisis: its customers.

Employee engagement vs the lockdown

Employee engagement vs the lockdown

by Kate Bassett
Management Today

In this video, Professor Cary Cooper and C Space’s regional CEO Felix Koch talk to Management Today’s Kate Bassett on how to support workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

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...

Decoding a Viable Metric for Measuring Customer Loyalty in Travel

Recipe For Successful Parental Leave: Embed A Culture Of Support So That Parents Don’t Leave!

by Joy Burnford
Forbes

Our UK Managing Director, Kathryn Blanshard, shares her tips on the key ingredients for parental success.

Outside In: New and Emerging Conversations on Customer Centricity

Outside In: New and Emerging Conversations on Customer Centricity In 3 years we’ve launched over 85 episodes of Outside In – the customer centricity podcast. Outside In: New and Emerging Conversations on Customer Centricity is a collection of...

Jason Robins, CEO, DraftKings: Betting on a New Market

Jason Robins, CEO, DraftKings: Betting on a New Market Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: The demand for sports betting has existed for decades in the United States, but it has traditionally been confined to the black market and Nevada, the only state...

Bernie Banks: Leadership is Influence

Bernie Banks: Leadership is Influence Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Leadership is not a role. It’s a process. A process of exercising influence in order to bring about a desired outcome. So says Bernie Banks. He’s the Associate Dean for Leadership...

Decoding a Viable Metric for Measuring Customer Loyalty in Travel

Decoding a Viable Metric for Measuring Customer Loyalty in Travel

by Christina Stahlkopf (C Space)
Skift

Loyal customers may love your product and service, but the goal is to get them to spread the word. Christina Stahlkopf explains everything you need to know about Net Promoter Score and how to retain, grow, and convert brand advocates.

We All Need Friends

We All Need Friends Relationships are the most important things we have – and that’s just as true for a brand as a friend. Here’s how we can make one into the other Christina Stahlkopf is an Associate Director in C Space’s Boston...