On Being Global

An Executive Q&A on Hitachi Solutions’ Globalization Journey

As companies continue to face economic disruption and ever-increasing competition, innovation often takes them on a global journey to help command market share. Even if there is already a global footprint, business transformation is still needed for executives to gain the international insights they need to operate in a unified way and provide a consistent customer experience.

Having physical locations and resources around the world is one thing. But building relationships and understanding how to do business locally, is something everyone must nurture to be successful on site and abroad. This is often where Hitachi Solutions partners with our customers — our global mindset helps bridge connections between people, process, culture, and brand.

Fueling Global Growth

We meet this challenge through collaboration and alliance. As part of Hitachi Limited, one of the largest companies in the world, we have 850+ sister companies in 100 countries around the world! They provide innovative solutions for transportation, medical, energy, social infrastructure, technology, and much more. We are a consulting and professional services company. Being able to quickly and easily leverage the assets and resources of this vast network for our customers — wherever they are — is a huge competitive advantage.

Forging synergy between global Hitachi companies is a corporate initiative. Tom Galambos is Hitachi Solutions’ President and Global COO. He is also the global alliance growth executive for Hitachi Digital. Hitachi Digital is the entity tasked with developing digitalization strategies for the entire Hitachi Group and for driving the expansion of cutting-edge digital technologies. As such, Tom’s main initiative is “globalization” — building stronger relationships among Hitachi technology companies so they can take advantage of each other’s skills, capabilities, and offerings to establish connectivity, accelerate growth, and improve the global customer experience through end-to-end Microsoft-powered solutions.

We’ve made a lot of progress in getting our international locations established these last few years — in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, India, and Japan — and developing symbiotic partnerships with these companies to remain agile and responsive on a global level. As we’ve done so, we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. We wanted to pass on some of these valuable insights — trials, tribulations, and triumphs — to help other executives develop successful globalization strategies.

Insights for Successful Globalization

Recently, I met with Tom and Marcel Narish, our Senior Vice President of Marketing, virtually via our Microsoft Teams channels (which is how we connect every day throughout the company). We pulled back the curtain and discussed the importance and challenges of becoming a strong global brand, what globalization really means to Hitachi Solutions and our customers, and approaches for preparing your organization to achieve success. Here are some highlights from that conversation (which has been edited for readability):

DH: Tom, one year ago you were serving as our North America COO and the president of Hitachi Solutions. You were promoted to global COO to kick-start a drive to unite all our regions and build scale. What did this promotion mean to you?

TG: Well, we have had a global presence for about the last 10 years. Operations in each region in the world were strong — we had a strong business in APAC, a strong business in North America, and a strong business in Europe. So, this is really a reflection of how we not only operate with a global presence, but how we operate as a global business in a unified way.

The challenge was taking these three regions and knitting them together in a way that provides a common customer experience, leverages the best of each region, and brings together diversity of thought and capability. We need to work the same so we can deliver that to customers no matter where they are in the world.

DH: What got you started on this global path and what was the biggest surprise you encountered within the first few months?

TG: We had a level of leadership and thought process within each region. So, the first challenge was how do I take that strong regional presence, help them see the value of working together globally, and start to break down some of those barriers that are inherent in an organization.

The other aspect is that you have cultures that are very different around the world. The way people talk, interact, ask questions, raise issues, tell you they have a problem, is very different in Asia than in Europe and North America. Even within Europe, there are differences. For example, Germans are very different than the UK in terms of how they communicate issues and how they interact with you. So that is very much the cultural and organizational side of this business and for us, we are a people business.

DH: What about you, Marcel? We’re talking about the word “global” quite a bit. If we were to deconstruct that term, are we truly global? And if so, what does that mean for us?

MN: “Global” is an interesting word. Our organization is local across the globe. What does it mean when you are local but you’re a global organization? If you take away all the trimmings, we are a professional services organization delivering Microsoft technologies and solutions for our customers — so they can digitally transform how they do business and optimize and accelerate their growth. So, across the globe, everyone at Hitachi Solutions lives and breathes that capability and desire for our customers. So, although we are global, we execute at a local level.

Tom was talking about the different shades of doing business globally. There are language differences. From a marketing standpoint, one word might mean something in Japan, but mean something completely different in Germany. And it might not be a good meaning. Equally, when you’re talking to our customers visually — how you represent our business, how we connect with them, and how we can help them — the imagery, as well as messaging, is very different.

Then you have to add in compliance issues — because across the globe countries have certain regulations that we have to meet. So, that’s the combination of local versus global I was talking about. We need to determine where they all connect so from our global standpoint we can turn around and best help our customers. So yes, we are very much global, but we also have to have local excellence.

DH: So, what I’m hearing is that for our customers we’ve got to have that local footprint — the people that can be in their office and is their team in their local area. But we can still scale globally for customers who need access beyond that localized relationship.

TG: Yes, that was what we set out to do. We wanted to build a globally focused company, based on Microsoft technology, to drive transformational change and create value for a customer. That was the going-in position and we’ve been on that journey of building out that capability around the world.

MN: I think something to add here is the customers we’re working with also support this growth, because they want a single Microsoft partner to help them with their global digital transformation deployments. They want to drive unification across their business and across all their geographies as well. So, it’s a natural fit in our growth over time — not only our vision of what we wanted to be for our customers, but equally our customers needing us to be that for them to accelerate their growth plans.

DH: Tom, how do you see our relationships with other Hitachi Group companies? In terms of helping us expand on the goals we have today and offering that unified experience globally?

TG: Our methodologies are different in each region so that is what we are doing now, unifying operations. We want to make it so it doesn’t matter where you are, processes and experiences are the same. That’s part of the “globalization” of Hitachi Solutions.

The Hitachi Group companies are allowing us to bring in other expertise, breadth, and capacity. Take GlobalLogic for example. They are slightly larger than us but have a real depth of product engineering knowledge. So, if we have an enterprise level customer that needs to go much deeper in that area to deploy a solution, we can instantly turn on the faucet there and scale. With the other Hitachi built companies we have greater depth. That’s unique.

Hitachi companies actually manufacture trains and transformers and lots of high-tech medical equipment. We can also tap into that knowledge set from what we call the operational technology (OT) side of the business. To the extent we can leverage that, it continues to allow us to differentiate ourselves and provide greater value to customers.

DH: Let’s shift gears. We’ve talked about our global scale, what it means for us, and what it means for our customers. We’re leaving out one very important relationship, and that is our partnership with Microsoft. Both of you are very deeply involved there. I’m curious, what does the growth of our own organization and ability to scale mean for our relationship with Microsoft?

TG: We share some parallels with Microsoft, in terms of them — obviously — being a global organization. They have focused regions where they drive their business, so we try to match up regionally as well. We’re adding this global layer to the way we work with Microsoft — increasing areas of commonality across regions and bringing best practices for customers.

Today, you don’t have to be in the Fortune 1000 anymore to be a global customer. So, the flexibility and the experience we have in operating within regions allows us to focus on multi-national customers like that and also serve a need for Microsoft to operate on a global level and scale.

MN: This is what we already do when there’s an opportunity with a multi-geographic customer. We might start conversations from a business applications perspective, but often it becomes clear that the heart of their problem is really their data estate, and they need to migrate and modernize. Hitachi Solutions has capability across the entire Microsoft spectrum.

Adding on to what Tom said, you have to understand the customer challenge — which might be more high volume in one geography than in another geography. When they go to centralize and unify, it becomes an issue across the board, across the globe. For them, we’re able to support their entire initiative with Microsoft from end to end.

DH: Tom, if you were talking to another executive in your position a year ago — someone who’s just getting elevated to this global role and has an organization on their hands that is operating very regionally and entrepreneurially — what advice would you give that person?

TG: First, understand what you’re doing, ask questions, and listen a lot. It’s good to have a vision, but I would argue that coming in with a strong arm of “we’re going to do this” right out of the gate, will probably create more challenges than understanding. I would listen as they talk to learn the areas that are challenges. Then you can offer to help improve that relationship or get some help from Microsoft, so you can accelerate your business locally and get a win. That’s how you start to build a strong team and community, which is what you need. Because they are just like customers really. You have to think how can I add value to that region and how do we start that process from a global perspective.

DH: That’s really great advice, Tom. I’m actually going to ask Marcel a similar question. For organizations expanding their global footprint and navigating the challenges Tom just highlighted, from a brand perspective, what advice would you give them as they’re getting started?

MN: From a marketing perspective the key word is agility. Brand is the ultimate, but we do have to take in cultural differences. While you do have basic brand guidelines, there has to be agility and adoption, whether it be the use, the style, and sometimes even the colors — because across the world, those all mean different things to different people.

In the end, we want to connect with our customers the best we’re able, so our message needs to resonate locally and globally. The old school thought of the brand is it can never change. But that cannot help you accelerate your business when you’re talking to customers around the world.

Ready for Your Global Business Transformation?

If you’d like to hear the full conversation and learn more about Tom and Marcel’s strategies and perspectives on the power of globalization and how it can help you support customers, check out the Exchanges podcast, Unlocking Success in Global Organizations. Or, if you would like to dive deeper into our journey of achieving local excellence with global impact, contact us today.

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