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‘Adapt or die, evolve or be left behind’: Geraldine McBride

‘Adapt or die, evolve or be left behind’: Geraldine McBride

“If you don’t figure out how to be relevant to millennials in the next five years, you may be out of business in the next decade,” says the CEO of MyWave and former SAP North America president.

As a zoology student at the Victoria University of Wellington, Geraldine McBride focused her research on the native frog Leiopelma Archeyi , an endangered species in the Coromandel Peninsula.

She says Archey’s Frog, as the species is more commonly known, is “literally on life support” as it has not adapted to changes in the environment.

It is an analogy McBride uses to describe the fate of organisations that fail to adapt to similar shifts around them – the rise of disruptive technologies such as the cloud and digital platforms, and evolving customer expectations.

McBride is founder and CEO of MyWave, described as the “next generation CRM”. According to its website, the software company puts the customer in charge of their data and the experience.

Founding a start-up is the latest career progression for McBride, who finished her zoology degree, but worked instead in information technology. After joining the graduate programme of IBM, she progressed to a series of high profile roles in ICT companies.

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From IBM, she moved to SAP, holding a series of executive roles including president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Region and senior vice president and general manager in North America. She moved to Dell as vice president and global head for the Applications and BPO Services business and rejoined SAP as president of its North America region, which delivers a third of SAP’s global revenues.

Last year, McBride returned to New Zealand to form MyWave.

Speaking at the recent Gen-i FWD_LIVE in Auckland, her message was: “Adapt or die, evolve or be left behind".

She says from her experiences working in businesses in the United States and the Asia Pacific, “regardless of industry, all companies are in a chasm”.

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“Your customers know what they want, when they want it, than anytime in the history of the planet,” she says. But businesses “still deal with them in the old way”.

She asks: "How do we relate to our end users who no longer visit our static website, who make 60 per cent of their decisions not on website information but on social media?"

Related:The corporate scientist Geraldine McBride finds her zoology background useful as she takes on top roles in global IT companies

Get in touch with your customers

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“Look at the world through your customers’ eyes,’ she says. "Build communication and trust, and use different types of technology that enable you to do that."

Think about next generation products and services, she says. “Don’t design them from your point of view.”

“Customers are co-creating the next generation of products” she says, and they become the best sales force.

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If you don’t figure out how to be relevant to millennials in the next five years, you may be out of business in the next decade.

Geraldine McBride, MyWave

Companies are trying to guess what you want by analysing big data, she says. People do not like to be treated as hunted animals. Treat them as individuals, she says, “rather than being spied upon”.

The new way of being able to relate to customers is for customers to opt in, where they will share more about themselves in return for some benefits.

To customers, the message will be, ‘Here is the information we know about you. In order for us to be able to serve you better, we would like to know more about you in those areas.”

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It is all through a dialogue, through a mobile device, not through websites, she says.

You then leverage new technology and give customer ownership of the data.

“It is permission based,” she says. “This is not focus groups anymore, this is being totally in touch with your end consumer."

These, she says, are the supply chains of the future.

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People are looking not just at stuff, but for “experiences”.

“People are willing to pay a premium to embrace experiences,” she says. “It is not a race to the bottom for the cheapest price but creating experiences that people want to come back for again and again.”

Generation Y and the 'supply chains of the future'

She calls on businesses to work with millennials – those who were born after 1986 – to “rethink” how their businesses operate.

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“They can help create content, co-create products,” she says. "They want to be part of something much bigger than themselves,” she says of this group also known as ‘Generation Y’'.

“If you don’t figure out how to be relevant to this segment in the next five years, you may be out of business in the next decade.”

Next up: Gen-i CEO Tim Miles: Digital disruption spares no one

Read more: Wanted: project managers

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