This week I, along with other thought leaders, had a chance to sit down and talk with Gary Schoch, HCL’s global GTM head for their newly acquired Digital Commerce platform (formerly IBM’s WebSphere Commerce). Gary discussed HCL’s perspective on the product and why HCL acquired the platform. He also spent time discussing the philosophy HCL is adopting while it invests heavily in developing the next iteration of what is now HCL Commerce. It was encouraging to hear a distinct and coherent message coming from HCL after so many months of silence while the acquisition closed.
Continuing to Deliver Excellence
It was interesting that a conversation about HCL and its acquisition really started by talking about IBM. But it quickly made sense when Gary outlined that, not only was HCL interested in acquiring a platform that is core to generating revenue for its customers, but also that IBM wanted to ensure that it believed the acquiring company would succeed and do right by the existing customer base. After all, these customers are, in many cases, still heavily committed to IBM technology, and at the same time, the level of its customer’s digital commerce success is still vastly important to IBM. This, combined with HCL’s partnership with IBM and HCL’s desire to bring its philosophy of “value beyond the contract,” makes the transfer of the platform’s stewardship to HCL seem like a natural fit. This was not IBM abandoning the platform. This was a thoughtful transition, and one that IBM believed would be in the best interest of its customers. HCL is excited to invest in what will be a strategic growth offering for its enterprise software division.
Room to Grow
This also means that with HCL, the platform is not beholden to IBM technology. It is free from having to provide a “completely blue” offering that aligns with a larger corporate directive. HCL Commerce is WebSphere Commerce, unchained. HCL’s intention for its Commerce platform to become more open and flexible is clear in its roadmap. It has a more integration-first focus and the freedom to partner with true best-in-breed technology, innovative thought leaders, and researchers. The market can expect to see more agility and innovation in the future for the platform and customers can expect more capabilities sooner through a more streamlined delivery model. Gary stated clearly, “Our goal is to deliver as fast as or faster than our customers.”
Focusing on the Customer
It was also enlightening to hear that HCL’s philosophy for the platform is centered on the importance of collaboration with customers. “Those digital commerce vendors who have listened to customers have grown their market share, while those who have not have suffered,” said Gary. Many digital commerce vendors in the marketplace are currently trying to differentiate themselves by investing in the next set of features they hope can generate demand and attention in the industry. In an effort to ensure that the investment HCL makes in the platform aligns with more than simple feature requests, HCL’s approach takes customer opinions and needs into account when deciding the direction of the platform. HCL wants to deliver value by providing capabilities that align with its customer’s digital roadmap. That’s why HCL has outlined plans to deliver value by being both forward-thinking for its customers and providing capabilities that align with where its customers want to take their business. This plan makes HCL a partner in their customers’ success. It allows HCL to provide a core platform with capabilities aligned with customer roadmaps, which in turn enables customers to focus on building differentiating capabilities and customer experiences. Gary said it most clearly when he stated, “My competitor is not a vendor. It’s my customer’s competitor.” That’s something every customer wants to hear.
I have seen HCL’s philosophy first hand as it meets with customers. HCL shares its roadmap openly with customers, favoring taking notes over making presentations and listening over speaking. There is a sense of excitement in the HCL team, and it’s easy to see that they are committed to the platform and the success of its customers. They understand that there are issues that need to be addressed and technical debt that must be resolved. They also understand that customers expect them to be thought leaders and help keep pace with the ever-changing digital commerce industry. Gary is challenging his team to be forward-thinking by asking questions like, “What will 5G mean for commerce?”, “What is the next machine learning technology we should be adopting?” and “When will AR/VR be the way customers engage?” Clients like to hear there is a longer-term plan full of innovation and thought leadership.
Gary has also stressed the importance of partners like Perficient in the future. Perficient is glad to be part of helping create what HCL Commerce will become in the future and deliver new value to clients. The digital commerce landscape is at an inflection point, and the platform decisions businesses make now will have a lasting impact on its success or failure. Perficient and HCL both understand this and know that a digital commerce platform is a mission-critical aspect of a client’s business. We look forward to continuing to be a trusted partner of HCL and for many HCL Commerce customers in the future.