A changing landscape calls for a new strategy

Glenn Gielens - CegekaWith more than 25 years of experience under its belt, Cegeka is one of the biggest integrated ICT players in Belgium, providing services across Europe. “Digital disruption and digital transformation are high on the agenda of most businesses today”, says Sales Manager Glenn Gielens. “This is changing our playing field significantly. Numerous start-ups have jumped on the bandwagon, consultancy firms have started to offer hands-on technical ICT support and creative and web agencies are rushing into social media and online content management. Competition is tougher than it’s ever been. So, the question then is: how can we serve our clients best while maintaining, or even strengthening, our position in the market?” María Luisa Fernandez Vanoni, Hartmut Leidreiter and Yuki Takarada, three of our MBA students, took on the challenge of answering that question in their in-company project (ICP).

Good things come in threes

The in-company project consisted of three parts: strategy analysis, strategy formulation and strategy implementation. Due to time constraints, the students mainly focused on the analysis and formulation. Through online research and extensive interviews with clients, management and members of staff, they gathered vast amounts of insights, which were assessed against the theory.

Nothing but praise

Glenn is pleased with how the students handled their ICP: “I’ve received nothing but praise from clients and colleagues alike. Hartmut, María Luisa and Yuki have invested a lot of effort in this project, for which I’m still very grateful. We didn’t have the time to hold their hands, but we didn’t have to either. They’ve shown great maturity, organising their work efficiently. The fact that they all had considerable work experience, some of them even in consultancy, was a huge plus. They had so much more relevant intellectual baggage than your average student fresh from university. We’ve also asked them to present the results of their study. As outsiders to the company they were in a better position to put their finger on the sore spot, but they’ve done so with a strong sense of nuance.”

He goes on: “And even though Hartmut, María Luisa and Yuki were very mature and autonomous, the coaching by professor Martin Weiss was much appreciated. He really grasped our challenges and he’s even come over to our offices a couple of times.”

Time to reflect

And how about the students? How do they look back on their time at Cegeka? What have they learned?

“That coffee is extremely important”, quips Hartmut, chuckling. “Joking aside, the MBA programme offers a toolbox, and this project was an excellent opportunity to actually use those tools. Having spent 12 years working in various sales and marketing roles, I saw this ICP as a chance to try something completely different – no strings attached. It was a blueprint of a consultancy assignment and it’s made me realise that I don’t want to be a consultant, an outsider looking in. I need to be really part of something!” he says adamantly. And thoughtfully he adds: “Mind you, this project was a good time to reflect and broaden my horizon, and so was the MBA. I’ve certainly learned from it. For one thing, I’ve gained a more holistic view on a business and on how to manage people and teams.”

A lesson in diplomacy

“I actually liked the consultancy aspect”, says María Luisa enthusiastically. “You get to work with so many people in different functions and parts of the organisation to achieve a comprehensive view on the business almost no one else has, except C levels. Due to my background in communication, I felt comfortable doing the interviews, but this project has certainly honed my skills. People confide in you and then it’s up to you as a consultant to treat all the information with caution, and to present your findings in a diplomatic way. So, it was a truly unique opportunity, and a very rewarding one at that. Connecting all the dots is satisfying in itself, but knowing our conclusions and recommendations will have an impact on the organisation’s future is quite a thrill.”

Lots of coffee, laughs and … a baby

But what about that coffee? Hartmut smiles: “Glenn would always start our meeting saying ‘First I need coffee’. It seemed funny at the time, but being back at work I understand. For him our meetings were a kind of break, and breaks typically start with coffee.”

Coffee also makes for an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Not that there was any tension, on the contrary, they had some good laughs as María Luisa recalls: “You see, we had to deliver a report, but Yuki also had to deliver a baby. Her due date was supposed to be before the project was finished. So, we were constantly planning around that date, joking about how Germans and Japanese are great planners. In the end she managed to stay almost until the end. When she left on maternity leave, all we had to do was finalise the report.”

Valuable outcomes

That report was well received. “It describes several options that we can further develop. All in all, it has provided us with some interesting new ideas as well as confirming some of the views we had,” explains Glenn.

Would he recommend an in-company project to other companies? “Definitely yes! When you’re busy and absorbed by your daily routine, such a project buys you extra time and resources. What’s more, organisations become set in their ways of thinking and working. An ICP brings in a fresh perspective. And whether you gain new insights or have your ideas confirmed, both outcomes are just as valuable.”

One word of advice, though: “Make sure the scope of the project and its deliverables are feasible. We’ve had to adjust our expectations as it was just impossible to also cover the implementation in the time available. So, that will be the scope of a new ICP: to elaborate on this report and formulate an effective strategy implementation plan.”

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