Carving Out a Customer Digital Surface
SPONSORED BY NUTANIX
Cosentino CIO Gemma Hernandez reveals how after modernizing its processes, the stone business then went further and created a digital customer journey.
“We grow through innovation, and we care about new ways of doing things,” says Gemma Hernandez, CIO at Cosentino, a Spanish family owned business that produces stone surfaces for buildings, interiors, and architecture. Speaking at an international technology conference in London, Hernandez told business technology leadership peers how Cosentino has modernized its business processes and built a new customer focus that uses technology for delivery.
Cosentino is a $1 billion company, but Henandez pointed out it began as a business of just 17 people in a quarry in Spain. Founded in 1979, Cosentino has risen from that quarry to a world leading design studio, winning a number of awards on the way. “40 years ago, three brothers set the business up,” she adds.
Today, Cosentino provides stone worktops, sinks, floors, and cladding for kitchens; basins, shower trays, and flooring for bathrooms; and for the architectural and building sector, faceirs, cladding, and flooring. Cosentino is a producer of the prized Silestone quartz surface, focusing on the design, production, and distribution of architectural and decorative solutions made from natural stone. The Cosentino business operates to its customer base under five main brands: Dekton, Scalea, Sensa, Eco, and Prexury.
The business expanded into the US in 1997, across Europe in the 1990s, and began the current century with an expansion into Latin America in 2000. Hernandez told peers that the business now employs 5,000 people around the world.
“We are a bit of a Nokia story,” she said of the telecommunications business that began as a paper maker, and then became a rubber manufacturer before becoming the byword for mobile telecommunications in the 90s and early 2000s, and finally into a telco infrastructure provider today.
In 2016, following the opening of centers in Texas, parts of the US, Brazil, and across Europe, Cosentino realized it needed to modernize its global business.
“An internal survey revealed that there was too much bureaucracy, poor data governance, and no process ownership across the organization. There was also a lack of knowledge management (KM), and too much time was being taken on low-value projects across the business,” Hernandez says.
“The family called for action and every part of the business was reviewed by McKinsey management consultants, who looked at the efficiency in all areas of the business, including sales, production, and marketing,” she says.
Following the review by McKinsey, Cosentino formed a strategy, named SHAPE, with the aim of optimizing the business, and in particular, its production and sales operations. “We started to get fabrication improvements almost immediately,” she says.
“But then in 2017, we started thinking that there was more that we could improve. The Shape program had not considered the customer. So we assessed our relationship with the customer as a business-to-business organization,” Hernandez said. The CIO went on to explain that although Cosentino is a business-to-business trader, it is still important to have an “impact” with the business-to-consumer market, she says.
“In phase one, we reviewed all our digital assets and then moved those to a single platform. We went through all the steps that a customer may have to encounter to engage with Cosentino,” CIO Hernandez says. Moving the digital assets onto a single platform improved the experience for internal customers at Cosentino. The second phase the CIO led was to bring a wide range of Cosentino partners onto that same digital platform.
Bringing the partners to Cosentino onto the platform was more than just a technology program. “Stakeholders in the sectors we trade in are not, as a whole, digitized. So we have had to work with them to let them know the value of being part of a digital platform,” Henandez says.
Internally, Cosentino has had to undergo a “digital shift” to benefit from new ways of working and new customer opportunities.
“It is really important to be offering a human-to-human relationship, too,” the CIO says of how important the digital program is, but not at the cost of direct customer interactions. “Our employees listen to the voice of the customer,” Hernandez says.
Hernandez has been with Cosentino since April 2006, and during her career with the Spanish company, she has been IT Director for its North American division and became CIO in 2012. Before joining Cosentino, she spent eight years with ICM Software, an enterprise software consultancy that specializes in enterprise resource management (ERP) technology.
Hernandez describes the role of being a CIO as being there to support the organization to perform business functions in a simple, standardized, and efficient manner.
“We have the opportunity and obligation to lead the journey to the digital world and automate processes to push global organizations, improve business, gain a competitive advantage, and increase productivity.” To that, she adds that CIOs must: “Change and satisfy the user experience with technology and innovation in classic process, structures, and value channels.”
As a global business, cloud computing has been vital to Cosentino, and Hernandez has an estate that includes major ERP tools from SAP, a partnership with Dell, and cloud tools from Box, Google, Salesforce, and Tibco.