Discussing the future of work, Dr. George Westerman and Xerox CTO Dr. Sophie
Vandebroek touch on transformative technologies like 3D printing and
MEET DR. SOPHIE VANDEBROEK
Xerox Chief Technology Officer
and President, Xerox Innovation
Dr. Vandebroek is responsible for
Xerox’s global research labs with
a mission to create high-impact
innovations that drive profitable
revenue growth. When asked how
Xerox is “leading digital,” here’s
what she shared:
“At Xerox, similar to Dr. Westerman’s
example of the paint company,
we’ve grown into services. Now we
manage 1. 5 million multifunction
devices and provide business
process services to thousands of
clients around the globe. Chief
information officers can improve
efficiency and effectiveness in
their enterprise by co-innovating
In researching your recent book,
Leading Digital, what are some
of the biggest transformations you
see companies around the globe
George Westerman (GW): We’re
about 50 years into the IT revolution. It
started in the back office and it moved
up closer to the front office, but things
are changing now. Some companies
get the importance of information and
process—they’re using it to change
everything in their business. Others are
still locked in that automation wave.
And they’re going to be falling behind
when that happens.
SV: Give an example of what it
is to go beyond automating your
GW: One of my favorites sounds like
a really basic industry. They make
paint—Asian Paints in India. They
originally were in 13 different regions
in India doing what you’d expect,
making and selling paint. About 10
years ago, they decided they’d be
better as a unified company.
They did what you expect. They put
in enterprise resource planning (ERP).
Then they said, “What else can we
do?” Well, call centers. But then they
said, “What else can we do?” They
started looking at transforming the
way they run their factories and the
way they engage customers. Then they
used analytics to find a new opportunity.
They figured out most of the complaints
about their products were not about
the products, but about the way the
products were put on walls.
That insight led them to get into
services, which created a whole lot of
jobs in painting walls instead of selling
paint. Now they’re in 17 countries
around the world.
VS. REALLY FAST
SV: Tell us more about your
notion of Digital Masters.
GW: Digital Masters are not digital
firms. They’re traditional firms in all
kinds of industries that simply get more
value out of technology than others.
Where other companies look at
technology as something you’re going
to adopt to survive—you’re going to
adopt mobile, you’re going to adopt
analytics—Digital Masters see these as
opportunities. Opportunities to get
rid of the old practices. Opportunities
to get better.
Those Masters excel on two dimensions.
First, they’re better at integrating digital
solutions into their processes. Even more
important, they’re better at leading
transformation through vision,
engagement and governance.
SV: So give an example of a great
vision … and what are the technologies
that leaders can leverage to achieve
GW: Well, the technologies could
be considered just ways to do what
you’re doing better. But they also can
be an opportunity to do something
radically different. In other words, are
you using technology to turn yourself
into a butterfly … or just a really fast
A lot of visions are really fast
caterpillars. They’re doing the exact
same things at an accelerated pace.
But when you look at technologies,
you need to say, “How can we completely change the way we deal with
customers? How can we completely
change what we mean by operations?”
That’s where the vision comes in.