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CXBuzz Interview With James Kerr Indispensable Consulting Founder

Hi James, tell us about yourself and your background and how you got to the digital transformation space?

I am a management consultant and leadership thought leader who focuses on undertaking my client’s greatest challenges. Unlike some consultancies that tend to pile on large teams of staffers to get their billable hours up, my firm, Indispensable Consulting, prefers to co-create its solutions with its clients. All of our work is staffed by highly experienced, partner-level talent who have lived in the trenches and know how to get things done. 

Our clients include terrific firms from a variety of industries. Most are names you would recognize including The Home Depot, General Dynamics, and The Hartford, to name a few.

I’ve been in the digital transformation space since before we called it the digital transformation space! My very first book, The IRM Imperative (Wiley & Sons, 1991), actually had a chapter in it that recommended that data be considered an asset to be developed, monetized, and reported on the balance sheet. I’ve been an advocate of leveraging technology and data as a competitive weapon ever since.

Online commerce was booming in 2020; how did it affect brands’ D2C strategy? – What should be the main focus for brands this year?

Cutting through the noise is every brand’s biggest challenge. That starts by determining what makes your brand different and better than any other available. Once that’s defined, your messaging must be aligned and consistent to drive that differentiation home in all that you say and do…Anything will not suffice.

James’ checklist for digital transformation

In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good digital transformation strategy?

Besides the obvious items like securing executive sponsorship, funding, and determining the business priorities in a way to provide proof of concepts as you go along, you really should build a solid IT architecture plan that can accommodate the needed technologies and systems required to digitally transform the business. 

We, at Indispensable Consulting, defines IT architecture as the work processes that you perform in your business, the information needed to support the execution of your processes, the applications required to manipulate and manage the information and the technology platforms (including hand-held devices, laptops, desktops, servers, and the cloud) required to run the applications. These 4 dimensions – business processes, information, applications, and technology platforms – form the backbone of your digitalization investment.

In order to drive digitalization, you must invest across these four dimensions and ensure that they seamlessly integrate into a comprehensive whole that underpins your business.

How much has the role of the CEO changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?

It plays the role of master enabler. The more we can digitally transform our business with technology and the leverage of data, the stronger and more agile our businesses become. The CEO’s responsibility right now is to do all that they can to be the chief advocate of digital transformation – funding, sponsoring, and participating in redefining the way business is conducted.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020? 

There were many. In my executive coaching practice, I encourage people to confront and recognize how each of us will uniquely fit within the Next Normal that began in 2020 and is still evolving as we speak. 

Early indicators suggest that there’s at least 5 trends to consider as a 21st-century leader – some are opportunities, some are threats:

  • Human interaction has dramatically shifted;
  • A surge in creativity and innovation has taken shape;
  • A stronger sense of community has emerged as a result of all of the social conflict that was so much a part of last year;
  • Looking after the most vulnerable is seen as an obligation; and,

The PTSD Hangover brought-on by the pandemic has served to demystify mental health.

2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?  

My favorite online event will be this week (February 18, 2021), The Indispensable Virtual Book Launch Party. My latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Can’t Live Without hits bookshelves on February 16, 2021, and we’re celebrating its release with this special event. There is a whole host of special guests, giveaways, and fun for everyone.

It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future, how should CEOs gear up to the changing times?

Whether we’re talking about an on-prem or virtual workforce, outstanding leadership is essential to bring a company from greatness to indispensability. 

This is an important distinction because anything less than outstanding leadership will not suffice. Why? Outstanding leaders lead by example. They demonstrate desired qualities and behaviors to their followers through their actions and conduct. 

By doing so, the best leaders for our time put forth a sense that they and their teams share the same goals and aspirations, and, that together, they are going to go about achieving these ambitions as one. Indispensable businesses share a common purpose so they need leaders that can set the example.

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?

The ultimate CX metric is this: 

Is this business one that customers can’t live without?

If your answer is yes, you’re indispensable – you’re the company that customers prefer to do business with over any other available on the planet. 

If you answer no, you have work to do. My work with clients involves looking at 6 dimensions of where focus may need to be placed, including:

  1. Leadership Mindset
  2. Vision
  3. Culture
  4. People
  5. Trust and Empowerment
  6. Change Frameworks 

Chances are good that something is lacking in one or more of these areas and it’s those things that are preventing the business from being one that customers can’t live without.

About the author

Alon is a Tel Aviv-based CMO a VC Consultant and the General Manager of CXBuzz. As a veteran in the Israeli Start-Up scene, Alon supports b2b tech startups in capturing customers' sentiment and embedding customer experience in the decision making process.


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