Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. In Simplifiers, Margaret Molloy interviews business leaders who put simplicity to work. Here, Margaret speaks with Kathy Schneider, Chief Marketing Officer, Sungard AS.
Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) helps businesses transform their IT environments, ensuring they are resilient and recoverable. By leveraging their experience across a broad range of IT landscapes, Sungard AS aligns the right workloads with the right infrastructures—whether hybrid cloud, legacy or something in-between.
Margaret Molloy: What is Sungard Availability Services?
Kathy Schneider: Sungard Availability Services is an IT services company that specializes in resilience. We provide fully resilient and recoverable IT solutions for our customers ranging from colocation, cloud hosting and managing services that provide flexibility as they move applications to the cloud, to transformation projects where we modernize heterogeneous hybrid IT infrastructure environments to be more agile, safe and available.
MM: And what does Sungard AS stand for?
KS: We stand for resilience. The way we look at resilience is across a framework of three characteristics—availability, safety, and agility.
MM: What role does simplicity play on delivering on that promise?
KS: We chose resilience because it communicates in a simple word the breadth of support we offer customers across our portfolio. Being resilient and having effective disaster recovery can be quite challenging, given that most companies’ have quite complex IT environments. Typically, they have a mix of legacy infrastructure and applications, on-premise requirements as well as applications they have moved or want to move into the cloud. By creating a simple brand positioning around resilience, we aim to synthesize the outcome. It can then be personalized or localized based on our client’s requirements to focus the conversation on their pain points. However, we find it’s overwhelming to put forth an entire menu of IT solutions. Having that top-line clarity on brand positioning is where simplicity comes into effect because it enables a more focused conversation that can still explore a broad range of customer challenges and solutions. For us, that is typically around being safe, agile, and available.
MM: How do you keep things simple for your team?
KS: I would say one of the things was landing on resilience as a core theme. Once we did that we stepped back and reviewed the various demand campaigns that we were running. We had multiple campaigns, and they looked vastly different from each other—not only in terms of the copy but physically, there was much variation. What we’ve done with the team is driving home the message that the more consistent we can be, the more memorable—and effective—we will be.
MM: What’s the most recent customer experience that impressed you as a consumer in your personal life?
KS: My sons desperately want a Tesla, so last summer we rented one for the weekend to check it out through a company in London called Whitecar. It was a very reasonable two-day rental; the model was driven to my house, I was given a demo, and they even returned to collect the vehicle. Whitecar also advised me how to get additional insurance that cost nine pounds, so I wouldn’t even have to pay the deductible on the coverage that accompanies the rental. It was an incredible experience. It was on such a small scale, but Whitecar solved our need in a very simple yet thorough way.
MM: What do you think are the biggest mistakes brands make when it comes to creating simpler customer experiences?
KS: It’s departments not talking to each other and working in silos. Even with the best intentions, this results in poor customer experience. I run customer experience, and, on our scale, we have been able to bring various departments together though champions and a global program. It is harder when you have tens of thousands of employees, but what I’ve found is when there isn’t a global commitment, there are gaps between the handoffs.
MM: Any recent example of a difficult decision you had to make at Sungard AS for the sake of simplicity?
KS: Often in marketing, you have to be the voice of reason and say no to good ideas because they don’t align closely enough with the brand and priorities. You’re not saying that those are not good ideas. The ideas might generate business, and the ROI may be reasonable, but you have to be able to solve for brand consistency. Otherwise, you look confusing and more like everything out there. If you’re clear on what your brand position is, where your true north is, then that’s a potent filter.
MM: What does simplicity mean to you?
KS: Simplicity is the ratio between the level of effort and difficulty to the desired outcome. As a marketing leader, it is the ease of one’s engagement with a product or service throughout the buying journey that delivers the intended positive outcome.
MM: Anything else?
KS: It can be challenging in marketing to achieve simplicity because there can be so many voices providing input, but it is a great theme to strive for. Simplicity resonates on a personal level and a business level for marketers, mainly because there are so many people within an organization that want to contribute to marketing-related activities. Helping teams understand the value of simplicity is an effective way to drive buy-in across the business.
MM: Thank you, Kathy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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