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How to follow in the footsteps of the new Capgemini CEO

Capgemini (opens in new tab) is a consultancy, technology and outsourcing consultancy. An international business with over 130 thousand people within 44 countries, you might imagine that managing a business like that it quite an undertaking.

Christopher Stancombe has succeeded Hubert Giraud as CEO of the BPO – the Business Process Outsourcing Strategic Business Unit at Capgemini (opens in new tab). So what does it take to step into a role like this within such a large organisation, and how do you go about setting out your own vision when taking over the top role in a company with some interesting challenges?

Christopher Stancombe, the new CEO of the BPO Unit in Capgemini (opens in new tab) gives us an insightful talk on what he thinks makes a good CEO, the challenges of a multinational company and advice for anyone wishing to make similar career moves including tips on what to do when you get there!

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Capgemini is a consulting technology and outsourcing consultancy, an international business with over 130,000 people within 44 countries. You might imagine that managing a business like that is quite an undertaking – well, Christopher Stamcombe has succeeded Hubert Giraud as CEO of the BPO (Business Processing Outsourcing) Strategic Business Unit at Capgemini.

So what does it take to step into a role like this within such a large organisation, and how do you go about setting out your own vision within that role? Well, Christopher Stancombe, the new CEO of the BPO Unit at Capgemini joins me now to talk about the journey he has been on into the role, and to give us an insight into a company with an interesting structure and set of challenges. Chris, first of all congratulations on the new job.

Thank you very much, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Give us an overview of Capgemini and what services you supply for those who might not be familiar with the company.

Capgemini as you know is a large technology consulting and outsourcing organisation, so we provide consulting services, technology services from application development, application support right through from infrastructure we also provide business processing outsourcing which is the piece that I work in, and also strong analytics capability which we have been developing, as well which is a mixture of a number of those different things brought together. So the size of the company itself is about 130,000 people around the globe and around 10 billion Euros in annual revenues.

Tell us a little bit more about the BPO Units specifically within Capgemini why did your predecessor feel it necessary to start it and what does it do within the business.

BPO started off as - the original premise was in essence consolidating back office functions like finance, HR, procurement, some of the supply chain functions, all the management. Putting those together and creating a professional services organisation in lower cost locations. So it started with a number of locations around the globe in Brazil, Guatemala, Poland and a number in India obviously which is the one that people automatically think of using: India and then China.

So we have delivery centers all around the globe and the original premise was using lower cost labour, consolidating functions and making cost savings and delivering better quality of service back to the clients.

That has changed over time quite significantly. I have worked for Capgemini BPO for 9 years now and I am a qualified accountant by training, and one of the areas we’re particularly keen to do is bring our expertise. We employ a lot of professionals, whether that’s in HR, accounting, procurement we bring those professionals to the table and they deliver the service they have a lot of experience and a lot of process knowledge.

As a consequence of that we created a template, a global process model whereby we created a standard and said not only can you benefit from our low-cost labour, but also we can bring process expertise and process knowledge to help you, our client, benefit from better process which would also lower the cost, obviously improve the quality of what we do. But more importantly as we all know in this day and age, that also improves the controls and also delivers value back to the organisation.

So it has been quite a journey and now latterly in the last 2 and 3 years we have seen much more involvement in the technology side, so we have been looking at how do you put tools and technology and some enablers, for want of a better description, around the ERP to facilitate improvements in the process, reducing that total cost of service and embedding some of the better controls and better processes.

It has been quite an evolution I would say to where we have got to today.

Does creating these individual units within a business dealing with specific areas help when you have a business that is so large and spread over the globe like Capgemini is?

Yes, it does - it helps our clients and it helps Capgemini as well because quite often if you are looking for a consolidation of information - when everyone talks about big data, big data is fine, but really your desire is to take all that data and turn it into useful information and useful insights that enables you to make business decisions.

Having for example all your finances in one place, it’s a lot easier to consolidate all that information and to company reconciliations people talk to each other across the desk. So it benefits us as an organisation in Capgemini in creating that community of people that deliver that service but I think more importantly it helps us deliver a fantastic service back to our clients.

Let’s talk about your new role then , you said that you have been at Capgemini for 9 years in various other different positions so in X-Factor style tell us about your journey through the business that has led you up to this point?

When I first started, I worked in the business development side so I was working on the solutions, acquisitions of new clients, creating solutions for those clients, which is where probably my first interest [came about] in understanding how we were delivering value back to them and what were some of their expectations.

I worked through a number of pursuits and was successful in quite a few of them , unfortunately if you win those deals, the clients tend to like the people who are involved in the sale to stay on so I started to get a portfolio of clients that I then needed to deliver on my promises and that portfolio of clients grew, and I started a portfolio in Europe and then expanded that service globally, predominately focused on F&A at that time because my background was very strong.

I was a CFO and spent 11 years in industry, some of that time as a CFO and some of that as a CIO actually as well. So I was focused on F&A originally and built that globally into a strong service line, and then moved into a broader role again, taking on the supply chain elements and the procurement elements and some of the HR elements.

So I think it has been a gradual expansion of taking on more and more during my time, so started in BD and got into delivery and never really been able to let go and once clients like you they are very reluctant to let you go, unfortunately, and I like working with clients and I like the delivery side of it, as well as working on the sales side of it. And gradually my portfolio has grown and grown and taken on more things until now the CEO of all the BPO globally.

Is it an advantage do you think to have had a long background and understanding within the company already when you come into a role like this or do you think it is more of an advantage to come in fresh from the outside?

I think fortunately taking over from Hubert the unit is operating very successfully and it is profitable and it is growing.

I think when you have got a successful unit it is probably better to have a succession plan and people take it over who understand the culture and some of the things that have delivered. I think if you come into a unit that needs a bit of change, a correction let’s say, maybe not performing as well, then that’s sometimes better when you bring people from outside with different experience.

I would say that we are constantly adding to our gene pool and bringing in people from competitors and people from other service lines within Capgemini so we have brought a number of people in from our technology side, people from our consulting side, so we are regularly expanding the array of talent that we have available to us.

Well a lot of our readers on will be looking to move into roles within their own businesses just like you one day, so give us an idea of what you start with when you arrive as a new CEO where does it all begin?

I think that the first thing I do is to understand the organisation, make sure everybody understands their roles and responsibilities and make sure that you understand that there is not an expectation gap around the targets for the year so we all know that you need make sales, you need to turn it into revenue and then you need to turn it into profit.

Different people play different parts in those different pieces, so making sure that your team is operating as a team and everybody understands their part in that team, and then make sure that they know how they intend to deliver against that.

What do you think makes a good and effective CEO if you could condense it into three points?

Ha ha that is a wonderful question. My children have been asking me the same question, they’ve been asking dad what is it we need to do. I think it’s a very difficult question. You have to be true to yourself I think, certainly in a people business where a lot of people can choose to work where they want to, the difference is: do they enjoy what they do and do they believe in the person that they are working for?

So I think having a vision of where you are going is important, I think being strong and loyal and caring for your team is important as well because you cannot do everything on your own.

The third thing is to make sure that you do stay focused. I mean there is only a certain amount of things that you could be doing so I think that that is how I would summarise it, but obviously there are lots and lots of different things that come into play but obviously those three things, have a vision, care for your team and then make sure that you stay focused.

Was it something you aimed for in your career, was it a goal, or has it all kind of happened by accident?

I think it is more by accident. I’ve always wanted to do it, I’ve come to work every day thinking that today someone is going to find out that you make a mistake, or you realise that you’re not as good as you thought you were. So every day I feel like I have to prove myself. You can never rest on your laurels and you are only as good as your last win - all of those wonderful statements I think.

Yes, you have got a vision of what you are trying to do with the business, yes you have got a vision of how you are going to make those things happen.

If you are lucky enough to be riding the wave when it comes to fruition then that is great. I think I have been much more interested in making money and growing revenues and the position has come as a consequence of that, rather than looking for the position and trying to drive the outcome.

What challenges does being the CEO of a company the size of Capgemini present, then? It’s spread over so many territories and has so many teams of people and such levels of personnel - are there challenges that this presents you?

One of the things that we did have as a challenge 4 or 5 years ago was a common language around the services that we delivered.

I think culturally I have worked all my working life, which is quite a long time now, but all my working life I have worked internationally whether that has been in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas so I am fortunate enough I think to have had some of those rough edges rubbed off, and having appreciation of people around the globe typically you have to understand the different cultures.

But I think the most important thing is having shared values. In fact Capgemini puts a great stall on shared values and as I have said earlier if you don’t have those shared values and you don’t have a common language then that can be a problem so we spent some time 4 or 5 years ago creating a consistent understanding of how we delivered service and what the expectations were of delivering service.

I think that has stood us in good stead. We have a common understanding of our values and what it is we are trying to achieve so I think of those things are not in place then it can become very difficult.

Well don’t forget links to Capgemini and this story of Chris Stancombe’s new position can all be found on the description part of this podcast page at

To finish up, Chris I know you’ve only been in the job a matter of weeks, but what have you outlined as your main goals as you get your feet under the desk, as it were, and how do you think you are going to have to adapt in the changing market going forward from here?

The main goals for me are to make sure that I develop the success for myself, as I was very lucky to have been working with Hubert, and being able to take on the mantle after him in the successful business. So clearly succession is an important piece of work and what I need to do.

The second thing I need to do is making sure that we update our vision and achieve that vision so continue to grow and deliver strong profits. I think as we go forward and the BPO industry is changing a lot we have tended to look at BPO as essentially providing services and we have then developed the process layer and process expertise.

We are now developing technical expertise inside BPO. I think that as you look at that stack there will become more and more interest around what is that total cost of service, because clearly in those back office functions the technology plays a big part in the total cost, and so cloud is becoming more and more widely used, and analytics is important in dealing with all the big data and you need mobility solutions so all of those things need to be considered in the BPO stack.

And so therefore when we look at the total cost of service, that’s going to be very important as we move forward, and not just the cost of the service line, but making sure you understand the process that underpins it and the technology that underpins that, and the infrastructure that underpins that, and you make sure that all of those things fit together well so that total cost is understood and optimised to deliver best value back to our clients.