Episode 3: Innovation For The New Normal with Joe Walsh, Director of Samsung B2B
Joe Walsh is Director of B2B at Samsung UK and Ireland. With a background in economics majoring in strategy, commercial innovation, and Go-To-Market, Joe is an enthusiastic practical dreamer of digital solutions that address issues for the development of a digital world.
Joe is a proponent of the information age and is a skilled researcher of technologies like Blockchain, Machine Learning, AI, AR/VR, 3D printing, and IoT. Along with being a leader of disruption teams and organizations for startups and multinational corporations with commercial consequences across a variety of industries, he is also a globally recognized expert in commercial innovation who always keeps the consumer at the center of the process.
Technology has altered our environment and our daily lives over the years. Furthermore, business technology like Samsung has produced incredible tools and resources that have put helpful information on our fingers.
In this episode, Joe talks about how an idea, if nurtured, can lead to innovation, how every business is different and one size will not fit all, and the important role technology plays in ensuring the ease of communication.
These are just a few of the many things we discussed in today's episode and if you're interested, let's dive in!
To learn more about Joe, you can connect with him via LinkedIn.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Welcome to the Circus Street Podcast. I'm Jonny Townsend, today I've got with me Joe Walsh of Samsung. Hello, Joe. How are you?
I'm very well, Jonny, how you doing? Yeah, very
good, very good. Just for full transparency. Joe and I have known each other for 20 years. We, it hasn't been that long. We started in the ER, we knew each other in the telco sector where we were both Senior Commercial leaders. We then went off in different directions. Joe now has a very senior role in Samsung. I'll let me explain what he does. So Joe, tell us who you are, where you got to? What do you do?
Well, I can't I definitely can't believe it's 20 years time does fly. But yeah, so my name is Joe Walsh. I lead the Samsung b2b business in the UK and Ireland. And yeah, it's obviously technology is a crucial part of everything we do. And obviously, we live and breathe, Samsung. And our kind of like mantra is we have a purpose statement, which we live by, which is do what you can't and that really embellish is everything about technology, really pushing the boundaries and driving that that change fundamentally and using technology as a force for good. So I yeah, I've been with Samsung now for for four and a half, five years. And and I guess, oversee with a with a group of people that work for me a engagement strategy with all the businesses across the UK and Ireland across key verticals, and key channel partners. To ensure that Samsung's technology, both software and hardware is front of mind when a business chooses its technology stack.
I love that phrase do what you can't. That you said as a mantra right through the business is that that's something that's really led to, I guess, lots of innovation within Samsung, right?
Yeah, I mean, I think technology, you know, really comes from an idea. And I think if you're walking down the street and you go into a shop, it's very easy to just see the TVs and the fridges and the robots and the phones and the tablets and just think well, they just happen. But actually, they all ultimately came from an idea. And that mindset, having that mindset to create those ideas, foster them, grow them, nurture them, turn them into something more than, you know, just just a bit of paper. That's the bit that's the secret sauce. And ultimately, that's got to be built in a DNA and a company's organizational mindset. And I think, you know, if you were to pin it into a few words, I think Samsung's do what you can is, is a real problem. But other you know, other organizations have got great stuff as well. You know, Google organize the world's information. There's plenty of companies that kind of anchor in purpose statement, which kind of resonates through all its employees and the products and services that they produce.
Yeah, it's brilliant. Obviously, you've been in the commercial world for? Well, I'll say many decades, because you have been in there for many decades, that is many merrier. Yeah. And as a result, technology has kind of gone from being almost not present at all to ubiquitous in every function in every business across the world. What's been the impact of technology on your job and your career since you started?
Um, yeah, good question. I mean, I think part of it is about productivity. You know, for me, personally, if I just if I just completely make this all about me, it's, it's, it's about, it's about how productive you can be. And if I go back to when I first started out, everything was paper based, everything that processes were sometimes unclear, and sluggish. And to actually change anything within a company took two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, and of course, 20 years ago, there was probably about 2 billion less people on the planet. And a lot has changed in that time. And in order to be successful, in any organization, for any business to be successful, it's got to be as efficient and productive as possible. So almost linking it, you know, from an individual point of view, I've seen that change, you know, over the years from a paper based kind of very analog way of doing things to everything now is a about information at your fingertips. And that makes you, you know, more capable, more intelligent, not more intelligent, per se, but the ability to make logical, sensible decisions that are right for your business based on the information you receive. People call this many different things. But it's data driven decisions, right? And everyone kind of talks about everyone's data centric these days. What that really means is like the ability to make good decisions, make less bad decisions, all because of what technology is right at the very core of that, you know, of everything we do.
Yeah, fantastic. Samsung's obviously a technology leader. What's the appetite, though, for Samsung, of bringing in technologies that they don't create into their business to be able to do their business better and more effectively?
Sorry, I asked me that one again.
What's the appetite for embracing technologies that Samsung don't create themselves, for embracing those technologies and bringing them into your businesses, I'm thinking like CRM systems and thinking, new ways of working new technologies that streamline processes and efficiencies, etc. Well,
for those of you who are listening, who haven't, maybe are new to tech, or are not necessarily in the Tech game, there's one word that you'll hear. And it's been bandied around for many years now. And it's called interoperability. There's a mouthful for me to even say. But what that essentially means is the ability for aid of a device to talk to another device. And I guess the linking part of that is software. And, you know, there's many use cases, the ability to be able to have two screens to look at information, or the ability for your scale that you weigh how heavy or light you are, for that, to be able to talk to your watch, to be able to talk to your phone, everything is ultimately connected. And actually, it's been a pretty significant battle, I think it's been a huge Battlefield, in the realm of tech, look at the smart home, everyone has tried to put tech into the house. The problem is, is none of it has really talked to each other. Now we're getting, I think, certainly in the last two or three years, that's starting to settle down. And there's the player, certainly, you know, Amazon, Philips and these kinds of plays are starting to gain their Google started to gain their foothold into their technology and the ability to be able to talk to each other. So I think that's a really important thing. Back to your question about Samsung, and certainly from a business point of view, is kind of sacrosanct is it's so important to remain open about innovation. Because the one thing that I'm very clear of in my experience tells me it's not one size fits all. Each different business has different requirements. They have different processes, different CRM systems, to your point, the ability for those to work with multiple devices, work with multiple software stacks, and then to deploy technology over the top of it, such as machine learning, or AI is all in open innovation. And that's why I think certainly, you know, one of the success stories has been the likes of like GitHub, which has been, you know, an open source platform. I saw this incredibly interesting article about a couple weeks ago, and it was a new chatbot that had been launched. I'm not sure if you saw this, it was in the press. But this Chatbot is about as human as you can get it. It's taken all its data sources from Twitter. It's taken certain parts of the Internet to my knowledge, as like Wikipedia as reference sites, and it's really humanized, how that communication works with a huge degree of accuracy. Put this into perspective. The first I think it the summary that I read was how many companies took it was the first time to get to a million users. And it for the iPhone, it took, I think 57 days don't quote me on that. For Salesforce. It took them two and a half years before this Chatbot. It was one week to get to a million users. And what that says to me one of the reasons why that was so successful is because it was open because that layer of opportunity for leveraging the world and everyone that's in tech. I think it was certainly one of the key drivers for its success. So Samson's 100% in that in that game. We're very open to Innovation, we're very open to multiple partners. But of course, the converse argument to all of this is all any relationship with innovation needs to be treated with a degree of sense and caution. And I say that because when you're dealing with different products or devices or software talking to each other, ultimately you're talking about the transfer of data from one device or platform to the next. The problem with that is security. There were more security breaches last year than the previous 15 years combined. Which is mental when you think about it, I mean, that's a huge amount of issues. When you think about the cost associated with it, the average time it takes for a company to react to a security breach is 400, I think it was 427 days where I looked at that with the mass research. So it takes a long time to discover it, then it takes a lot of time to and money to rectify the issue. And that's before you've actually really understood the power of the data that has been stolen or taken. So partnerships are great innovation is brilliant. But there's also a degree of sentience that needs to be thought through with how you approach security in that equation.
That growth of a million users in a week is is absolutely incredible. And I suppose one of the things that highlights that just because you are the long term incumbent in something doesn't mean that you're necessarily safe from disruption. However, the point you make about security means that if these long term incumbents are open to working with some of these disruptors, and can bring things like security layers and levels, that's where the partnerships can really flourish. Right. Is that a is that a, a, an approach and a thinking that Samsung has had to learn? And has it been quick to adopt that? Or has there been resistance internally to that type of thing?
Oh, no, it's been, it's been relatively quick to adopt. But here's, I guess the point not as quick as the rate of security breaches not as quick as the people that are actively and unfortunately, targeting the theft or the, you know, stealing that set data. So look, you know, an organization like Samsung, which is, you know, one of the largest technology providers in the world, one of the best places to work, and while it's phenomenal company, but we understand our limitations, and we can't do everything. So if I think about our partnership with Microsoft, or with Google, and all of both of those partners are incredibly important to us. You know, they represent, you know, they are leaders in their field. And they have certain parts of their ecosystem, which actually goes, you know, hand in glove with Samsung's products. So, of course, you know, Samsung is tremendously open to innovation, we're open to partnering. But we're cognizant of the speed at which security changes, we're cognizant that the security threat, certainly for businesses is a major threat. But I guess the proof point is we've been particularly strong, I think, over the last well, since certainly, I've been at Samsung, certainly here in the UK. There are I think, 14 armed police forces, and 49 of them use Samsung devices. And hopefully, that underscores, like, the credibility of the strength of Samsung and its security. Yeah, it really
does. Obviously, technology brings lots of change to organizations, and a lot of that changes to the way that that people work. How do you how do you in some, some encourage people to want to embrace change?
I mean, changes changes, but it's, it's the story of all of our lives ultimately isn't it is like, you know, as we go through it, we encounter change every day. Whether we choose to accept it or not, is a different matter. But I think certainly from a from a work perspective, the one thing that we've certainly realized, and it's this term that many people have years and it means different things to people, which is digital transformation. Technology, apparently, providing the right way can transform up Riding models that can transform a customer base, it can transform, buying behavior, it can transform learning credentials and poor capability. There's so it's such a big vast, you know, I guess spectrum of things that digital and technology can change. But I guess I've completely lost my train of thought, right?
Well, when I did it, just keep going on it. So we're talking about was, how do you encourage people to want to embrace change? And you were talking about how the impact is massive? And yes, yeah. And it's happening all the time and a digital transformation?
Yeah, so I guess the point around this is a point around digital transformation. And that means so many things to so many different people. And it cuts across such a broad spectrum of different parts of how a company works from its operating model to how it engages with its customers, how it trains and educates its people. But it's key across everything. And how do we encourage that, I think the lessons that we've certainly taken is, one size doesn't fit all, all companies have a different requirement and pace to work, the speed they want to work out and what that means for its people. And you've got to most importantly, take people on the journey. I think before in if I look back to maybe the 2000s, it was very clear that it as a department as a, an entity almost, which was almost siloed away from the rest of the business would make executive decisions about the technology that was deployed, they would make, here's your laptop, his kit, we're going to provide you this is the do's and the don'ts and sign the IT policy. Thank you very much. And I think that has radically changed because it's just as important now for the person that is needing HR, human resources, or the people team or whichever what we want to call it or address it as it's just as important for those guys to be on the journey of why technology is important. And the change they will provide and the term digital transformation. And that is quite quite squarely because, you know, if I look at the economy today, certainly in the UK, but globally as well, we are, you know, we're in a pretty rough patch at the moment. You know, there is certainly in the UK, there's been several Prime Ministers there's there's a war going on in unfortunately, in Ukraine, you know, the global headwinds are, are pretty rough. And actually, when people make a choice to work for a company, what technology they use, what tools they're provided as part of their decision making process. So of course, the person who's in charge of recruiting people, they want to make sure that they are part of that decision making process on what they want the company to look like. I think it's it goes, it starts at the top of productivity, but it goes all the way down to behaviors, you know, how how people are, how people are monitored, how people are managed, how people are used, there's a, there's a huge piece going around at the moment of the mat, the team's manager or the zoom manager, someone who's watching, you know, what's going on in the back of your screen, and what time you log on, and all this kind of stuff. So it creates a culture, it sets the tone. And if that's not important for the Commercial Officer, the CEO, the HR manager, if that's not important for all these different job titles, I don't know what is. I would say it would be if I was doing any role within a business technology and digital transformation would be number one or two on my agenda.
Yeah, it's, you talked about interoperability of systems. But what you've talked about there is interoperability of departments and functions and people. And obviously, what you're looking for there is new ways for people to have a say, but also, what you're helping, I guess, is that fosters collaboration, and it also felt fosters innovation. And if your tech teams are being informed by your commercial teams, and then your commercial teams are being informed by your tech teams, and you know, there's this there's this interoperability of language and communication, that's only got to lead to success, right.
Yeah. And I think what's anchored right at the very heart of that, and this is, I guess, goes all West. Go back to the earlier question you asked around Samsung, the do what you can't mantra, the purpose because it kind of bleeds into culture. What's really important is Just how, you know positive a culture is what it stands for. That's why people want to go to work, technology doesn't just turn on money and grow business people do. And that comes from a happy boy and strong culture, a diverse culture. And whilst that is down for the management team, the leadership team to create and foster, ultimately technology plays a critical role in that in ensuring the ease of communication, the positivity about working in a company that deals with the latest tech. You know, I guess, just imagine if, if me and you were working in, you know, whatever company, but we were on computers from the, you know, the 1980s. And on, you know, whatever word 90 A or word 90, Windows 95, I think it would affect our, it would certainly affect our product activity, but it would affect our mindset as well, it affect our belief and confidence in the company. And I think certainly, that's a massive consideration for any business owner right now. You know, make sure you've got the right tag in the right in, in people's hands.
Yeah, absolutely. I was reading a report the other day that said, I can't remember what who the author was, but it was, it was somebody far more clever than I am, and more respected than I am. And they were saying that so far 70% of digital transformation efforts have failed. Because organizations make the mistake of thinking it's just about technology, whereas actually, it's just as much about people. And if you think about the fact that in 2024, I think it is $2.8 trillion is predicted to be spent on digital transformation. And at the current failure rate, $2 trillion, will be fed more fail, and will be wasted, as a result of organizations doing exactly what you say, organizations, not taking people with them along that journey, not letting them have a say, not letting them contribute.
Yeah, it's, I mean, it's, it's frightening to think about that, that amount of wastage. But, you know, this is why I think, you know, the, whenever anyone's entering the thought of doing anything transformative, and we need to really understand that word, you know, transformation, it means, you know, taking one state or one idea of what the business is to something completely different. You know, that the stepping stones and the building blocks to get there is a long road, and it shouldn't be taken as a, you know, it's a bad thing to do. And I've read some research, it costs money, there's a high failure rate, getting a right is super important. Because otherwise, you're just gonna, you're gonna irritate your employees and your customers. None of those are good things for running a business. So yeah, I think it's, I think it's something that we all need to take special care of when I've completely fallen off have lost my train of
thought. So you got it. You got it. You got it. You got it, you got it in the end. So I'll just pick up on that point. So yeah, I think transformation, the term transformation, does people a bit of a disservice, right? Because transformation suggests that if you do all of these things, you will transform and then that's your transformation over write, to me and to many of the people that I speak to digital transfer, but a better phrase for digital transformation is probably business modernization through the latest iteration of technologies, right? So so businesses have been modernize, through technology, since somebody strapped a wheel to a cart right now. And it hasn't, it hasn't changed, that hasn't stopped, it's never stopped. I think the difference now, and where companies like Samsung went out exponentially, is that what's different about this phase of modernization is it's happening so fast, that people can't organically catch up. People have to be re skilled, to be able to catch up and to stay current. And the pace of it is only going to get faster. And I personally I don't see an end in sight. But you're in a big tech company that is obviously very successful as a result of tech and somebody within that company. Do you think the need to modernize the need to modernize through technology, the impact on technology of business? Do you think that's ever going to slow down or stop altogether? Or how do you think it's going to carry on and pan out?
Um, I think you In short, the answer would be no, I don't. I mean, my personal view is I don't think it will slow down will certainly not maybe in my lifetime, you know, I go back to when we first started working together, you know, we were looking at this like semi brick phone, which could do something called to G which was a big thing. GPRS general packet radio service, the ability to transfer a few Meg's of data from one device to the to the next. And that was, that was special, I would not think some only 20 years later, I would be in a place. And I'll give you a sight of my own maybe my own personal viewpoint on this. But I've got a quest to, which is like the meta VR capability. I turned it on yesterday, for a sort of showing someone the house of my kids are always on about wanting to play with them. But the technology has come along so far now that before you needed control, sticks almost on your hands, to move around and to do things and to press buttons. They have disappeared. Now, it just recognizes you've got hands and it can spot exactly what your fingers doing and the dexterity of your fingers. And you can press things within the game. It's ridiculous. And actually, the the metaverse or, you know, I guess there's been lots of talk about it. Is it real? Is it not real? The answer is it's not real. But the idea is there. And you know, that's been proven by, you know, NF T's that you know, the rise, the rise of like hyper Ledger's and you know, more broadly, crypto, there is so much opportunity that sits in the virtualization of life, but also the modern workplace. So, do I see it stopping anytime soon? No, not really, because there are plenty of businesses and people but mainly businesses out there, which are still probably stuck in the 1970s 1960s. When it comes to technology, there's plenty to your point of business modernization that can't be done that needs to be done. And if I think about the tech that's coming down the line, and there is so broad that AI is probably the one of the most obvious ones along with, you know, hyper Ledger's and 3d printing, etc. There is so much opportunity to virtualize our world make it easier to connect and collaborate with people to make it easier to review and purchase things that we want, that it's all there in front of us. And you know that there are, you know, first movers, you know, like you look at some of the stuff that Amazon have done. You know, over the last couple of years, it's been, it's been frightening. I was really privileged privileged to visit a company recently in Ireland. And I couldn't really get my head around it, but I did my best to try and explain it. They have developed this drone. And they have an agreement with multiple grocers and supermarkets and Starbucks. And they can get this drone, it can fly to a Starbucks. And it can hit basically at anywhere within a 15 mile radius, the drone will fly out to you to your location exactly where it your house get outside of your front door, you can go out there and then lower a box, which is the size of a shoebox, and it can carry about three kgs of goods to you. And it cuts the delivery time from a normal delivery, which can take broadly, let's say somewhere between 24 hours in Ireland to about four minutes. Which is which is ridiculous. And if you think about those rainy days, and this is one thing that they found out when it's raining in Ireland, which does a fair bit, people naturally want coffee and they want hot coffee at the Starbucks orders go up, you know ridiculous amounts. And you can get a coffee within four minutes all for an extra, you know, a couple of years. So that's the kind of technology and the business cases that come can come out the ability to improve and solve problems. You know, I don't want to go out of my house. I want something delivered to me. You know drone technology is what parts of that. So I think there's plenty of space and headroom for all of those different technologies I've just spoken about. for businesses to modernize themselves, and to create new operating models for their business going forward,
some of the things that you spoke about there are incredible. And somebody said to me the other day that that our technology now 40 years ago, would have been considered miraculous. And the things that we do with our technology now, and what our technology allowed us allows us to do 40 years ago would have been considered miracles. But I think what you and the same will be true 40 years from now, we will consider what technology does is as fairly miraculous, I think there are what's interesting there is that and you've just highlighted this is, within all of those miracle states, there are genuine business opportunities, and there are genuine business results, by adopting these things by adopting these miraculous ways of working, that really just drive to the bottom line, make bigger companies make better companies. It's really fascinating, isn't it to see how it's how it's taken shape? And you know, you you mentioned, some you took me back there started 20 years ago to GPRS and 2g phones or what have you, you know, it 20 years, it's not really a long time. But it sounds like it's happened.
Yeah, I think I think that's the, that's the thing we often struggle with. And I use this reference, but it was a bit like understanding as we went through the pandemic, it's exponential. And that term is used, but it's difficult almost for the human brain to completely process it, the fact that, you know, you, it doubles each each timeframe every day, or whatever it is, that is hard. You know, if we, I think the majority of people think in a very linear fashion, and that's completely fine that we've done it for, you know, centuries. And, you know, since we, you know, we came out of the, you know, the river kind of thing, you know, our brains are programmed almost to think that way, that if I take 10 paces down the road, I will get, you know, 20 meters, 30 meters, it doesn't say, if I take 10 steps down the road, I go halfway around the world, and I wouldn't be able to even comprehend that. But that's how technology goes. And is has been going for some time. You know, AI is a great example of this. You know, the, it was only like five years ago, that, you know, if you went on to a Google search engine, and you tried to get it to translate something from one language to the to the other, it had like a, you know, a 50% 60% accuracy. If you try to put AI into a vehicle to drive it, it would do okay, but it would crash. And I'm not sure if you remember reading the press and you had to have a driver, the steering wheel was still there, just in case for the humans to take over. Now, just in that very, very short period of time. The accuracy of a computer, the AI versus a human is unparalleled. You know, the I would much prefer to be getting in a car and letting the AI drive it than a human being. It's way more accurate way more precise. And that's just understanding that that pace. And that speed, I think is it's difficult for the human brain to to kind of comprehend it. But I think the more you do, and it's certainly from a business point of view, the more you embrace that technology. And I go back to the mindset comment that I was saying. And you research and you stay up to date with the latest things and there's plenty of webs, tides that serve this up for you. I think the better you will put your business in to be able to cope with these these ventures because whilst technology is going at some exponential pace, and there's lots of them, it is the combination of those technologies which become disruptive. And that's really the the other big buzzword that has gone on in tech disruption. How do you disrupt markets? How do you take what you've got and using tech or multiple parts of tech, disrupt other markets or verticals etc. So stay focused and research on all the tech that's related to your business would be my advice.
Good advice. I'm conscious of the fact that it's late afternoon for me here in Colorado but late evening for you there in the UK. I'm conscious it's a Friday night I'm glad you brought a glass of wine with you. So you could carry on your evening while talking to me. So I want to get to much more of your time. One question I do want to ask, though, is, what do you think we should be talking about that we aren't?
I think first of all is, but it's probably worthwhile saying, we talked about a lot of good things already. You know, there are so many subjects in the workplace, that we probably would have shied away from 1015 years ago. Race, diversity, you know, how we work together, how we collaborate, I think all of these subjects are, more and more companies are making as part of their agenda. One of the biggest subjects I think, currently, which we all need to pay close attention to. Technology is a, you know, is a driving force, but also a contributor to this is sustainability. And it's, and it's very, and I say sustainability with I guess the view on how it contributes towards a net zero carbon position. Because I think that is probably more a more specific point on technology. You know, ultimately, when you think of hardware, and you think of the precious metals, they're ultimately dug out of the ground, they are put together with in a in a very fancy piece of industry in a big manufacturing plant, then on a plane and shipped around the world. And that builds up. So I think there's plenty of things we can do to recycle to refurbish to re purpose, technology for businesses that don't have it. And for individuals that don't have it equally, I think, from a software point of view, as well, each organization has a contribution, or has a as to go through a thought processing what their carbon footprint would be, and what it's gonna what are the behaviors they're going to they're going to create. I think that's something that whilst it's on the agenda, I don't think it's really made a it's not fully landed in tech. I mean, I know this is going off piste a little bit. But if you follow a theory, I'm not sure if you do a theory of is one of the, you know, the biggest platforms in the crypto world. And, you know, they produce roughly the same electricity consumption as a small South American country. So, you know, it's very easy to say, oh, like, you know, hyper Ledger's and blockchain, it's been so successful. And it's, you know, it's turned into something else. We've got NF t's on the back of it. And it's all been so great, but yet it's producing the same electricity consumption as a South American country. I mean, there is, in a world where we are dealing with inflation in a world where, you know, we still have people on the streets who, you know, don't have can't afford a heat or lights. I think we need to think very carefully about the role of technology and the system that sustainability it creates. So that's one of the I think the subjects that is probably hot on the agenda 2023. And certainly, I think it's hot right now. Alongside all the other things we've spoken about purpose, digital transformation, business, modernization, security, I think all of these things kind of fall into a huge bucket with the lens, and certainly this is maybe more prevalent in Europe and the UK. With a lens on right now, I think a lot of business owners and a lot of businesses are going through a belt and braces approach to survival, because there is a very, very challenging, there's very, very challenging headwinds at the moment. You know, we I call it a cost of doing business crisis, as opposed to a cost of living crisis. But you know, the both of them to both exist, and things that things are hugely competitive, and that's why I think having real clear haven't really been plans and thought processes on the subjects build into survival. Because the survival of the fittest a quote in Darwin is, is certainly someone who can adapt and utilize all of the assets that are around him or her.
That's a great note to end on. Joe. You've been amazing. As always, thank you so much for your time and giving up your evening and great to talk to you as always,
no worries. Thank you very much.
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