INSEAD Participant Interview
The Golden Ticket: How Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems “changes everything”
Spotting opportunities is something that Will Adcock has been doing over the course of his 15-year tenure at pioneering customer data science platform, dunnhumby. From technical programme manager to customer engagement, through to his current role as Global Head of Software Partnerships, Adcock has become adept at seeing the connections and joining the dots.
Working at the “coalface” with dunnhumby clients in recent years has seen many of Adcocks’ different roles and experiences within the company coalesce around a new opportunity to change direction.
“Moving into a role that is more client-facing and tech consultancy-oriented I saw an opportunity for our business to shift its position not only in terms of how we develop IP solutions, but in how we take those solutions to market. I saw the chance for us to move from a build-it-yourself IP organisation to one that works enterprise-wide, top to bottom and left to right with partners in the cloud.”
But making the transition to cloud-based partnership alliances at dunnhumby, says Adcock, meant building a deeper understanding of the outlines, objectives and advanced thinking on digital partnerships – and how to articulate the benefits and impact of developing the right ecosystem, both within the business and to potential partners.
It was this need that brought Adcock to INSEAD and the Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems programme.
“The hunt was on for the right cloud vendor to partner with and I was looking for a course that could give me real insight and also validate my own thinking in terms of partnerships. I very much needed a secondary sense check. I had the dual objective of gaining traction with two potential vendors – ensuring that I’d understood their offer and would do right by them – and gaining internal traction for myself and my team, so the business trusted that we were leading them down the right path.”
INSEAD was an “obvious choice,” says Adcock.
“Our CEO is an INSEAD alumnus so we knew about the calibre of the school and its faculty. What stood out about the programme in particular, was the way it aligned thinking and strategy and how, from day one, complexity was translated into succinct and articulate ideas and language that I could immediately use within the business and with potential partners.”
The programme’s online format was also “incredibly powerful,” says Adcock, with the interactive participants forum and leader board sparking real engagement and the weekly learning – the Action Learning Project in particular – driving a synthesis of knowledge and a learning-by-doing dynamic that saw him delivering impact back at work from day one.
“The learning tracks, the style and the fast-paced nature of the course, all of this really drives engagement. From the start, I was proactively using what I’d learned back at work. My style and my approach changed as I mastered concepts and learned to articulate them clearly and simply to educate our business.”
The Action Learning Project (ALP) – the weekly application of new learnings in-situ – meant that Adcock could review new learnings and apply them specifically to his real-world business challenge.
“The ALP enabled me to build my own very specific roadmap to reach our objectives of educating, changing the business model from product to platform-centric and adjusting pricing strategies. Every week I went through the content I’d learned systematically, applying the elements to my goals and ticking off each challenge. The impact was enormous and instant.”
Adcock also drew great support from his assigned learning coach, who inspired him to “think further.”
“It was staggering just how quickly my coach understood the context of my work challenges and give me pointers that were always absolutely bang on the money. Our work together really motivated me to come back and share feedback on my process. It’s a dynamic that brings something so real into the learning process: you go beyond the concepts and the best practices and bring out the real application.”
The impact of the programme, says Adcock, has “changed everything.”
“What I have learned and synthesised on the Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems programme has been used directly with our executive board to decide who we will partner with and how: a pivotal decision worth hundreds of millions of pounds that will drive our growth for years to come. The programme accelerated this decision and made it possible to happen this year. It’s been a golden ticket.”