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HBR’s Curt Nickisch and Nancy McKinstry Talk Digital Transformation

According to a recent Harvard Business Review podcast episode, Wolters Kluwer CEO Nancy McKinstry’s impressive performance is a big reason for her being ranked as the top woman on HBR’s list of the 100 Best-Performing CEOs of 2019. Hear the story from Nancy herself of our organization’s successful digital transformation to becoming the leading provider of expert solutions we are today, with digital & services revenues making up 90% of total revenues.

Waves of transformation: print to digital to expert solutions

“The first wave from print to digital didn’t create any bigger profit pools and required investment in two kinds of formats. It was really heavy work, and I credit every employee at Wolters Kluwer who worked really hard to make that happen.”

“The next transformation around expert solutions brings content, or domain expertise, together with technology. We develop a tool, deliver it to our customers and the tool gives them enormous value. Whether it’s productivity, or insights, or better outcomes, it delivers results that the customer can see.”

Nancy McKinstry and HBR’s Curt Nickisch talk digital transformation

The journey continues to be focused on our customers

“It was difficult to recognize that how our customers work is around a use case. Customers are recognizing the value of this software as a service (SAAS) offering and they’re moving over, but we anticipate it will take probably 15 years to move people over in a major way. As a leader, you have to make sure you’re investing in both formats or both opportunities. You have to keep those products healthy and at the same time you have to migrate. [...] You have to be very clear as you think through your capital allocation, [...] and make sure that you help the customer on that journey. [...] Stay really close to your customer during the journey to make sure that you’re not way too far out in front, or you’re not investing in things that maybe aren’t going to pay off. Close proximity to customers is very critical.”

Deep impact where it matters most for the long-term

“As a CEO, you have to have a perspective and patience around investing over the long term. If you look today, these workflow solutions take a couple of years to build fully featured products, but then it might take five to seven years to build the market. If you look at 2019, our best-selling products started being built 12 years ago. It’s about being sure that you’re investing enough to keep your current products healthy, while bringing out a series of new products and making sure that the funnel of new products is again, very healthy. [...] You really have to have kind of the strength of your own conviction and your belief in the strategy to keep investing.”

Strength in our diversity

“I’ve become a strong proponent of diversity. Not just gender diversity, but nationality diversity. I have seen firsthand is our most diverse teams are the most creative; they’re the most innovative and they deliver the best results. If you’re a leader of a company, in particular a public company, and you want good results, why wouldn’t you as a business leader want to harness as much diversity as you can? It went from organic activity to then really managing diversity, by really focusing on the middle management pipeline. And again, not just gender diversity, but nationality diversity. [...] Today, we have four divisions which are about equal in size in terms of revenue, and three out of the four are run by females. That happens by giving people experience at sort of that middle management and above level that allows them to be even in the running for those top roles. [...] As we’ve become more diverse, the organic growth of the business has improved and that’s coming again from driving innovation throughout the business. Diversity has a direct impact, I believe, on innovation and business performance. And I also believe it has a real impact on customer relationships.”

Learn more about diversity at Wolters Kluwer

The 25 minute IdeaCast episode is full of rich anecdotes and market-tested advice over the course of 15 years of evolution. Hear the full installment “How One CEO Successfully Led a Digital Transformation” and read the full conversation on HBR.org.

Learn more about our digital transformation at Wolters Kluwer

Catch the English summary of our CEO’s interview with the influential Dutch daily newspaper 'NRC Handelsblad' about how diversity impacts our success at Wolters Kluwer.