Jason Craker is a top expert in digital transformation and helping organisations deliver sustainable changes with a long and accomplished career, mainly in the automotive industry. With over 20 years of experience under his belt within the automotive sector, Jason has been instrumental in driving digital and change initiatives for leading companies like Volvo and Polestar. Right now, he operates at the C Level as Transformation Director, leading the Automotive Practice within changemaker Associates, and is known for his ability to set the vision and strategy for large scale transformations while ensuring operational excellence and delivering business-driven outcomes. With a keen interest in the evolution of the traditional automotive industry into an emerging mobility sector, Jason addresses the shift to sustainable transport through digitally-enabled customer services and new business models.
Attila Tóth: [00:01:39] Hey Jason, welcome. It's great to have you on the Cogniverse Show.
Jason Craker: [00:01:44] Thank you Attila. I'm looking forward to it. I know when you spoke to me a number of months ago about this opportunity, it was something I was immensely looking forward to. I hope I can add value to your listeners. So yeah, looking forward to this next hour or so.
Attila Tóth: [00:01:58] Great. Then let's jump right into the good stuff because I'm interested in hearing your perspective on digital transformation and how it has impacted your professional journey. So what does digital transformation mean to you personally?
Jason Craker: [00:02:18] That's a great way to start because fundamentally through the last 20, 30 years or so, I've had to explain this a number of times, and it's taken a while to create the right kind of conversation point that everybody can understand, because it's critical that people understand this. And to simplify this, I think digital transformation has three different stages of maturity. You start off at kind of stage one, which is let's digitalise, and as part of let's digitalise, really you're talking about changing how we interact, you know, let's digitalise information, let's organise information. Fundamentally, let's move from analogue to digital type data entry type piece. So that's early stage maturity. And I've been through that through that 20, 30 years. Then you move to a second stage in maturity, which I think lots of organisations are doing now, and that's digitalisation, fundamentally where you're automating processes, streamlining processes, and you're changing the way we operate. So can we automate what our existing processes are and become more efficient? Now there's a lot to be said of the importance of that. We've seen a lot of that during COVID, during the pandemic, etc, and that acceleration. But the element where I think people, and people bucket digital transformation into that often. However, in my view, true digital transformation is taking the opportunity to transform the business. So evolving, actually changing who we are, creating the capability to pivot. And I think that's fundamentally the difference, you know, you talk about that stages of maturity from digitalised, digitalisation, and then real true digital transformation. You're talking about, have we got the capabilities to transform the business? And it's much bigger than an IT solution. And it's much bigger than a let's create a new product and launch that via e-commerce. Does that make sense? Does that help break out kind of, you know, my definition, my understanding of digital transformation?
Attila Tóth: [00:04:21] It makes perfect sense. And to be honest, it's one of the best ways to define it with these stages. So thank you for that. It's a really good start. And I'm excited to hear more about your take on digital transformation because during your career for over 20 years, I'm sure you've seen a lot of ways in which transformation is being delivered. So, how do you think digital transformation has changed until now? And what does the future hold in this regard?
Jason Craker: [00:04:57] I can remember a change and let me just kind of bring it to life a little bit. But bear in mind when I refer to digital transformation, I'm talking about the whole kind of evolving what we do and how we do it. And it was probably 15 to 20 years ago. I can't remember exactly the dates and I'm terrible with remembering things like that. But effectively, I was heading up a program from an IT perspective. And it was a logistics program in Volvo Car UK. And it was part of a global initiative about creating local distribution centers for parts. And one of the things that the UK and the global organisation has worked on was create areas of expertise and pilot. And the UK was always an area where the global central team looked to evaluate and prove out concepts, because of the maturity, the complexity and the capabilities that the local organisation had. And I was lucky to join a global program with a role of, you know, help this from an IT perspective, Jason. And now when I look back, I think it's one of the best examples of a real, truly digital transformation program that struck. And it was a program that struck based on the fact of, OK, it had so many tick boxes. You know, it was there to improve business efficiency. It was there to improve the consumer experience. It was there to reduce waste and increase revenue, et cetera, et cetera, so I had so many tick boxes. And fundamentally, actually, it was really complex and it was successful because it had some great vision and it had some great leadership and it communicated really well. So there was diverse stakeholders in play here. And basically the concept was 20 years or so ago, and I'll simplify it just for an element of time, 20 odd years ago, dealerships maybe used to order parts and they'd come directly from the global distribution center through to the dealerships and that would take a number of days to reach there. That was improved by having local distribution centers or country-specific distribution centers, which would then cut it down to kind of a days or day or day and a half delivery time because you were ordering effectively from a local country-specific distribution center your parts. Then they they realized the fact that actually how can we improve this even further and having local distribution parts centers and creating the capability to order parts and get them within a couple of hours and this was this change was initiated through learning from understanding and through real kind of adoption out at the dealerships. But it required IT system changes in many different systems to make this seamless They weren't all done overnight. It required the capability for a dealer to place an order by 9 o'clock and have it delivered by 11 'clock in the morning and and really there was a piece which was it bought so many diverse stakeholders together, changing the way that they had previously worked, planned vehicle services, et cetera, et cetera, and turned on its head. And probably, if you want the truth, 15, 20 years ago when I was in this program, I didn't see it as a kind of a digital transformation. I just saw it as I were implementing X. Now, when I stand back and look at kind of all the different elements, all the different stakeholders working together, actually, I realized how kind of pivotal that was in me understanding and me growing to realize the fact of, you know, real true, digital transformation requires a real joined-up approach across so many different diverse stakeholders. So that was probably a long way of going back to the concept of what was the first big initiative.
Attila Tóth: [00:08:59] Understood. Yeah, it's interesting to look back in time. So let's say 20 years far away because it looks like so many things happened in the last 20 years and how it started. It's an exciting perspective. Thank you for sharing it.
Jason Craker: [00:09:16] Yeah, I know. But then I'm conscious you asked me another question as well. And if I remember you were asking me about kind of, you know, the 20 years, there's been lots of transformation being delivered. And what does the future hold in that piece? Yeah. I think to jump into that question a little bit, I think there's a bit which is I realize my background, my schooling was very much around kind of analytical and process based kind of studies. Actually, as an individual, I realized that actually lots of that was done in isolation. And I'm personally an individual that feels kind of more at home working kind of in that introvert type kind of space, if that makes sense. But as I developed and as my career developed, there was a piece that said, actually, you can't do this on your own. And that goes back to that example of kind of that logistics distribution center piece where actually, you know, the more change you can make across an organisation requires full kind of stakeholder engagement, linking arms and working together. And there's a realization, I think, you know, that actually that kind of transformation from working introvert to extrovert, driving real kind of digital transformation can only be done really with real great vision and real great stakeholders. And that sometimes, you have to take on different personas and a persona that can stand up and can talk about the vision and direction and the reasoning, you know, with real, real substance and energy is just as important as actually than the people that make it happen. But it's on a parallel bar. And I think that's one of the things that I really see kind of the future holding is those real visionaries will get great followers, great engagement based often around a purpose and a purpose for doing something. And that unites people and that unites the desire to change. And I think that's the bit that that really generates the greatest opportunity for change. I think we've seen in that kind of 20 to 30 years of my career, there's been a migration from the kind of typical waterfall type program to more sprint based approaches. And as part of that, a greater desire to learn and to validate. And I think that kind of structural element is as important as what you're trying to achieve. So it's kind of the how. We're seeing now, and it's not just with the automotive, we're seeing the need for organisations to pivot. And I think we're seeing organisations need to pivot at a higher rate than we were before. And maybe that's because of some of the challenges, the recent crises we've been having. But fundamentally, I think it's because we're a lot more joined up now across the world and we've got to look at ways where we can work smarter together to add real value to the consumer. So I think there's a number of things that I can relate back to. I think that simple element that says, right, moving from introvert to extrovert, because you can't do this on your own, I think that's an important thing. I think that visionary piece that behind a purpose is critical. The learnings and the validations. We go through life, we started life falling over as children. We were never told off as part of that. We were encouraged, get up and try again. Actually, you start to see some of those characteristics come into the corporate world. Now definitely 20, 30 years ago, it wasn't quite as open as it is now to that learning type mindset. You were cast eyes for dropping the ball. Now actually, it's a case of, okay, what have we learned by it? How do we progress next time? I think that's a real important piece. Then when I talked about that waterfall and sprint type approach, actually I think that's a massive change because what we're starting to do is we don't believe we can plan out the next two to three years in a massive program in a big chart and just go away and deliver it and the world doesn't change us around us. Now we've realized how do we split this down, how do we validate things, how do we test it out as quick as possible, how do we get stuff to market and test it within the consumer world as quickly as possible and how do we learn? I think those types of things are really sort of accelerating digital transformation in my mind.
Attila Tóth: [00:13:39] Okay. There are too many good things not to go back to. First, thanks for sharing this personal insight that I can completely adhere to, because back then when I was in high school I was probably a very similar personality what you just described. There was this public speaking contest and for some reason I registered but I'm even today I'm not sure why because when I first step out on the scene my hands were shaking my voice was shaking so I personally went to the transformation from becoming an introvert to today hosting a podcast and speaking on events which for sure I think it's important to mention because many people see okay there are people who are introverts and people who are extroverts but actually with digital transformation there's also a personal transformation happening behind the leadership, behind the teams which many times is not put on the radar and it's considered that it's something natural, but yeah, I'm really glad that you brought this up because it's something that nobody really speaks of, but everybody expects it to happen overnight. And this doesn't really happen overnight.
Jason Craker: [00:15:07] I think you're right. You know, it's as much about a personal transformation, you know, testing your comfort zones, growing your level of, you know, your kind of circle of influence. All of those elements are as critical with any transformation in the organisation. You know, it's often led by personal transformation. I fully agree with you.
Attila Tóth: [00:15:25] Yeah. And also what you just shared, shifting this mindset of planning exactly two to three years ahead and changing this mindset to a piloting strategy where you just go and test out something as fast as you can and then you continue to keep learning and completely agree on pivoting as well. From what I see in my area of expertise is that many companies realize now that, digital was a good and fancy word, but we should kind of create value on one hand and on the other hand create profits from it. And many companies thought that, okay, we introduce a system, we change the technology and it's a natural effect that it will drive revenue and in many cases that's not the case. think that's also a very important thing for our audience to emphasize that if you want to change, you have to change how you approach things and just bringing technology into a company doesn't mean that it will happen overnight, a shift in your revenue or in your business model.
Jason Craker: [00:16:50] So I think that's such a pushing against an open door for me. And I think one of the things in my roles that I've had, I've been a digital leader and there's been many, many examples during that time when I've been asked, you know, Mr. IT organisation, can you deliver this new SAP solution because it's going to do X and Y. And as part of that type of process and expectation as a piece, oh, it hasn't worked because IT haven't delivered it properly. And I would get very, very frustrated because it used a lot of energy in getting organisations to think about this in a much wider perception. But just as importantly, it's getting the IT organisation to realize that they're not just a service provider and they jump when the rest of the business asks them to do something. And to get functional elements to work side by side, not with an expectation of just because I sit in sales, then I can demand a change into the IT organisation. And that over time has been a real, real challenge, not just because of the companies I've worked at. This isn't specific to automotive. I think it goes, you know, cross sector. Actually, what we're seeing more and more of is IT organisations turning into digital organisations and those organisations now having a seat at the table and demanding respect. That's just as much as the CFO does, just as much as the head of HR does, etc. And I think that's a critical piece as part of transformation in these organisations. It's built around the fact that actually everyone's got competency. Let's bring all that competency to the table to make the change happen. I think you've nailed it on the head there, 100%.
Attila Tóth: [00:18:38] Indeed. So IT people, even IT leaders, many times were considered to be, let's say, people who execute certain tasks, and that's it. And lately, there's a shift that digital leaders have a say and they have a seat at the big table, let's put it like that. But, of course, only those people can have these seats who can think further and beyond technology because everything then ties into value creation.
Jason Craker: [00:19:14] Exactly. From geeks to business leaders, I think I've said a couple of times, these people are going from geeks to business leaders.
Attila Tóth: [00:19:21] Let's shift our focus a bit because you have quite an impressive background working at companies like Volvo, Polestar, and now changemaker. Have you and your team introduced an innovative digital approach that challenged the status quo? And I'm thinking now specifically in the automotive industry, because I'm sure that our audience is curious, okay, how do you break these barriers of what we were just speaking about? How do you make people think differently about digital and about IT?
Jason Craker: [00:19:55] That's a great question, Attila. That really is a good question. The automotive sector, and I know the automotive sector is going through its biggest ever paradigm shift. We've got technology, we've got business change, we've got new disruptors. And when I think you've got things like software-defined vehicles, you've got service-driven revenue of data, you've got agency model, you've got connected car, you've got autonomous, you've got electric vehicles, you've got all of these kind of technology elements hitting a very traditional sector. That's a challenge. That is a real challenge. To be specific about the question you asked me, what approaches have you used to change the status quo? I've been lucky enough to lead a digital organisation at Polestar, just to bring that to life a little bit. We grew from me, I was employee, I think number 64, before the organisation launched in China in 2017 with our brand, launched our brand and set our vision and direction. We grew that organisation, and I say we because this was much bigger than a person, grew this organisation to over 350 digital employees within three and a half years. Now, that's a massive, massive transformation. And that took immense time, immense pressure and immense alignments. And fundamentally, one of our key goals that we were looking to drive out was change the status quo of selling within an automotive industry. The only way we had of succeeding was be able to roll out a digital engagement model, customer journey with a digital backbone across three different continents, nine different countries. And we had many challenges to make that happen. But fundamentally, the only other organisation that was there at the time was doing this was was Tesla. And they'd started off focusing with a with a total clean background. We were in the situation where we had the great parent organisation of Volvo Cars that were there behind us, giving us some support and direction and some and some some opportunities to leverage some of the core capabilities that they had. But we had a new kind of white piece of paper that said what is this customer journey going to look like? Where can you add real elements of differentiation where and how will you integrate with agents to help you deliver these vehicles? Where will you engage with financial partners to create the financial offerings to support the purchase of these vehicles? We had challenges around, it was three different models in three different continents and that wasn't how we necessarily started. So we started with a real crystal-clear vision, you know, this product was coming. We had to make sure we had the capability to effectively create, build the brand, lead people through the journey, let them find out about the vehicle, configure the vehicle, let them put a deposit down, let them test a vehicle with test drives, let them order the vehicle, let them pick up the vehicle, the handover and then start to own the vehicle and go through that life. So there was, you know, eight or nine real critical kind of digital touch points, customer journeys we had to design. And we started with a piece of, okay, so from a service design perspective, what does good look like? We realized that we weren't going to be able to deliver the all singing, all dancing best ever customer journey on day one. But we realized there were there were nuggets through that journey that we had to really, really differentiate on. And we focused on some of those. But we realized in the fact as well, that every customer journey is different. Every individual is different. We all have different requirements. And maybe we can't automate everything from day one. So how do we make sure we can support that with other processes and contact centers and engagement centers to help with that journey? But it was done laser-like vision, I have to be honest, you know, we had vehicles coming out of the factory, we had customer orders coming in, we had no time to stand back and go and say, actually, are we doing the right thing? We had to go with the view of saying, right, okay, committed to what we're doing, real clarity, but yes, we learned, yes, we made mistakes, and yes, we worked across the organisation to pick up on things that we'd forgotten about or dropped. It was such an energized environment, really tiring. I've often said the statement that one week in our life there was like four to six weeks in another world. Actually, to be honest, I think now it's closer to six to eight weeks when I stand back and really reflect, but the pace of change was immense. And we had to do that based on the fact that we couldn't have real bureaucratic processes in mind. So we had a real startup-type engagement model. And fundamentally, I can't look at anything else I've done in my career that matches from a status quo change in the industry that that team and that organisation that I was lucky enough to lead were able to do. It was exceptionally good.
Attila Tóth: [00:25:16] Thank you for sharing that. It's really impressive. And what I really like about it, how many times you mentioned customer journey, because I think that's a keyword that people who want to change their business models need to focus on the customer journey. Because we take it for granted. Yeah, we know our customers. We know how they work. But in digital, things work differently. The customer segmentations, let's say, that were built 10, 20, or 30 years ago changed immensely. And today, for example, in our company, we don't even talk about personas, we talk about digital personas. Because if you have a persona which is built on, let's say, a fixed research in a certain time, then you have a fixed asset. A digital persona is when you have data that's flowing in constantly, let's say 24-7 and it's shaping basically your perception on the customer because the customer is changing. Be it because of the macro crisis, what's happening in the world today, or be it on micro changes which are coming, as you said, at the end you have different strategies for the different countries you acted in. And I think that's pretty normal because each nation has different traditions. If we go just there, we'll just share from another interesting example in some industries, for example, in the home appliances, some home appliances have this Sabbath mode, because in cases in different religions, there's a need to have the home appliances in Sabbath mode. It means they are turned off in terms of lights and major activities and they're in a super silent mode, which is applicable in some countries and completely irrelevant in other countries. And I think these type of nuggets, as you said, are essential in the customer journey to know, in this market, what are the critical drivers in customer behavior?
Jason Craker: [00:27:40] I agree with you. And I think that there was a piece where, you know, I've been lucky enough to work in a market for a major and a major market in a global organisation. And the realization that what the the sensor were coming up with with programs and projects and initiatives were kind of 80 % correct, but they needed a localization and actually the importance of making sure that localization and that real differentiation at market was done properly and effectively was critical to success. So you need that local expertise and understanding. You can't do this in my view, I haven't seen examples where you can do this from one kind of ivory tower. You've got to get engagements and understanding of what drives consumers across the world in one or different elements. And I think that's when you look into the future as well I think that's going to be one of the next big stages of digital transformation. Maybe we talk about that a little bit later.
Attila Tóth: [00:28:37] Yeah, I agree and thinking a bit further on this because we are already diving deep into how to think about digital transformation in the automotive industry, but lately, I'm seeing more and more collaborations and I was curious if you can bring an example of a successful collaboration that you've seen between the automotive industry and other industries that you consider to be successful.
Jason Craker: [00:29:07] Let me just start this because I was lucky enough to be at a summit a couple of weeks ago and we had a flying visit from the president of the Republic of Finland and all the security guards and everything else came into the auditorium. So it was a unique kind of opportunity to hear someone of kind of stature to speak and he didn't say many words but the statement that I took that meant so much and I have to be honest, maybe I wish I'd heard it before and related to it now and what he said, he said was: for the sake of mankind, we need to find things in common. Now when I think of that, I think to myself, okay, you know you talk the geopolitical environments to the countries the regions and you know the the situations that the world finds itself in today. And that was you know, maybe the reason for him to say that. Actually, when you then take that down and distill that down into kind of corporate working with corporate, corporate working with startup, region working with region, market working with market, et cetera, et cetera. Actually, the more we can find in common, the more I believe we can accelerate change. And I think that was just such a great phrase from a great man. How you can look to utilize that to share a vision across organisations. And I think the more I see organisation standing back and saying, we can't do this ourselves, we need to collaborate, actually, I think that's for the benefit of the sector. And actually, to be honest, probably more so the consumers, if you want the truth. I think there's a massive challenge when you think of automotive because effectively, automotive manufacturers, you know, we refer inside the industry. We, we use acronyms like OEMs, you know, original equipment manufacturers. That name is the name that is put beside all the big brands. The reality is that's where they started X amount of years ago, manufacturing product. And what we're seeing is there is a move to actually, you know, let's think about services and driving services out. And I believe that those services then generate the need to collaborate. Now, actually, you know, we're in the situation now where driven by electric vehicles, there is a need for the automotive industry to integrate with infrastructure and with energy. You know, we talked just about charge point operators and, uh, smarts, uh, metering of homes and vehicle to grid, all of those elements being driven to say, actually, how do we bring a product into a market and then make sure it lasts in a market? Those things I think are accelerating real collaboration. Um, and there's going to be more and more of those, to be honest. I think there's other bits where you see things like, you know, smart cities and, and with the technology in the vehicle with connectivity and connected car and connected traffic lights and, reducing congestion, smart cities, all of those things is going to generate actually to new business models, new, new opportunities to, to collaborate and need to collaborate. So I think that this, this piece is only going to accelerate. I do believe that probably if you'd asked me this question 20 years ago, you'd have got a slightly different answer. Do we need to collaborate? What do we need to collaborate on kind of mindset? Now I think, and I'm lucky enough to talk to so many OEMs in my conversations, you can see now in the last two to three years, actually the more open engagement piece to say: Hey, what are you doing? Well, how can we work together? Could you help me collaborate with someone? Could you help me integrate? You know, could you help me talk to this organisation? And I think to be honest, it's built around the fact of realizing the fact consumers are starting to demand more. They want a seamless life. I remember saying something about 10 years ago that was, as consumers, we are becoming more and more time poor. And I can't work out how, because everything's so digitalised, everything's so, you know, off your phone, et cetera, et cetera. But fundamentally, we're always kind of active, always online, very little do we kind of take a back step. And where I'm going with this is kind of, you know, transformation, getting from A to B needs to be as seamless and as, uh, and as easy as possible. And the only way you can do that is by integrating and collaborating in my view.
Attila Tóth: [00:33:40] Ooh, there are so many deep thoughts here, but yeah, I would, I was taking notes, but let's, let's start with the first one. It's this example that you brought is really impressive, but also really beautiful and inspiring on how to think about collaborations that if we want to move forward, we, we need to think how we can work together on all levels. And I think that's really, really inspiring. Also, I experienced this shift in mindset, what you just explained of, “okay, why should we collaborate” to “let's collaborate”? I would say the industry is, is shifting, but, uh, not yet there. I will bring an example. We had this prototype project where the smart sensor basically communicates with smart city grid system, but also with the phones, also with the cars ecosystem, and basically gives an opportunity for vehicles to avoid most crashes because it calculates based on position, let's say where a phone is on the road. Is it on the road? Is it beside the road? And then it calculates with the city grid. Where is that phone positioned? Is it actually on the road or is it on the sidewalk? And we were presenting this prototype to two different players in the automotive industry. And many times the conversation where, well, this is fascinating. But this is not our job. And, and we had a conversation with, let's say, companies who produce equipment for automotives. So let's say not the big car guys, but those who actually build the sensors and build the equipment for them. And we, we had discussions also, let's say with the end customer, the car companies, and none of them usually had this feeling, okay, this is not our responsibility. Probably if we had a discussion with Volvo, it would have been a different discussion because they have this vision to build the safest car. But we didn't have the opportunity to talk with them. We, we were talking with different players and it was an interesting feeling that okay, everybody agrees that's a great prototype and something that could really change the number of accidents that are happening today, but nobody was there to take responsibility. And I think this is an important factor in this digital transformation and this evolution, what we're talking about right now, that you have to take responsibility and because otherwise these collaborations cannot really work.
Jason Craker: [00:36:38] I know. I, I think that's such a true point about taking ownership for stuff.
Attila Tóth: [00:36:43] I want to drive a bit the discussion towards people, and by people, I mean, people who are stakeholders and basically deciding in which direction the digital transformation should go or could go. How have you empowered, be it colleagues, be it C-level decision makers to drive and embrace digital transformation, especially in traditional roles who would have been more resistant to change?
Jason Craker: [00:37:19] It's a great question Attila, you know, you talk about, you know, what's the kind of the organisation and how do you empower people and fundamentally, I see this coming down to an, you know, an element of trust, an element of empowering and culture. I was lucky enough to start up an organisation at Polestar and realized the fact that, you know, there's not this kind of organisational chart that starts at the top and all decisions need to go through that, that person at top, because they're the font of all knowledge. Fundamentally, I think that's absolutely bullshit. Um, I think there's a piece which is, you know, turn that organisation around, put that leader at the bottom of the organisation from a support perspective, because that person has brought in experts, that brought in experts, that brought in teams, that brought in technology and fundamentally, all the way along, they're there to support the real experts to delivering change. And I think if you can realize that fact and start to communicate and work and think in that mindset, you can engender real, real trust, real empowerment and real cultural different changes. And fundamentally, I think that was one of the, one of the things that created the most level of success at that time at Polestar was, was that type of mindset. And we came up with a company wide dictate that was nobody has a title. So although I'd worked 20, 30 odd years to be a chief digital information officer, actually at that time, I was Jason from digital. And the need to come kind of up to me, to come down into my organisation to get to speak to the right people was just adding time and waste and, and a waste of energy and a realization, well, if you've got two people in the organisation that need to talk, get them to talk. Don't come up to come down. That's fundamentally just, you know, wasting time. Uh, and losing the message as it went between the experts in the organisation. So I think that's a key bit. I think when we think a little bit about kind of encouraging your peers to change, I think you can only do that by proving it. And, you know, second, I say you can only do that. I think, yes, there's a lot of communication. Yes, there's a lot of passion. Yes, there's a lot of kind of conversation that goes on. Give me the opportunity to prove it and I'll prove it. Often a kind of a metaphor about kind of playing a pinball machine comes to mind here. You know, you start off on a pinball machine and it's been a long time since I played a pinball machine. But when they used to have the metal balls used to get given three three balls at the start of the game. And fundamentally you carried on playing while that ball was in the game. And that's exactly the same time mindset. Look, give me a ball, give me a machine and let's see how long we can play the game for. And you just keep showing that kind of showing it and creating kind of lighthouse type, moments where, where people look and see what you're doing. I think that's fundamentally the way where you can keep keeping the game and keep playing the game built on empowering and grabbing opportunities. So we led into this as a bit of a segway saying about kind of ownership. At too many times, you can start a major transformation and you haven't got all the right people. We haven't got the right competencies, the right capabilities because it's such a big change. So you've got to have people at that point and just say, right, actually, maybe this isn't my remit of expertise or experience, but I'm going to grab this until I can find somebody else to bring on and take on board and do this. Don't let things drop through holes. I think that's another key element of getting the right kind of empowerment and helping drive change in a very resistant world.
Attila Tóth: [00:41:07] It's a really, really good example. Thank you for sharing. I will push back because, I often hear some kind of, let's say, response to this, don't take me wrong. I'm completely on your side, but let me just play a bit the devil's advocate and, uh, be the, the party who is not really up to change. And they usually say something like this: Attila, this all sounds good and startups can do it, but we are an old fashioned company. And, you know, the rest of the description and they say, one of the major challenges in doing, what you said, Jason, or what I usually say, something really similar is that how could we trust people who do things that we don't understand. And that's a fair and an honest question. And I'm glad when, when I manage to peel down the, to the bottom and to get to this question, because I think this is really, really on a C-level question that there is a lack of trust and there's fear that, okay, I put my trust in something that I cannot control. Have you experienced something something like that?
Jason Craker: [00:42:27] I think there's a, it's interesting because I think you said the word it's something I don't understand. And there's a piece here where for an organisation, for a leopard to change its spots, it's kind of got to understand why it's got spots to start with. Um, and there's a piece that says, actually, that's not necessarily my fault. It's actually as much your fault. And we talked about kind of, you know, transformation being organisational wide. It's actually individual wide as well. Um, you know, right at the start of this conversation and well, okay, if you don't understand it, maybe I can't explain it in a five minute conversation, but maybe I can show you to come and have a look, come and experience it, come and open your eyes, come and engulf yourself in what we're doing. So don't sit here in your C-level suite office saying, you know, we've always done it this way. We've got to continue doing it this way because I don't understand. Actually, if we want change to happen, look at ourselves first. Now, that's a tough conversation to have. You know, you can't walk into a new organisation and say that to the CFO. You can start to say, you know, when you've got a relationship with people, but actually that's some of the conversations you've got to start to have.,
Attila Tóth: [00:43:44] Yeah, sooner or later, you need to have this conversation. All right. And as we are talking about C-level and traditional businesses, I'm curious, how do you see the trend of digital experiences offered by on one hand companies like BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes, and the other end, Tesla and let’s put Pulsar in this second category. So what do you think, how are these companies driving these services? And what's, what's the difference between them?
Jason Craker: [00:44:20] So the difference, I mean, that's, I mean, this is a massive question. We could speak for probably about an hour on this one, uh, on its own. I need to be careful. I think we spoke earlier about kind of technology trends. And some of those technology trends driving change. And fundamentally, I see two trends that I think we'll see the biggest amount of change driven by some of these kind of disruptors and leaders in the sector, some traditional, some, some disruptors, you know, new organisations, new OEMs that are in the space, I think, firstly, you've got software-defined vehicles, and then the second element being, connectivity and connected car and that they're connected because actually when we look at a typical kind of product and we talk about digital experiences here, a product can be stagnant or a product can evolve as you evolve and it can become more highly personalized. And I think what we're starting to see is, you know, the continued transition with the vehicles becoming more and more intelligent, you know, there's phrases, you know, a computer on wheels type piece. It's exactly where these are evolving into led by some of those great brands that you talked about there. Fundamentally, that vehicle, that computer on wheels can be so highly customized to the individual that's driving it that we haven't even seen. We can't position that yet in our minds. You know, we've all seen since 2007 when iPhone released, sorry, when Apple released the iPhone, you know. How that has started to change our world and we don't go anywhere without a phone in our pocket, probably only our phone in our pocket, or even our watch on our arm. You know, we don't need the wallet. We don't need the map book to get from A to B. It sits from there. And that type of transition and transformation I think is starting to happen now within kind of the mobility automotive sector. I was really interested to see Mercedes launch their payment kind of functionality. So in-vehicle payment functionality, that means you haven't got to get out and pay at a pump. You haven't got to get out and pay as you cross or go to an online system and say that you're on a toll road. You know, the car just does it all automatically, and it's not through some other devices in the vehicle now or anything else that you've registered. It's just fundamentally the technology is evolving so much that it's making the consumer's life a lot more hassle free, and I think we're gonna see more and more of that as it evolves and I've been driven by, you know, great technology, great leaders, great vision that says, you know, actually for us to differentiate, how do we make the consumer life easier? I think we get a massive amount of influence by what's being led out of China, and that's either right or it's wrong. You can see you can have another long debate about that. But fundamentally, you see, the Chinese consumers are buying vehicles based on the connectivity functionality in that vehicle, nothing else. And I'm being black and white, but to make a point, you know, they would choose, a NIO over a Ford because the NIO's functionality from a connectivity perspective is superior. Now, never have I looked at a vehicle in my 20, 30 years and say, actually, I'm going to get that one because it's got greater connectivity with toll roads or smart cities. But actually, maybe when I look ahead, maybe that is what I'll be doing because fundamentally, the cars are so frigging, performant now. They're so good. They've got the same, you know, same chassis, you know, et cetera, et cetera. Where am I going to differentiate? Well, what fits in my lifestyle? And I think that's the bit we'll start to see evolving further and further. What fits in my lifestyle and that lifestyle is different around my digital experience.
Attila Tóth: [00:48:14] Absolutely. And I have an example to this on connectivity. It happened a couple of years ago, so I don't want to put any blame on the Mercedes brand, but this is a true story. So a couple of years ago, I know somebody who bought a Mercedes brand new S class, the flagship vehicle. And he was using an iPhone and the S class was only having Android auto. And it was so frustrating to him, like, okay, how can you build a flagship vehicle not supporting let's say the flagship of phones? And yeah, they've, they sorted it out with updates in the later years, but, but at first he was not able to, to use his, his iPhone with his S Class. That was a sign that when we were, we were talking about this story, that's okay, somebody brought in connectivity to that vehicle, but was not thinking, okay, who are we addressing with, who are the type of customers who buy the flagship vehicles, what kind of phones they have usually. And for sure, some are on Android, but for sure iOS is a part of that, that personal group. So it's interesting this connectivity part in the next years. I think that will definitely be something that influences decisions. And I think that's also positive just to put some positive vibe on the Mercedes brand with this new example that you shared that, yeah, they had a challenge, and probably this story is not the only one that happened back then, but in time they were able to shift and now they are driving, driving change in digital. I think that's an impressive example.
Jason Craker: [00:50:10] I agree.
Attila Tóth: [00:50:16] Good. And as we are talking about digital services, what do you think, what are the biggest challenges? And also the biggest opportunities in implementing subscription models in the automotive industry? And I'm glad that you have this background with Volvo and Polestar, because I think Volvo and Polestar was right there who piloted this, and one of the first companies who, who started subscription models.
Jason Craker: [00:50:49] This is a really interesting one, Attila, because that subscription direction is a great one. 10 years ago, analysts were saying, right, subscriptions of future. We're going to move away from ownership to a subscription model led by generation Z that don't own anything. They just subscribe to stuff and they stream stuff. And we haven't seen quite as strong as movement as that. And I think that is probably down to the fact actually, this is really hard. It's a real challenge. You know, I think there's a number of elements in there where we've got different continents, all with different desires, and maybe what works in China wouldn't work in the UK or Europe. And OEMs are great at trying to solve the world rather than solve market specific challenges. A subscription model is based largely on actually kind of fleet ownership, and an OEM hasn't got that experience. And when I say an OEM, again, I'm talking about the large brands, you know, the original manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, you know. They haven't got the capabilities. They haven't got the competency for fleet management and transitioning vehicles from person A to person B and refitting them and cleaning them and getting them from one site to another site. That just doesn't sit in their kind of capability and competency. So fundamentally, are they the right right person to drive out subscription? Possibly not. You know, we've seen a great example with Toyota spinning out KINTO, you know, and then through merger and acquisitions, the engagement of indicate fleet. Now, that's it. That's an example of, you know, in order for subscription to work, you need a group of competencies that come together. From the OEM to the fleet management solution to probably a logistics company. [...] is an existing example that you start to see actually growing out their proposition, growing out their market, growing out their fleet. One of the key barriers is making sure you've got a cost model that fits. Okay, so I've looked at this for five years ago, a heck of a lot of detail. What is a model consumers are prepared to pay for? And how do you add as much additional elements of value that create this perception, desire, need to subscribe rather than own? Added to that, you know, actually the finance offerings, you know, they need to start to align into this piece. And that can be led by different government initiatives, regulations, et cetera, et cetera. So there's a lot of challenges. Um, that said, I still think there's a massive opportunity, and I think the opportunity here we were talking earlier about collaboration, I think there's an opportunity, you know, collaborate and offer services across different sectors is going to be a way of adding value to a subscription service. So take for example, my son lives in an apartment block in London as part of owning, or as part of leasing a apartment in that block, he gets access to a gym. He gets access to a number of vehicles. He gets access to a number of bikes. He gets access to laundry services, et cetera, et cetera. Now, in my view, that apartment block is now subscribing to a vehicle to create mobility solutions to their drivers. Now, as we move more and more into, you know, kind of, highly densely populated areas, those types of offerings, I think are going to further increase. And as, and as part of that, actually, where can you start to add in additional services that the consumer wouldn't have necessarily had access to if they'd owned a vehicle? Those types of opportunities, I think, are going to grow. I think that the key bit that we're missing here is this opportunity is going to be accelerated by sustainability, in my view, and a desire to improve the planet we live in. You know, there are statistics that Lincoln Co.launched or announced when they launched their brand and it was scarily impactful, you know, to say 94% of the time your vehicle stands idle. 94% of the time. How do we move that to a perspective where actually the manufacturers aren't thinking about volume? They're thinking about utilization. And that moves from subscription to mobility and into a slightly different kind of challenge and argument, but I think subscription is the first step, first kind of step into true mobility, electric mobility, and from a sustainable world, I think we've got to be looking at that. More and more. And that will be driven by regulations and price differences, et cetera, et cetera. It's an interesting area. It's only going to expand over the years to come.
Attila Tóth: [00:55:45] Interesting points. I'm just going to add one thing to that. I was lucky enough to be, you know, I call it a group of mentors much older than me. We have, let's say owned certain types of brands throughout the decades. So this age group and it's a pattern which could drive them to subscription. We had a conversation last year on the automotive sector and they agreed on one thing. Earlier cars, so back in the nineties, early 2000s had higher reliability than their current cars. I don't want to open this Pandora's box. Why, why does this happen? Of course, there are some strategic decisions behind it, but also there are some things that are driving this change and their, their common answer was that it would motivate them to buy a subscription. Because then all the pain points regarding reliability were not there. Let's say responsibility would fall back to the manufacturer. And it was really interesting to hear this because again, this is an older age group, successful business people who have owned quite a couple of cars. And they had this common agreement. Yeah, I would definitely move to subscription, because then I don't care about why, let's say, I have a connectivity issue or I have any kind of challenges with my product.
Jason Craker: [00:57:30] And I think that's a very true true statement and true kind of vision. And it's back to the piece of, you know, as individuals, we're time poor and we want to hassle free environment. So give the responsibility to somebody else, but be prepared to pay for it.
Attila Tóth: [00:57:48] I'm really enjoying this conversation, but we're coming to the end of it. And before we close, I want to give our listeners something that they can contemplate after this episode. Let's say you have a time machine. And you can jump 25 years ahead in the future. How does the future look like in terms of automotive?
Jason Craker: [00:58:18] That's a great question. And maybe I should be an investor if I could really answer this question, and maybe a very wealthy investor as well, if I could answer it, but I think we're going to see a move from product to service. I think we're going to see a real challenge with new disruptors coming in and upsetting the Apple cards. You know, there's rumors of Apple coming out as part of their project. What's the name of that project? Anyway, you know, there's a big piece in there that says… Project Titan, I think it was referred to us. You know, there's a thing that say, actually, if you get an entrant like that, that comes into the sector, that's going to really, really kind of set the bar and turn the world on its head. We're going to have autonomy in spaces, and autonomy is going to mean, do I need to own and create an in-vehicle experience that we haven't seen before? A little bit like, you know, an example I've used is, you know, you get on a long haul flight and you sit in economy or you go and you sit in first class. That's the potential kind of business models we can see moving forward with technology driving change supported by regulation. I think it's going back to the smartphone launched 2007, so 15 years ago. Now, you know, you asked me a question 25 years ago. To be honest, I remember in 2007, I remember what I was doing and where my children were in their life. 15 years later, which doesn't seem that long when you look back and say 15 years, it has changed massively. So the thoughts of the automotive industry being kind of at the start of that smartphone revolution, that's exactly where I see us. And I can't say with any real certainty what it's going to look like in 15 years, let alone 25, apart from knowing it's going to be a lot more service-orientated, moving away from product, a lot more connected and with a view of adding value to the consumer around kind of autonomous and, and entertainment in and out of the vehicle. That's where I see it moving towards. Hopefully fossil-free, hydrogen, electric, green fuels. I do believe there's a space with solar and really disappointed with some of the traction for some of the solar organisations out there, solar manufacturers, because I do believe that's part of a sustainable world. I think it's going to be an interesting sector. I really do. One that I believe my grandchildren won't need. Or have the need or desire to drive, learn to drive in the future. So we're getting closer and closer to some of those science fiction films we've seen where the vehicles are flying. Who knows?
Attila Tóth: [01:01:21] It's an interesting vision. And yeah, it's also funny just to think a bit ahead and say, okay, you're telling a story to your grandchildren. Back then, we had to go and have a license to be able to drive the cars and they probably laugh. Okay, why did you wanted to drive the car?
Jason Craker: [01:01:41] Exactly, exactly. And, you know, we have exactly the same conversation now with my children to say, what was a cassette tape? I don't listen to music that way. I press play, you know. It's exactly the same. And that's in my life, you know, in a very recent part of my lifestyle. You know, so yeah, yeah, no, I agree with you. It's been a great conversation, Attila. I really have enjoyed it. Uh, thank you for asking me on. I remember when you asked me, there was a little bit of [...] to say, what could I, what would be interesting about, some of my journey and my history. But I fundamentally enjoyed going through it with you, and hopefully the listeners have enjoyed it too. So, thank you.
Attila Tóth: [01:02:26] Thank you too, Jason. This was great. Really more than what I envisioned and expected. It's clearly visible that your expertise and all these examples provided to our listeners, at least a seed of change and hopefully, hopefully that seeds will be something that starts movement and will help more and more digital transformation. And, and why not in 25 years, if we look back and listen to this conversation, hopefully we can check a couple of boxes. Yeah, this happened. Thank you.
Jason Craker: [01:03:06] Yeah, I hadn't thought about 25 years later listening back to this. Yeah, that's going to be an interesting piece.