Kyndryl’s Tosca Maria Colangeli: “Incremental improvement is not enough to win in today’s disrupted business environment”

Tosca Maria Colangeli

Tell me about Kyndryl… What is the company’s core focus?

In November 2021, Kyndryl spun off from IBM, and we built the name from two ideas. One, from the word ‘kindred’ or ‘kinship’ – meaning together with partners, with customers, we can through these relationships really build something of significance. And through the word ‘tendril’, meaning of new growth. When I think of Kyndryl, I think of a partnership-based, people-based business, focusing on growth in our space.

At IBM, our business was a services business stuck inside a product culture. Product cultures have a different cadence, a different operating model, a different business management system than a services business has. So, now we are separate, we have an opportunity to build a services culture that is restless, that is not trying to protect a past, but rather trying to endlessly reinvent the future for customers and build what’s coming next.

We now identify as an IT infrastructure services provider that designs, builds, manages and develops large-scale information systems. We have a 90000 strong workforce and 4000 blue chip customers. We are a business focused on ramping up our advisory and implementation services and we are putting our people at the heart of our progress.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt from previous roles, and how has this shaped your approach to your current position?

Fortunately, after 30+ years in the business, I have seen a lot, and learnt a lot. The key pearls of wisdom I take into my everyday working life today are as follows….

  • Success is not linear: So often we assume it is. But really it is ups and downs, highs and lows, failures as well as wins that ultimately lead us to success.
  • Do what you love: If you are passionate about your career and the industry you work in, inadvertently you have the determination to drive yourself forward.
  • Like and trust the people you work with: People are always top of the list of the reason I get up and go to work in the morning. Investing in them is essential to work satisfaction, as well as customer satisfaction.
  • Invest in new and diverse talent: There is a lot to take from the creativity and dynamism of the young. Their innovative ways of working are truly motivating. That is why, at Kyndryl, we really focus on bringing in the future leaders and next generation of talent and their new ideas.
  • Be close to your customer: Our teams are lean and empowered to work closely with customers and make quick decisions. I have learnt that removing layers of management and giving senior people broad delegation and decision rights, with accountability from the sales to delivery, allows for effective and efficient engagement with customers.

What is Kyndryl’s approach to ID&E? What do other workplaces need to do in this area?

Embracing inclusion, diversity and equity needs to be placed at the core of any business agenda if we, as business leaders, want to create a workplace that reflects the communities we serve.

A fundamental part of building an intentionally inclusive business culture is by adopting a people-focused mindset and demonstrating real empathy. Business leaders need to recognise all of the experiences that employees bring with them to work and provide them with the support and capabilities to succeed. This is at the heart of our culture at Kyndryl. We’ve put in place a strategy to advance ID&E – whether that’s by introducing Kyndryl Inclusion Networks for LGBTQ+ employees or hiring more diverse talent – promoting the advancement of equality and creating an inclusive journey to leadership for all employees as a top priority.

It is crucial for leaders within organisations to remove potential barriers and continue to fight for advancement.

What are your thoughts on how to tackle the technology skills gap?

While this challenge is not new, it will be the biggest challenge facing all organisations especially as the digital skills gap will cost businesses trillions of dollars by the end of the decade. The question is, what is the best way to tackle this issue?

Currently, in the market, companies are trying to find talent. We are focusing on creating and nurturing it from within – by investing in our people’s skills and developing them. By doing this, you are keeping trusted people, that your customers value, inside the business. You are preventing drops in productivity as you bring new people in and they get used to accounts, and you are saving on recruiting. For us, we invest in getting our teams accredited and focus on advanced automation, which allows us to redeploy our upskilled workforce into areas our customers are focused on.

In the face of professional shortages, our culture – the Kyndryl Way – underpins everything we do. We value the many different perspectives our people contribute. And by doing this, I know we have positioned ourselves with the right teams and the right mindset to bridge the gap and accomplish anything.

What’s next for Kyndryl, and how do you predict your industry will evolve in the next 12 months?

We are always looking to evolve, to progress. Business transformation is key and it requires business leaders to rethink how the enterprise creates value today—and how it will continue to do so in the future.

Incremental improvement is not enough to win in today’s disrupted business environment. Enterprises must think big and bold, putting people at the heart of change. Fostering a culture that prioritises people, can help organisations unlock the value of transformation, unlock hidden opportunities, and generate new value.

Change doesn’t happen overnight; companies that are truly dedicated to change need to play the long game, ensuring they put all the support networks in place to drive progress. Organisations should seek to provide oxygen to innovation, energy to change, and to further human progress every day.

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