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Sep 27, 2023

So, what do you do?

Spencer Wheeler

Spencer Wheeler

So, what do you do?

Six years ago, my colleague, Bobby Pennington, sought to answer a question that has confounded consulting professionals for years: “So, what do you do?”. Whether posed by a new acquaintance or a curious friend over coffee, answers to this question may have led to confusion and blank stares.

Consultants seem to face this problem quite frequently. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen eyes glaze over as I try to explain what a consultant actually does, or how often I’ve heard the sarcastic “Oh really? What do you consult on?” joke.

So, as Bobby Pennington did some time ago, I hope to bridge that gap by explaining who Credera is, how we help our clients, and what services we provide.

Credera at a glance

Credera is a global, boutique consulting firm focused on strategy, transformation, artificial intelligence, data, and technology. We have offices in seven major U.S. cities and eighteen offices across four continents. While “global boutique” may sound like an oxymoron, we use this language because we strive to create intimate relationships with our clients as we operate on a large scale. As I like to put it, the global aspect of our work is the breadth of services in which we provide our expertise, and the boutique aspect is how we approach our work with care and compassion.

Why we exist

Credera's mission is to make an extraordinary impact on our clients, our people, and our communities. We serve a vast range of clients, from Fortune 500 behemoths to budding industry pioneers and dedicated nonprofits. But we're not just in the business of consulting; we're in the mission of reshaping businesses for enhanced performance, revenue, and overall well-being.

Internally, our ethos mirrors this outward commitment. From our inception, Credera set out to redefine consulting—a place where one can thrive, evolve, and truly be oneself. Our team enjoys a nurturing environment, marked by unparalleled mentorship, a flexible connection model, and a genuine emphasis on work-life harmony.

Beyond our business and people, Credera’s heart lies in community impact. We're proud allies of numerous nonprofits and educational institutions. Our hallmark Service Day witnesses Crederians nationwide immersing in myriad community service endeavors, underscoring our enduring pledge to positive impact.

What we do

At the heart of our work is a commitment to craft unparalleled experiences that boost loyalty, revenue, and customer contentment. This is predominantly achieved through digital transformation. Digital transformation, in essence, is the infusion of digital technologies into all aspects of business operations. It's about leveraging technology to:

  • Innovate by launching novel products and services.

  • Enhance by refining existing offerings.

  • Streamline by optimizing internal systems and workflows.

This enables a culture and environment that empowers our clients to unlock the profound potential of their data. While our approach is tailored to each client's unique needs, these core principles influence most of our engagements.

How we do it

At Credera, our expertise is spread across six core service areas: management consulting, innovation and product, experience design, MarTech and commerce, data and AI, and cloud. However, what truly sets us apart is our integrative approach. While each area has its unique offerings, they often intertwine and synergize, enabling us to craft holistic solutions for our clients. Throughout this article, we'll delve deeper, shedding light on the nuances of what we bring to the table in each domain.

Management consulting

Management consulting is divided into three service lines: strategic alignment, business transformation, and operational excellence.

Strategic alignment

I met with Jim Nadalini, our lead for strategic alignment, who provided great insights into the type of work his teams do. “Strategic alignment can be many things,” he told me. “It can be collaborating to create a corporate strategy in the form of a multi-year plan. It can be working with a company’s leadership team to identify and prioritize what is most important to accomplish strategically. It can even be finding the right ways to execute a company’s strategy, starting with what success looks like, how to measure it, and how to make strategy a continuous, iterative process.”

This is one of our broadest service lines regarding the type of work provided, primarily attributed to the wide variety of projects that fall under the Strategy umbrella.

Business transformation

Business transformation also offers a wide range of services.

Jake Parker, our business transformation lead, said, “Transformation is strategy execution through a capabilities lens; it’s designing and embracing new operating models, it’s enabling new capabilities, it’s finding consolidation and restructuring opportunities and operating at greater scale.” Business transformation builds on strategic alignment to execute on required changes at scale to activate strategies. That’s what makes Jake so passionate about the work. “The ability to make a lasting change, to see a shift in how our clients operate, is exciting to me.”

Operational excellence

Operational excellence (OpEx), the third service line under management consulting, is more about sustaining changes and competitive advantage through optimization and continuous improvement. While strategic alignment and business transformation tend to be more big-picture work, operational excellence goes deeper into the details. I spoke with Nate Raymond, a partner in our management consulting practice who described it as generally being driven toward maximizing efficiency, eliminating waste, improving margins and increasing return on investment. It’s this type of detailed work that pushes Nate. “I enjoy the investigation and discovery aspect. Like Sherlock Holmes but for business.”

Innovation and product

Our innovation and product service offering does some truly fascinating work. It’s creative and visionary yet structured and detailed. These lines of thinking that are typically antithetical are merged in seamless harmony, one of the many reasons this offering stands out to clients.

Innovation

When I sat down with JoLynn Smith, a Senior Consultant in our innovation space, she emphasized the above. “It’s about blending insight with inspiration to have this rigorous, empathetic approach to problem-solving.” It’s a common assumption that Innovation is exclusively big, bold, company-altering ideas.

But JoLynn and many of her colleagues in the innovation space showed me it’s far more nuanced than that. JoLynn said, “What makes Credera unique is that we’re not just looking for big ‘a-ha’ moments of creativity. We’re looking for repeatable ways to drive consistent innovation.”

Laura Weedon, our Innovation Chief of Staff (coolest job title ever?), said, “Our innovation approach helps our clients achieve their big ideas by breaking them down into structured, achievable milestones.” The allure of these big ideas is understandable. After all, the need to innovate is essential to remaining competitive in today’s marketplace. But without a structured process and a set of guidelines to keep you on track, your ability to innovate and push boundaries will be significantly hindered.

Product

Product, while nebulous in nature, goes hand in hand with innovation. Our product teams iterate on existing products, design new products, and even develop innovative product ideas. Through product discovery, rapid experimentation, and go-to-market planning, we help clients create game-changing products and services that customers love.

Some of the work that stood out to me during my sessions with those in this offering was a process called the Design Sprint. This is a process in which Credera will partner with a client on a specific problem, and in just four to five days, help them ideate a range of solutions, and create a prototype that users can react to. When our clients leave these design sprints, they leave with actionable insights.

This type of process has Aparna Raman, a partner at Credera who leads the offering, captivated with the innovation and product work. “We get to solve companies’ most ambiguous problems by bringing structure to the white space. That’s what really excites me.”

2023-09 Service area in-blog3

Structured Innovation is an iterative process with the 4 stages of the innovation lifecycle and the steps/activities articulating what to do at each point of the journey.

Experience design (XD)

Experience design, referred to as XD, strategizes, designs, and builds creative, user-centric, and innovative digital experiences. They take ambiguous asks and transform them into products their client’s customers love. XD is broken into three service lines: insights and strategy, design, and front-end engineering.

Insights and strategy

When I spoke with Brooks Grigson, insights and strategy lead and flat-billed cap enthusiast, he said this about his work in experience design, “We are passionate problem solvers who work to bridge the gap between customers and business objectives by building empathy for the user…what do they need and expect? What do they want? What truly triggers them into actions or behaviors that will help achieve business objectives? Many times, we help clients understand where assumptions or internal team biases may be holding them back from delivering better products and services to their customers. And since we back it up with deep research with the actual customer, clients are more empowered and more confident to make truly informed decisions.”

There is a common misconception that strategy is only needed at the beginning of the cycle. At Credera, strategy is weaved in throughout the cycle, with the insights and strategy team frequently working alongside the design and front-end engineering teams. This helps to ensure the delivery of insight driven learnings and optimizations over the duration of the project.

Design

Albert Cano, design lead, described the service line as having two primary purposes. “We translate business objectives and goals into high-impact visual experiences, and we inspire action while creating real business value for the brands we partner with.” The design line most frequently works on product design, design systems, data visualization, and digital branding. In addition to bringing robust and creative solutions to our clients, our design team is focused on expanding into emerging technology platforms while partnering with global teams at Credera to increase the impact of the design across the organization.

Front-end engineering

The final service line within XD, front-end engineering, brings our strategic and design work to life so that people can interact and engage within a product or experience. Front-end is a specialty skill that combines both technical prowess and artistry to deliver highly creative, interactive experiences people love.

When I spoke with Eric Grucza, Front-end engineering lead, he described the service line as “full of experts working to uphold the integrity of our designers' vision. Utilizing a healthy mix of technical prowess and passion for design, we craft elevated experiences that look as good as they feel to use.” The team’s hyper-specialization in today’s modern web frameworks and their collaborative relationship with XD design and innovation means our front-end engineers can turn any visual design into a world-class user interface.

2023-09 Service area in-blog2

The XD process requires iterative cycles to enable continuous ideation and ensure that user insights are incorporated at every step along the way.

MarTech and commerce

Our MarTech and commerce service area is consumer focused, with an objective of creating meaningful customer and business outcomes.

MarTech

The MarTech offering is work that combines many of Credera’s strengths: marketing, enterprise technology, data, project management and change management.

The work in this offering ranges from strategy to implementation to optimization. As John Hobson, a Principal in our MarTech team, described, “We can help craft your strategy. Then we can help implement it. And once it’s off and running, we can also fine-tune it.” John reinforced that we want to help clients align their goals, creating a roadmap for projects, saying, “We aim to transfer our knowledge to client teams and set them up for success.”

Commerce

Our commerce offering spans a wide range of customer facing work, stretching from developing an overarching strategy to the tactical activities that turn that strategy into a reality. As Olin Moran, a Principal in our commerce space, described to me, “It’s a very high touch space. We’re working with the client directly at the point of transaction and helping them transform their customers’ experiences.”

The projects our commerce teams work on have a direct and critical impact on the shopping experience and have ranged from creating platforms that our client sells to some of the largest brands in the professional sports space to developing full service online shops from scratch. What really stood out to me in my discussion with Olin was how commerce is involved throughout the whole duration of this very long process. “Our work is to help our clients build an end-to-end experience for their customer. To do so, we work with them from the very beginning, crafting the strategy, creating the product, and then executing and optimizing that product.” It’s the tangible aspect of that product, and the visible impact it has, that makes Olin so passionate about the commerce work Credera does. “When we roll out a new product, or optimize an existing one, we get to see the impact directly. Commerce is often directly correlated with revenue, and we’re able to realize the effect our work has for our clients.”

Data and artificial intelligence

Data is the backbone of Credera and is split into three service lines: data strategy, modern data architecture, and data security.

Data strategy

Data strategy, like the strategy lines in our other offerings, is all-encompassing. I sat down with Vincent Yates, our Chief Data Scientist, who said data strategy could be summarized in three questions: How do I make my company data-driven? What can I do with my data? How can we use data to create enterprise value?

“Data are the means, not the end,” Vincent told me. “You don’t want to start with the data. You want to start with the business, find out the problems they are facing and go from there.”

Modern data architecture

Modern data architecture can be thought of as the enabling technology that helps to make that data strategy a reality.

“We want to see where the client is in their data culture journey,” Will Vranderic, our modern data architecture lead, told me. “We’ll help identify and execute on the architecture improvements needed to advance on that journey towards data democratization.”

This journey varies, however, depending on a company’s size or needs. “One client may really benefit from a complex, fully harmonized data mesh,” Will said. “Another client can easily say, ‘Hey, this centralized data lakehouse is good enough for us.’ However long their journey is, it’s our job to craft a data architecture that will support the client's overall data strategy.” In other words, modern data architecture takes the data strategy and creates the perfect data culture to match a client’s specific needs.

Data security

Jim Miller, a Senior Architect in our data security offering whose passion for protecting data can only be matched by his love of floral Hawaiian shirts, gave me some great insights into this offering. “We’re always looking at two perspectives. Compliance and privacy. We look at what data exists, what protections are around it, what regulations are needed to meet requirements.”

There is far more that goes into data security than one outside of the offering may believe. “When it comes to data, there’s a big legal and regulatory threat to an organization that needs to be covered,” Jim says. “We’ll perform an assessment and then provide the safeguards and best practices to make sure what they have is properly protected and meets existing regulations.”

Artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has dominated headlines throughout the year and is poised to create a paradigm shift across the tech industry. It is also one of the many expert services Credera provides.

I sat down with Cole Harrison, one of Credera’s emerging AI thought leaders, to get a better understanding of this exciting area of growth that has captured the attention of companies around the world. After talking with Cole about some of things Credera is working on, it’s easy to see how everybody is so captivated by AI’s potential. Projects include an external chatbot that will help a company pair any of their customers with their desired product instantly, a marketing research management system that can mitigate the content gap that arises with customer specific personalization, and a “workplace search” engine that can make any piece of data, from images to URLs to videos, easily searchable and readily accessible across an organization. As far as its future at Credera, the possibilities are limitless. “AI will touch every Service Area at our firm,” Cole told me. “AI applications will be built in the Cloud, enhance the way corporations and customers can interact with its intersection with MarTech, and shape the thinking around how websites of the future will be designed. It’s going to really elevate our firm and what we do.”

2023-09 Service area in-blog

The data platform evolves to meet changing business needs at each stage.

Responsible and secure AI

Any non-trivial implementation of AI must also address issues such as trust, safety, bias, and privacy. Credera’s deep experience across data, technology, security, and privacy domains ensures we are capable of addressing these issues for our clients, especially those in regulated industries.

However, this space is still very new and best practices are far from established. So, Credera is the founder of the AI Global Council to advise on this going forward. The AI Global Council distills decades of experience in AI from research and practical experience deploying these models at enterprise scale down to something that helps guide proper use and adoption.

While GenAI might be new, many lessons learned in the broader machine learning space still apply. We aim to apply those lessons in this adjacent space so that companies don’t find themselves in the position that Google and Facebook did, asking, should we have been using AI that way? Rather than wait until after it has become a liability, we have assembled legal and regulatory experts from around the world, AI researchers from top universities, and senior executives from startups to Fortune 500 organizations to identify those risks and create frameworks and approaches that mitigate risk and maximize the chances of successful adoption.

Cloud

Our cloud service area does a lot of intriguing work in the tech space, such as modernizing data/analytics platforms, developing mobile applications, transforming operations, and helping clients plan and execute their cloud journey.

I spoke with Principal Architect Mario DiMattia about the space, and he shared some valuable insights about the work with me. “Ultimately, we make it easy to consume innovative tools that allow for creative solutions to solve a business’ needs.” Credera does a significant amount of this innovative work for clients, such as large-scale cloud platform delivery and enterprise modernization, to take advantage of cloud services. We are invested deeply in the cloud and engineering space, which has led to an increase in client demand, premier partnerships with AWS and GCP, and a gold partnership with Microsoft.“

I also had a chance to sit down with another Principal Architect and cloud capability Lead, Scott Decker, who highlighted just how much influence the shared responsibility model can have for our clients. “In the traditional model, the client is responsible for everything. In the shared responsibility model, a lot of responsibility is outsourced to the cloud provider. This opens so many doors for our clients because it allows them to focus more on their business differentiators and less on the technical mechanics their end customer doesn’t care about.” For our clients, cloud work is a game changer. As Scott pointed out, “Not only does the Cloud bring possibilities to our clients that on premise tech simply cannot, but there are also potential benefits in terms of time to market, scalability, or cost savings.”

The Cloud work that Scott and Mario discussed with me is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services we offer. Ultimately, our work in cloud and engineering is what enables us to do many of services I detailed above. Other services in this area include:

  • Cloud strategy and migration

  • Platform engineering

  • Application modernization

  • Mobile application

  • DevOps transformation

The Credera difference

A little over a year ago, I was a senior in college going through the consulting recruiting gauntlet. It’s a stressful time, a nerve-racking mix of selling yourself to many different consulting firms while simultaneously trying to figure out which place fits you best. It’s also a time when you hear every firm claim to have the best culture on the market.

While I would argue that there is no such thing as “the best culture” since every person has different needs and desires, I can say unequivocally that the culture at Credera is nothing short of remarkable. It’s not just our commitment to our core values, diversity and inclusion, and social responsibility. It’s how our commitment to those is ever present in our approach to consulting. We go into every project with an open mindset and an intense focus on honesty and transparency. But Credera’s exceptional culture goes even deeper than that.

What makes this place so special is the genuine connection that Crederians strive to make with one another. When I first moved to Dallas, I was concerned about finding a community in this new city. I knew very few people, would be living alone, and was genuinely afraid of not making any new friends. Credera changed that almost instantly. From intramural sports leagues to movie nights to embarrassing myself at Red River (a Texas two-stepping ballroom), most of my Dallas friends have come from work.

Countless times since I started at this firm, I have been blown away by the efforts my colleagues, many of whom I didn’t even know, made to mentor or help me with anything I needed. One of the best examples of this came from the author of the first version of this article, Bobby Pennington.

After the previously mentioned consulting recruiting gauntlet, I was torn between my offer from Credera and a larger consulting firm. It was a difficult decision, one that I was struggling to make.

Looking for some much-needed advice, I remembered my first-round interview with Credera. It was, and still is, the best interview I’ve ever had. I contacted the person who interviewed me, Bobby Pennington, and let him know about my situation. We hopped on a call, and he immediately asked how I was feeling; “I can see in your eyes that you’re stressed, man. You’re going to be okay. Remember, this is a good problem to have.” He took an hour and a half out of his workday to answer all my questions and never once tried to push me toward Credera. He just provided me with counsel and support. This person, whose only responsibility was to interview me, was doing so much more. This stranger was being a friend. That’s the Credera difference.

A little more about Credera

I hope this post provided insight into Credera, who we are, what we do, and the firm we strive to be. If you’re interested in applying for a position at Credera, using our services, or want to learn more about us, please contact us here. We would love to hear from you!

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