Under a new flag. And we set sail

itelligence becomes NTT DATA Business Solution. Sounds nice and easy, doesn’t it? But it affects more than 10,000 employees in 28 countries, and just as many customers and partners. How do you transform a transformation expert in record time? By relying on the power of brand and leveraging collaboration under the umbrella of a strong narrative. And bringing professionals together into a real team.

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This is the story of the company formerly known as itelligence AG. A German SAP and IT service provider with more than 10,000 employees in 28 countries, this SME with more than 30 years of experience and annual revenue of over 1 billion euros – whose mission it is to deploy, manage, advance and enhance SAP solutions to shape its clients’ digital transformation – has been part of the global IT giant NTT DATA since 2014.

When the C-suites at itelligence’s parent company in Japan decided to rename their subsidiary NTT DATA Business Solutions in late 2020 and roll out NTT DATA’s corporate design on a grander scale, the message was clear: the time to act and communicate is now. Times of change are always times of uncertainty. But they’re also an opportunity for a fresh start and communication, even when it’s just a company’s branding and a key visual on the surface.

LHLK – Under a new flag. And we set sail

On a rational level, the basic idea is simple: from red to blue. Using the NTT DATA branding makes it easier to do business. But, on an emotional level, the decision is a big deal. That’s because the complete rebranding will mean dealing with a veritable cultural shift, no matter what. Going from locally owned-and-operated showpiece of the regional business scene to just another cog in a multinational corporation’s wheel has the potential to drag an organisation down. Or inspire it to new heights.

Successful transformation is like a brand. The impact unfolds from the inside out.

Together with the marketing agency wob and the core team at today’s NTT DATA Business Solutions (strategy, marketing, communication, HR), we started by focusing on the creation of a brand platform. The mission it formulated – “We Transform. SAP® Solutions into Value.” – was the compass for everything to come. The path to getting there involved multiple in-depth workshops, followed by approval processes in cooperation with the Japanese parent company, the executive board and pivotal stakeholders such as the economic committee.

And then? We made communication the core and driving force of the transformation. While the experts hit the ground running in their areas, we checked in with each partner on a weekly basis using SCRUM-like methods to see whether we were headed in the right direction.

The team gained one strong insight in particular: what unites staff, stakeholders and customers is the desire for a successful transformation, inspiring us to come up with the mission “… making it work for YOU”. This positioning later served as the basis for a strong digital campaign headed up by wob.

LHLK – Under a new flag. And we set sail

We poured our expertise – internal communication, change communication and external PR – into a multi-stage, multifaceted plan of action. Internally, we started by concentrating on clearly formulated information, such as virtual town halls and video formats. What followed were orientation measures (dialogue events, Q&A sessions) coupled with a campaign to recruit and educate change ambassadors, accompanied by continuous, transparent communication on progress and training. While all that was going on, we also completely revamped the employee newsletter and took it digital. On that new digital channel, we talked to staff about the opportunities and uncertainties associated with #TRANSFORMATION2021. Special attention was paid to conveying the clear message that the change meant new possibilities rather than job cuts. For staff, it means better personal development opportunities and more internationality. And for the company, it means better market opportunities.

LHLK – Under a new flag. And we set sail

External communication was guided by playbooks, multimedia content and LHLK as a central hub for 28 countries, as well as a meticulously planned launch day that turned out a complete success. In addition, we positioned CEO Norbert Rotter as the face of the transformation and a thought leader in the SAP community.

And then? We started looking for strong images and formats to cement awareness of the brand and the SAP expertise it embodies. In the end, the team found just the right imagery to tell the story behind the journey. A few weeks before the new brand was set to go live, NTT DATA Business Solutions set sail. Literally. A branded catamaran toured the Baltic Sea, connecting staff, customers and the market with the positive new message. All technology aside, the new branding is about people, after all.

LHLK – Under a new flag. And we set sail

Stefan andJan are particularly proud that the key members of the NTT DATA Business Solutions crew all remained on board despite the many changes. The 27 per cent year-on-year growth in business at NTT DATA Business Solutions also fills them with pride.

The astonishing pace at which we got the job done continues to amaze us to this day. In less than six months, we planned and executed this behemoth project with no prior preparation under pandemic conditions, forcing us to communicate virtually from start to finish. In a nutshell: work and make it work – as a strong team. With the power of smart storytelling.

“The best executive communication in years.” What else is there to say?

#TRANSFORMATION2021 has been honoured on multiple occasions. The accolades include the German Brand Award in four categories (including “Brand Strategy of the Year” and “Brand Revival of the Year”), as well as words of praise from the parent company’s headquarters in Tokyo that are enough to make anyone blush – with Rob Rasmussen, the global chief marketing officer of NTT DATA, calling the campaign “the best executive communication in years”. What could we possibly add to that?