The chief strategy officer's role in a data & AI-driven world
AI, Data & Analytics

The chief strategy officer's role in a data & AI-driven world

Katie Stein, the chief strategy officer and global business leader of enterprise services and analytics at Genpact, discusses digital transformation.
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In this podcast, Heidrick & Struggles’ Leanne Arcinue speaks to Katie Stein, the chief strategy officer and global business leader of enterprise services and analytics at Genpact, a global professional services firm, and a non-executive director at CTG, a leading provider of digital transformation ID solutions and services. Stein discusses the evolution of the chief strategy officer role and its integration with a digital transformation leader role, sharing who she collaborates most with and how she uses data and analytics to help clients transform as well. She also talks about the importance of DE&I to both Genpact and herself and shares how her board role at CTG is influencing her role at Genpact.

Some key questions answered in this podcast include:

  • (1:46) Can you share with the chief strategy officer and digital transformation leader role looks like today? 
  • (5:59) Your role today requires specific partnerships and strong collaboration with a broad set of stakeholders. Who do you collaborate with the most day-to-day? 
  • (8:58) As a global business leader of the analytics business, you focus on defining and meeting the growing transformation needs of your clients with a focus on leveraging data and analytics. Where do you expect to see these efforts drive the biggest change for your customers? 
  • (11:30) How important is DE&I to Genpact’s strategy and why or how are you working with your peers to improve this at Genpact?  
  • (15:25) You’re also on the board of directors at CTG. How would you say that your board director role has influenced your role as chief strategy officer and vice versa?

Below is a full transcript of the episode, which has been edited for clarity.

Welcome to the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. Heidrick is the premier global provider of senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services. Diversity and inclusion, leading through tumultuous times, and building thriving teams and organizations are among the core issues we talk with leaders about every day, including in our podcasts. Thank you for joining the conversation. 

Leanne Arcinue: Welcome to the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. Hi, I’m Leanne Arcinue, a principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ New York office and a member of the global Technology & Services Practice, which includes the consulting and advisory services, IT services, and outsourcing sectors. In today’s podcast, I'm excited to speak with Katie Stein, chief strategy officer and global business leader of enterprise services and analytics at Genpact, a global professional services firm.

As chief strategy officer, Katie leads the development and execution of Genpact's corporate strategy, including the company's focus on priority service lines and the realignment of its product and solutions portfolio. She's also a leader in Genpact’s merger and acquisition activities. As global business leader of Genpact's enterprise services, Katie leads the company's core services portfolio encompassing all functions, including finance and accounting, order management, source to pay, supply chain, and enterprise risk. 

Katie is also on the board of CTG, and prior to Genpact was a partner at Mercer for over six years. Katie, thank you very much for joining us today. 

Katie Stein: Leanne, thanks so much for having me. 

Leanne Arcinue: Great. Well, Katie, to kick off this conversation, can you share with the chief strategy officer and digital transformation leader role looks like today?

Katie Stein: Great. Thanks, Leanne. I'd be happy to share what the chief strategy officer and digital transformation leader role looks like. But first, maybe let me just take a moment and give you the context of that role here at Genpact. So, Genpact is a public company. We were formed over 20 years ago, as part of GE, actually, and we successfully spun out and today we're over $4 billion. When I joined Genpact six years ago as the chief strategy officer, our remit was to take a business that was around $2 billion, double it in that timeframe, and transform what we do and how we solve problems for our clients to be far more digitally led, bringing data analytics and digital to get to a new set of outcomes, always resting on our heritage of operational excellence.

You can imagine that's quite a big playing field for a chief strategy officer on day one. And I think that really what the role meant six years ago was common alignment around where were we headed as a company. And there are many questions that companies face with respect to what their core competency is, their competitive advantage, and where they should play. And so we spent a lot of time as a team and with my leadership laying down some guardrails around what industry verticals, what service lines, and solution areas we wanted to participate in. And that's important because that common alignment then needs to cascade to an organization. We're over 100,000 people serving our clients and trying to bring that to life every day.

The second thing I think that the role really does is then translate that vision statement into a set of objectives. So, how will we know if we're on the right path? We all know that the world around us is changing quite dramatically and we have to be agile—or we hear that all the time. So, the question is, how do you put in place a mechanism to pick your vision, align it, translate it into a set of objectives, and then actually create a set of key results that you can monitor almost at six-week frequencies? 

And that's really important because organizations are a set of resources, and you can imagine that as we were maturing the capabilities we decided to invest in, they were all at different levels of maturity and we have to work with other parts of our organization, maybe the marketing team, to do things like promote our brand in the market. So, if we're not tightly coupled on key results in looking at those frequently, oftentimes organizations can get pulled in different directions and pulled apart. We see that with our clients all the time, too. So, the chief strategy and digital transformation role is really around keeping the organization focused on the few things that we have to do in the next quarter, let's say, in order to be able to measure whether what we think will work is working and to course-correct very quickly when we see that it's not. And so, in many ways, it's, you know, almost an analytics role in the organization to tie that all together and bring that to life to get to the kind of results that we've seen. And today, we're over $4 billion, with half of our business coming from new solutions and data technology and AI.

Leanne Arcinue: Given the many opportunities and possibilities in data and AI, as you mentioned, how will this role change in the future? What does it look like two to three years down the line? 

Katie Stein: There are really two ends to that question, Leanne. The first is, I think, as a public company in particular, in more volatile public markets, where capital has many places to lend itself with all of the pent-up demand, let's say, in private equity and in the public markets, I think that, first, the role itself has to be far more closely linked with our chief financial officer. And so, our CFO and I worked together almost daily to talk about resources, investments, and reallocation. And it comes back maybe to the comment I made earlier around speed: strategy used to be something that you invited a Think4 or BCG or McKinsey, and they wrote something down, and the organization looked at it and slowly started to move against that strategy. I think that now, it's much more of a weekly or monthly rhythm, almost akin to the financial results, but strategy is really looking to a more medium set of objectives. 

The other end is, obviously, companies were being challenged to both deliver results in the near term and drive innovation and partnerships and ecosystem moves for the medium term. So, strategy really holds the horizon thinking and has to be expert in being able to balance the short-term needs and the agility of financials while keeping priorities for the medium term, that horizon two, horizon three, so that as a company, we have a sustainable position five years from now.

Leanne Arcinue: Your role today requires specific partnerships and strong collaboration with a broad set of stakeholders. Who do you collaborate with the most day-to-day? 

Katie Stein: Yeah, first of all, I look at my key stakeholders as two primary groups. One is our board, which represents our shareholders, and the second is the global leadership team. We report to our CEO, Tiger, and really, I bridge and create alignment between those two audiences, which we talked about earlier, and [discuss] sort of the execution of the financial plan for the coming year, but also the execution of the strategic financial plan for the next five years, making sure that we're communicating and creating the transparency around how we're using our capital and reinvesting our profits to drive that, as well as how we'll drive transformation to fund those initiatives. 

So, that would be who I see as my key stakeholders day-to-day. But I think there's another set of stakeholders who are equally important for the chief strategy and digital officer to be aware of, oftentimes what I call the “fuzzy middle.” Organizations are very adept at rejecting change, and so really you have to think about how you're translating the culture and priorities of the company down three, four, and five levels to make sure that individuals understand how the decisions they're making affect the direction in which we're headed and the types of results we can produce as a company. And so, I spend a lot of time out in the market with our clients and our teams together to try to, again, link our corporate objectives to what we're doing every day and the decisions we're making around pricing, solutions, hiring, and talent so that we really are ready for the company we want to be in three years from now. 

Leanne Arcinue: Moving from an advisor role at Mercer to an executive role at Genpact, were there any surprises when you first took on the chief strategy role? 

Katie Stein: Yeah, the first thing was just that Genpact is a growth-oriented, fast-growth company, and I think one of the things that I really had to reorient myself around, and I think it's important for everyone to think through, is, if you're going to be a chief strategy officer, or if you're given the task of driving transformation, what’s the context of your company? How do they make decisions? What's important to them? And I can remember, early on, in a meeting, saying, “OK, we can fund this digital platform by shutting down these hiring indents.” And the room just went silent. And I realized that we never close hiring indents because we're always looking for the greatest talent in the market. That's what professional services is. And so, I really had to reorient to “How do we make decisions? What's the language we use, what's the context of this particular company?” And I think that translates to culture. What is the pride of the organization around who we believe we are? And, as anyone thinks about these roles, they can be very different in different organizations based on that.

And so I think really get in through the interview process or once you're within the company walls work to understand that, spend time to understand it deeply, because from that foundation one can start to drive change and integrate how new things will come into that fabric and be additive or disruptive in good ways. But with that as context. 

Leanne Arcinue: There are so many facets to your role. And then, as a global business leader of the analytics business, you focus on defining and meeting the growing transformation needs of your clients with a focus on leveraging data and analytics to derive actionable insights for meaningful business outcomes. Where do you expect to see these efforts drive the biggest change for your customers? 

Katie Stein: So, it's such a fascinating question because I've been part of the community that's been believing that data and technology would unlock the potential of AI for the last several years. And there's been a community of people who've been talking about this for 20, 25 years. But I am very optimistic, considering a number of innovations that have been happening, that AI is about to reach, sort of, scale and our clients' enterprise level.

Let me explain what I mean by that. I think three, four years ago, there was a lot of discussion, in which AI was seen almost as a next iteration on automation. So, AI was about driving productivity, using use cases where we could use AI as opposed to people. And as you'll remember, there was all this debate, will AI replace human? And I think many of us said, “No, this is additive. It's human in the loop. This is about humans training algorithms so that we can actually get to superior outcomes faster.” What's really exciting now is a lot of our clients are saying, “That was great.”

We experimented a lot, but in order for AI to reach its potential at the enterprise, we have to rethink how we operate, and by the way, we're changing our business strategies. So let's step back and not look as AI as a substitute for people. Let's think about how we create autonomous processes that enable new strategies, that are more agile, move faster. Predict more use information so that we can actually get more targeted and focuses with our resources. So, I think we're sort of at this tectonic shift and obviously the recent announcements about large language models with ChatGPT and otherwise have, you know, made everyone really excited and reinvigorated again. But I'm very excited the next few years, that's the next curve of innovation that we're going onto. 

Leanne Arcinue: Definitely exciting times. I am very interested in the future of AI. Our annual survey of data analytics and artificial intelligence executives found that the data analytics and AI function is one that has been lacking in diversity. How do you feel about this? 

Katie Stein: Our belief is that it is true. Broadly in technology and many of the areas that I work. It's true. 

Leanne Arcinue: Well, in the US, 81% of the respondents were male, and 17% were women. And so, for you, how important is DE&I to Genpact’s strategy and why or how are you working with your peers to improve this at Genpact? 

Katie Stein: Leanne, to me, diversity is inextricably linked to strategy. And it is diversity and inclusion. Because here at Genpact, by all measures, we have diversity of geographic location. You know, we're a global company working in many countries, and in many meetings, there are very diverse opinions depending on where we originate from. And so, inclusion becomes the first foundation for me. How do we actually elicit all that innovation and creativity by allowing for debate? But then there are things that systematically we have to do as a company, and we have regarding certain populations, gender being one of them. We have to create an environment somewhere where each individual can thrive.

And that focus on the employee allows us to recruit better. And we have many initiatives that we do along with our women's leadership program, WINGS, which is a community of women that come together to talk about issues and raised agendas. We work with various external organizations to try to promote the topic. We even work with a number of schools, for example, in India, to actually work with children who are coming up, young women to promote their careers and help invest in them.

All those things aside, I actually believe in and oftentimes work in the ecosystem of this topic. Because the reality is that as one company, we can do many things, but this is broader than Genpact or any other one of our peers. This is about us working together. So, for example, I host, on LinkedIn, a women in supply chain technology group with one of my colleagues. And really, our objective there is to figure out how to actually encourage more women to grow up in the industry, which provides more talent to us and also more gender diversity on the client side when we're working with them.

So I think you have to step back and look at it as, what can we do as a company? How do we set clear metrics and objectives around DE&I, and tie it to our strategy and our financial performance? And then, how can we work with the ecosystem so that we can collectively create a bigger base of talent that we can all work within?

Leanne Arcinue: That's great. As you know, I'm very passionate about this as well, women in tech and services. I think it's a very great thing that you are leading the charge here. One of the topics that we hear come up all the time as well, when discussing DE&I is the importance of allyship. How do you think that you and other leaders can create a culture of allyship? One in which employees and other peers can help advocate for one another. How important is this with your organization or also in your career? 

Katie Stein: Yeah, so taking it one step back from gender, I think allyship is a critical topic for all populations, and again, I think it's something very closely linked to inclusion and I think speaks to core leadership traits. I don't think that I've gotten to the role that I'm in because I've been exceptional. I've gotten to the role because I've built exceptional teams. And I do make a point to include diversity in those teams—diversity of opinion, diversity of background, diversity of gender. But I think, for leaders, if you look back on your careers, typically it's not because of one moment in time when you were unique, it's about a system or scaling power you built of leadership behind you. And allyship is one of the ways that you think about lifting up people and giving them that platform and opportunity. And stepping behind them to give them air cover as opposed to stepping in front of them. And I think it’s really important that we each practice that every day. 

It also requires deep listening skills. It requires that we really understand. And I think that's something for anyone who's thinking about being in the role of strategy or transformation. So much of our job is understanding varied points of view and then helping people coalesce around a set of actions we can agree on. It’s not always that we all are 100% aligned, and I think that deep listening comes back to the topic of allyship. So, promoting the platform. Listening and giving that room and space for people to be very successful is critical to all leadership. 

Leanne Arcinue: Katie, you're also on the board of directors at CTG, a leading provider of digital transformation ID solutions and services. How would you say that your board director role as influence your role as chief strategy officer and vice versa? 

Katie Stein: It's a wonderful question because, when I was thinking about taking the role on the board of CTG, Tiger, our CEO, and I spent some time together talking about it and I remember he said to me, “I think this will be really good for you.” And what he was really speaking to is when I was interacting with our board, early in my time at Genpact as our chief strategy officer, I oftentimes either was in the persona of a BCG consultant (which is my heritage), where we would come in with great recommendations, or my leadership team where I was looking for that “A-plus attaboy” reaction. And I didn't really reflect on the role of governance, of our board, so I was speaking to our board as if they were one of those other two communities or personas. Sitting on a board now, I understand that I'm not there to operate the company. I'm there to provide guidance, I'm there to represent the shareholders. I'm there to make sure that the decisions we're making are in the best interest of the shareholders and the sustainability of the company has really changed my perspective in those conversations with our own board. So, I think my number one lesson is that oftentimes we have to step back and really ask, you know, each audience is not the same. And so, what is our role in shaping an agenda with each of those audiences, and why are we there together? That's the first. 

The second is, so many companies have common challenges, and when you're in the role of strategy, much of the role is connecting dots, seeing patterns. Patterns can predict what might happen next. And so, having yet another venue where I'm seeing a lot of common issues in the tech services industry, I can connect patterns between the two companies and what we're seeing, even though we serve different segments. That's additive to CTG and it's additive to me.

And then, lastly, we've talked a little about culture and diversity. CTG is a very small company vis-a-vis Genpact, but one of their core tenants is really around being one of the greatest places to work. And culture is so important to them in every decision that they make. And reflecting on their view of that and then bringing that vantage point back to everything I do at Genpact, the two have had great reciprocity.

Leanne Arcinue: That's great. Do you have any advice to give to professionals wanting to be a leader in the strategy and transformation space, whether that's an executive role or a board role? 

Katie Stein: There are really two avenues I'd go for that, Leanne. I would say that the first one is around selecting the right context for you. We talked earlier about how strategy is being pulled in many directions. In some companies, it's far more aligned to financial strategies of the company. In some, it's about innovation and product management. And so, I think you have to understand where your strengths lie and what sort of strategy team or board assisting strategy you want to be leaning into. So knowing your expertise angle is very important.

The second avenue, I think, is really understanding the top leadership. Far too often, that strategy is an exercise that's done once in a while and then put on a shelf, and companies are really heavily dominant toward just execution; deliver the results in the moment for the quarter, for the month. And so I think it's important to understand who the sponsors are. How did they think about strategy? How did they think about actually dedicating resources? Here at Genpact, I own our R&D budget. And we're services firm, so it's not technology R&D, per se, but it's all of the capabilities we're building. And that's about 3% of our revenue. And so, having those resources at my disposal to be able to fund initiatives that are important to us and work with my stakeholders gives me real skin in the game as opposed to maybe, you know, a presentation on a shelf. 

And then I think the last thing I’ll saw is that you should be a continuous learner for any role, but particularly in strategy, where you're meant to be looking around the dark corners. And I say that very deliberately. Dark corners can be opportunity, something someone else hasn't seen yet, or risk. And your job as that custodian of the strategy is, as we talked about in the beginning, to measure in small, tight increments of time what's happening, how the company is performing around the metrics you thought it would perform on, and then looking around the corners to say, “OK, how do we make this more explosive, because I can see it going in the right trajectory.” Or, “Wait a minute, there's a risk we didn't see. How do we pivot?” And honestly, you know, if we go back three years, that was Covid. That was the pandemic. Everyone had a strategy and their strategy had to shift on a dime, and that's where roles like this become really important to then re-harness the energy and get the alignments so that the organization can move forward and not be stayed.

Leanne Arcinue: Well, it's been great learning about your experience, your thoughts about the future, your thoughts about these roles. Maybe one last question as we bring this conversation to a close. What is your message to the next generation of leaders in technology and services? 

Katie Stein: Leanne, that's a wonderful last question because I just was with a team two weeks ago in India and we were talking about this very subject. My very strong view of the world is that we have created very deep, exceptional technical talent in pockets across industries, whether it's a software company that has developed a platform in its engineering, or at a data and analytics firm that developed deep techniques. The fact of the matter is, in the services industry where many of us are working, it's all about how our clients articulate and the way they define value in their business strategies. And so, to me, and I've said this to my team many times, we have to take all that capability and now contextualize it to industry.

So, what does that mean? It means large language models—and we're all talking about how great they are, but they have certain areas where they can deliver superior outcomes. Applying them to every problem like a blunt force isn't going to work very well. Large language models are really great at coordinating lots of data sets that are coming in for the kinds of iterative things we have to do when we're interacting, let's say in a payable function, the payables help desk. I mean, it may be a very mundane use case, but it's because we understand the work that happens in payables and we understand the technology that can now be applied. And that coming together, the convergence, is why as a company we're starting with domain and business knowledge and then we're shifting left to bring in more and more capability from technology and AI and data, as opposed to starting with technology and using it ad hoc across companies, across industries, and so on.

It's all about really understanding the strategy of our clients and how we can use technology to accelerate that. And so, to me, convergence is the name of the game for the next five years. 

Leanne Arcinue: That's an amazing message. Thank you, Katie. Thank you for making the time to speak with us today. 

Katie Stein: Thanks so much, Leanne. I really enjoyed it.

Leanne Arcinue: Thank you.

Thanks for listening to the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. To make sure you don’t miss more future-shaping ideas and conversations, please subscribe to our channel on the podcast app. And if you’re listening via LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube, why not share this with your connections? Until next time. 

About the interviewer

Leanne Arcinue ( is a principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ New York office and a member of the global Technology & Services Practice.

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