Issue #3/2015F.Radice THE EFFECTIVE CORPORATE STRATEGY OF AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES – WORLDWIDE BUSINESS WITH DUE RESPECT TO PARTICULAR REGIONAL STANDARDS
Agilent Technologies occupies the leading position at the market of analytical instruments and equipment for quite a long time. The company has a lot of customers all over the world, including a number of Russian cities. How could you conduct your business so effectively, that you have established almost personal relationships with each of your customers, independently of his home country?
Our business strategy is to organize the local representation offices wherever we have or could potentially have customers. On the one hand, our business has a global nature, so we tend to serve all points on Earth. On the other hand, our local offices provide a close contact with customers located at the surrounding areas. Their employees are permanently living in the country or region rather than occasionally coming there from time to time. They are well aware of particular culture and mentality of local citizens, therefore they can recommend our most suitable equipment, taking into account the specific regional standards and legislation. It is not often the case when our local office serves a customer from another country. Our offices are still not introduced in some countries or regions where our customers are located, but we are permanently expanding their network.
Our local representation office in Moscow, leaded by Konstantin Yu. Evdokimov, controls the activity of all local Agilent Technologies distributors and partners in the European part of Russia. This office represents the Russian branch of our company and therefore provides its uniform strategy at the Russian market and presents company’s “unique face” for customers, despite there is a great number of quite different distributors. In their turn, the distributors provide a close connection between the company and customers. They purchase instruments and spare parts in our central offices in advance and store them at the local warehouses established in the Russian cities.
All local offices and distribu-tors of Agilent Technologies are permanently controlled by the company’s central departments. Each employee of any local business unit should receive a special certificate from Agilent Technologies which would acknowledge that this person is authorized for installation and maintenance of instruments belonging to a certain class and a certain product line. The company conducts regular training sessions and seminars for employees of local offices and distributors. Trainings can take place in our European offices or at the partner laboratories, as well as in the countries where we have our representation offices. Trainings within Europe could be in English, German, French, or Spanish. We try to teach people in the languages that are most convenient for them: North Africans could learn in French, Latin Americans – in Spanish, etc. In Poland or Turkey, for example, it is more suitable to provide the trainings locally, in the native languages of those countries, because there is a lot of local staff, and we also have academic partnerships that allow teaching people at the same high level as in Germany or France.
Russian distributors’ employees are normally trained in Moscow, in our representation office, or in our partner laboratory based at the Department of Chemistry in Moscow State University (MSU). Training in selling, installation and fitting solutions for specific analytical problems is always best to carry out in a local surrounding, taking into account the peculiarities of local market and standards. On the other hand, the service courses are usually carried out in one of our European offices, at the international level, where Russian specialists are studying together with people from other countries. In addition, we organize seminars devoted to either some particular instrument models or applications of Agilent instruments at the specific areas, such as food or petrochemical industry. Such seminars are normally carried out in two stages: first, the employees of our Moscow office are trained abroad, usually at these models’ manufacturers, and afterwards they return back to Moscow and teach the representatives of Russian distributors, whose number could reach several tens.
Does your company have any specific business strategies particularly for the Russian market?
We consider every country with its market as an individual formation. Obviously, several market sectors are developed quite differently in various countries. In particular, Russia has well-developed petrochemical industry, Turkey is famous with its food industry; some other countries are notable for their pharmaceutical market or academic research. Owing to our local offices, we discover the customers’ needs in every country and notice which instruments from our catalogue could be of the most interest. We also try to complete our local offices by particular specialists whose qualifications would reflect the needs of local markets. For instance, if there is any country whose largest market segment is pharmaceutics, we could either send qualified pharmacists to that local office or train the local stuff for making them to become such specialists.
What about Russian market, it is just the case when the local infrastructure of Agilent Technologies is developed much better than in many other countries, and it is still developing further. Moscow representation office as well as the Russian distributors are completed by experts that are not available in many of our offices in other countries. On the one hand, they are well acquainted with details and features of our products listed in catalog, and, on the other hand, they are well aware of the situation at the Russian market, the legislation, the requirements of the Russian pharmacopoeia, metrology, etc. Unlike that, many of our competitors do not have such well-developed local representation, and they have to serve Russian customers from abroad, with not enough respect to the peculiarities of Russian market; besides that, thay have to spend time and money for the equipment delivery and customs formalities. Otherwise, they have to work with customers through distributors whose personnel could be poorly imformed about our products and their features.
What is the importance of your company’s collaboration with Russian research centers and laboratories?
Undoubtedly, such partnership is quite important for us. It concerns the application of our instruments for the specific analytical problems, development of new methods and their validation and certification for official use, rather than development of new equipment models. The new equipment is developed by our own specialists. Again, it is extremely important to know the specific Russian standards, legislation, as well as legal technicalities and various “pitfalls” in the certification procedures. This requires a strong feedback from our customers, particularly from academic institutions and research centers.
Presently, the main bottleneck of analytical procedures is sample preparation. It is the thing where our customers have now the most need for new methodological approaches to be developed. We organize regular meetings with our Russian customers in order to keep ourselves informed about the nature of samples they are working with, e.g. oil, meat, drugs, or others, so what methods of sample preparation we should develop or modify. After that, we select several tens of the most popular targets and develop the required methodological solutions. For this, we try to use our most modern columns and solid phase extraction cartridges, the most innovative software, and all of our means and facilities. Such development we perform in a close cooperation with our customers represented by the research centers and laboratories.
Do you have many official and state relevant organizations among your Russian customers?
Yes, there are many budget state institutions among our customers, including the organizations responsible for the development and certification of official standards. Our instruments are used at the legal medicine organizations, national food and environment control laboratories, etc. In many cases, they gained status of reference for the national standards. A good example is the Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) mass spectrometer ICP-8800, located at D.I. Mendeleev National Institute of Metrology. Since there are no similar instruments from other companies, it was not unexpected that this device became a national reference. Similar cases of choosing our devices as references are not unique in the world practice. In particular, spectrometers Cary 5000 and Cary 7000 are used in the UK National Physical Laboratory to establish global standards for analysis of wines.
Last year Agilent Technologies was divided onto Keysight Technologies producing electronics and a renewed Agilent Technologies that is now specialized only on the analytical equipment. Are there any essential effects of such company division for the business?
Such division was not a random event, as it was dictated by the market requirements. And it really made a positive impact. Now we can focus our efforts on customer needs rather than scattering them in many directions. For example, we have improved a comprehensive service of so-called cross-laboratories. It is known that our company provides maintenance and support for both individual instruments and complex systems or even whole laboratories. The cross-laboratory is such a laboratory that comprises not only Agilent instruments but one or more devices from other manufacturers.The qualification of our engineers allow them to perform the maintenance of such "foreign" devices, to ensure their compatibility with Agilent instruments, to choose the suitable operating software, and even to replace some parts in the "foreign" device. We could normally perform such work, but only if there is not so much "foreign" equipment in the laboratory, around 20 percent or less, and if they are manufactured by one of our main competitors like Waters, Shimadzu, Thermo Fisher, Perkin Elmer, etc., but not by any little-known Russian producer. In such a case, our engineers should undergo an additional training and obtain the certificates from Agilent Technologies certificates which would allow them to work with "foreign" devices. As I said, the policy of our company requires the certificate allowing every touch to any device. However, such comprehensive service will be more convenient and profitable for a customer than calling an engineer from every device manufacturer.
After the company’s division we can simplify the distribution of our income. We can support research and development in chemistry, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, as well as market investigations in these areas. Before this, we were always discussing for a long time about money distribution, and as a result, money were often spent inefficiently. Now Agilent could spend 10% or more of annual income for research and development of new instruments.Consequently, we can present a lot of new products, which have no analogues among competitors. Only in the field of spectroscopy, our company had introduced last year five new devices including absolute leaders, such as optical emission spectrometer ICP-OES 5100 and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer ICP-MS 7900. One of the most important principles of our business is to be always one step ahead of competitors in the innovations.
Now we can more actively develop our program for sales of ready-to-use solutions for the particular analytical tasks and problems. Such solutions are extremely simple in handling. All you need to do is to unpack the device, to turn the power on, to apply the sample, afterwards you directly get a result. The preliminary calibration is no longer required. Implementation of these solutions does not only simplify the work for our customers, but also facilitates the task for our distributors' staff, since such devices do not need any special procedures of installation and testing.
Does your company try to simplify the instruments and make them more under-standable? Unfortunately, today we observe a general decline in personnel qualification, and there is a growing need in equipment that could be operated by any unskilled technician, or first-year student.
On the one hand, we are really trying to develop the instruments which are the most easily operated. Besides this, we provide them with new functions such as remote control or reading data from the screen of a usual mobile phone. On the other hand, the task formulation or result interpretation requires some qualification level and could hardly be simplified. Since that, we also perform the training of our customers. On a regular basis, with a certain periodicity, there are teaching courses at our MSU-based partner laboratory. They include not only training and seminars on our instruments, but also basics of the analytical methods, especially gas and liquid chromatography. It was not unexpected that we established our partner laboratory at the Department of Chemistry in MSU. Many high-qualified professors and teachers are working there for a long while, and they gained a lage experience in teaching of students. The Division of Analytical Chemistry, where the students are trained, is mostly equipped with Agilent instruments, so the teachers of MSU are already familiar with many of our devices. If necessary, our Moscow office could send a teacher to any Russian city where our instrument is installed. The teaching employees themselves are trained by a special unit of our company called Customer Education, which also develops and issues the training courses and materials. The same unit is responsible for translation of all materials and training courses into Russian and other national languages.