Advisor Insights with Doug Smith & Dr Urvashi Pathak

Advisor Insights

Published 27 March 2024

When you are viewed by the market as a global leader, it can be easy to think that you have all the insights and knowledge that you need to stay on top.  This false reality is something that Dr Urvashi Pathak and the DXC Technology leadership team was acutely aware of.

As a healthcare expert and global practice leader guiding growth and customer engagement for a 50 year old, 14 billion dollar revenue organisation, Dr Urvashi recognised the importance of accessing trusted external advice to help the organisation to challenge assumptions, foster new thinking and drive change where needed to help DXC continue to deliver on its commitment to help their customers serve their patient population better.

The careful consideration in the advisory board establishment phase was guided by Certified Chair Doug Smith, as part of the advisory board service provided through his firm Acacia Partners.

In this Advisor Insights interview with Advisory Board Centre Founder Louise Broekman, Dr Urvashi explains the significant role the Healthcare & Life Sciences Advisory Council has in supporting DXC Technology to elevate in meeting the needs or their customers and stakeholders- both today and in the future.  Certified Chair Doug Smith also shares how he has facilitated the scoping and establishment phase of the advisory board to ensure alignment to the key priorities and outcomes to best serve DXC and its stakeholders.


Key Insights

  • How a quality advisory board scoping process reinforces the organisations commitment to excellence and care for the customer
  • The value of an independent chair to facilitate the board – “if you are a physician, don’t treat your own family- get external help.
  • The impact created by alignment of advisory board members to the principles and objectives of the advisory structure (and regular measurement against this).


We needed external advice to elevate, come out of our comfort zone and think out of the box. The framework and governance that Doug brings is extremely effective for us- it’s like putting in a GPS and then looking towards that.


I love the best practice principles that the Advisory Board Center has put together- they guide every aspect of our of our engagement with DXC Technology.

Certified Chair, Managing partner



Read the transcript

Louise Broekman: Welcome to the Advisor Insights Interviews. I’m Louise Broekman, the founder of the Advisory Board Center, and I’m here to review a very important case study in corporatised advisory boards with Dr. Urvashi Pathak. Welcome.

Dr Urvashi Pathak: Thanks, Louise. Excited to be here.

Louise Broekman: And Doug Smith. Welcome.

Doug Smith: Thank you, Louise. Thank you for the opportunity.

Louise Broekman: This is an interesting case study for us to record and follow over time. Dr. Urvashi, if you could provide us an overview of DXC Technology and your role.

Dr Urvashi Pathak: Absolutely. We are DXC Technology. We are a 14 billion revenue company spread in about 76 countries. And believe it or not, like a lot of our competitors, we’ve grown through thoughtful mergers, acquisitions, as well as JVs. We are in the business for about 50 plus years. We operate in 76 different countries and have pride to believe that we are working to position ourselves as the safe pair of hands. We evolve from excellence and excelling at scale. Coming in from HPE and as well as CSC, which the two founding companies that came together, we soon realized that we also wanted to be that right hand side of front-end consulting, thoughtful engineering and such. And that’s where we started acquiring some leading firms in the digital space and design space coming in from Argo Designs, smashing ideas and such.

And as we came in together, that’s who we are. We like to position ourselves as an all-in-one digital consultancy, working across multiple industries, multiple segments. And that’s where I would kind of try to pivot into what my role is. I’m a healthcare expert, so I might end up speaking more about healthcare. Healthcare is one of our, if not the top most industry segments, but definitely the top three industry segments that we provide services in. And my role is that of a global practice leader leading our growth and market penetration for healthcare platform practices, along with leading our healthcare advisory board initiative that we would be talking about today.

Louise Broekman: Terrific. Well, I’m looking forward to diving into that. So thank you and Doug as a Certified Chair, provide a bit of background to you.

Doug Smith: I have spent the last 20 or so years in a mixture of what I’ll call operational leadership and executive functions as well as management consulting. 70% of that time is spent in healthcare in various parts of healthcare, whether it be leading teams and technology teams in large global healthcare companies, or also building management consultancy teams. And the firm that we have now called Acacia , serving healthcare and other industries. And one of our growth offerings is actually the advisory board service.

Louise Broekman: Terrific. And so back to you, Dr. Urvashi. What was the moment in time when you reviewed and thought we are wanting to have an advisory board in the division that you are working in?

Dr Urvashi Pathak: That’s a great question, Louise. And it takes me back to about two years back, we realized that as an industry, we were doing great. We were kind of penetrating the market as well as starting to catch attention. However, there were still pieces missing. And this was right around the time where the entire economy was recovering back from post pandemic. So a lot was changing in the macroeconomic global trends and the industry that we serve. And we realized with that disruption, we needed to stay current. We needed to reposition ourselves as the thought leaders, not just the order takers. My boss likes to call it, not play the plumbing lines, but elevate. And that’s something which was really important to us. That was also the time at which we had a lot of folks coming in from various other companies, and we were committed to change the culture.

We were committed to change the way the market perceived us, and we realized that we needed to enhance a market position, change the entire narrative and change and not take the risk of being changed. So that was something which was truly important for us. And we wanted to hear things or not just treat the situation on our own, but it was about time wherein we wanted to get some external help who would come in and really help us see how do we think we are perceived in the market versus what our customers think we are perceived. And then take us through that journey. And that is what really got us started on the advisory board initiative. Is that right, Doug? I mean, that’s the time around which we started working together, right?

Doug Smith: That’s exactly right.

Louise Broekman: What was that journey like for you, Doug? How did that all start for you in those conversations?

Doug Smith: Well, it was a fascinating opportunity, Louise, that they had the foresight and the willingness to engage with external advisors in a way that I would say differentiates from your traditional, bringing in a consulting firm and having them provide insights and produce some PowerPoints and create some points of view. This is very different in nature. It really was a partnership from the beginning where they understood the changes in the market and they understood I think very well, the things that they felt they wanted to do better and do differently.

What we did then is actually validate that. We validated that a bit with the market as well as internally with their stakeholders. We looked at the voice of customer and really compared that against what they originally had set out to achieve and their objectives. And we reconciled those things to create the mission for the board and from there, the profiles that would be optimal to lever in. It was and continues to be a great partnership with an anchor in transparency. And I think that’s a key tenet whenever you engage as something like this.

Louise Broekman: What was the starting point for you, Doug? What was really important for you in, scoping out that establishment phase? And then Dr. Urvashi, I’ll go to you to talk about how you were able to then prioritize what was important for you.

Doug Smith:  I think back to that really understanding of where they were and where they thought they were and where they really were and where they wanted to be. And it was really important to me that they were willing to allow us to validate that. And so rather than just assume and we collectively start down the road in the path of this is what you need, I think it’s important to take a minute and validate that. And that process was revealing I think in many ways. And it helped shape the way in which we established again, the mission as well as the types of profiles and people that we would want as advisors, the size of it and the way that we would govern it and the way that we would set measures against it. And so I would say in addition to the transparency being a key tenant, for us it was objectivity and the ability to come in as objective and remain objective through the process which is held true.

Louise Broekman: Doug, you are really well aware of the best practice framework around clarity of scope, structure and discipline and measurement, independence and fit for purpose. So that role of independence in your role as a chair, how important was that in that initial scoping process for you?

Doug Smith:  Incredibly important. To be honest, it wasn’t difficult with their culture to maintain independence. They are very, very open and collaborative. The independent thinking was encouraged and well received. And I think that was of those tenets that you mentioned, probably one of the most important for sure. I love the principles that the advisory board center has put together and they really did guide every aspect of our engagement with DXC and continue to do so. And the structure that is established and the great work, Louise, that you and the whole community have done to put into that really makes the process straightforward. There’s not a great deal of ambiguity with it.

There’s a great deal of value with that for us and for our clients. And the clarity of scope and the ability to charter this thing upfront with clear goals and objectives really is a differentiator. And as we talk to others about this type of service, one of the key differentiators between I think traditional advice in any form is that it doesn’t always have these characteristics and principles. And I think having those in place and stated upfront and agreed to makes the world a difference.

Louise Broekman: Thanks, Doug. Dr. Urvashi, the role of Doug being an independent chair and having that independence in that scoping process, why was that important to you when you’ve got a whole landscape of people, internal stakeholders, trying to navigate as well, to do the right thing by everybody?

Dr Urvashi Pathak:  Wonderful question. Let me give you an analogy. Sometimes even if you are a physician, you said, don’t treat your own family. Get an external help. That independence is so important. And that was one of the core tenets for us. We knew we had a group of industry strategists, we had all the data. We also realized that sometimes we might have a tendency to come in our own way and paint a picture that we want to see rather than paint the picture that is the right one for us. And we wanted to do what’s right, not just for improving the narrative, but personally for me, I truly believe companies like ours are extremely essential in helping our customers serve their patient population better. And for that, we need to be elevated and we need to be put out of our comfort zones to really do the right thing.

Doing the right thing is one of the core principles in our company. We are encouraged to be part of something which is bigger than ourselves. And that is the reason why, even though at times that independence might come across as uncomfortable, we love that – just the right amount, wherein that person who’s sitting on the other side has either built these businesses or has been on the side where our customers are. And we needed that external advice, external voice to elevate and come out of our comfort zone and think out of the box. So love that collaboration and independence.

Louise Broekman: Thank you. And Dr. Urvashi, this is still early days, isn’t it, in the establishment phase of the advisory board. From your perspective, what have been the key lessons that you’ve learned that you could share with other organisations thinking about establishing a corporatised advisory board?

Dr Urvashi Pathak:  I love the discipline. I love the framework that Doug was bringing the table in terms of really the scope, really understanding and double clicking into the data that was presented to him and making the right kind of interpretations. Then there is an aspect of constantly reviewing it, right? A lot of times you start a program and if there is lack of engagement at the right time, then you start with an objective and you’ve completely lost your way as the time passes. So that constant program management and governance that Doug was bringing in was extremely effective for us to constantly work on the path that where we wanted to go. It was like putting in a GPS and then working towards that. And then lastly, while you say this is an early stages, to me it’s like it’s been about a year or so and a lot has changed within the company, within the macroeconomic trends, et cetera.

And in fact, we are starting to now think more globally. So with my role now, I’m starting to also impact the APJE’s or the Asia Pacific and Japan market, or the Australian UK and I market, right? So kind of taking these learnings from here and taking them at a global scale has brought in a lot of pivot. So pivoting as we progress has also been something which has been a great learning. So the flexibility, transparency, ability to communicate, ability to still come back to the drawing board and not get stuck has really helped us get the best out of this entire initiative journey.

Louise Broekman: Interesting. Thank you. And Doug, what’s that meant for you as chair when there’s been an evolution in the market and then the evolution in the advisory board for you to manage that process?

Doug Smith :  Well, it’s been exciting. I think anyone who is in a global market today is experiencing some shifts, whether it be in new capabilities from AI, which seems to occupy at least one conversation a day with us to changing profiles and buyer personas and perspectives. And so just the ability to run alongside Dr. Urvashi and the team as the construct of the board had to evolve and has evolved, has been really, really exciting.

The lesson learned, I think, from our perspective is this is not a static thing. It’s not a static world, it’s not a static set of processes. It’s not static market. And you have to be ready for that. And so you design for a governance system and a board, a set of personas and personalities that can still be effective in that environment. It’s not just limited to global system integrators like DXC, I think it’s our firm pretty much every firm. So it’s been exciting. It’s been a great experience for me personally and professionally as well.

Louise Broekman: Dr. Urvashi, it sounds like with that establishment phase, when you are looking at that change in the evolution of the market and the evolution of the advisory board, the advisory board mandates itself around thought leadership hadn’t changed, but the size of the market had. Do you want to just maybe dive into that for me?

Dr Urvashi Pathak: Absolutely, Louise. So as we evolved through the journey, we realized that while we would stick to the thought leadership in the healthcare space, there was actually so much more that could be impacted across the group. And we were starting to see a lot of market warming up in the Asia Pacific, Japan, Australia market segments or the Middle East as well as the UK. And that’s where we were like, Hey, if it is working so well on the North America side where we are starting to get traction, let us take it even a step further. So stick to the healthcare industry segment, let’s expand it beyond. And that’s the pivot that we took, which obviously as it relates to the advisory board, it meant that when we go to the public sector, the revenue and the finance aspects are pretty different. And that’s where the profiles that we were thinking of for the advisors who would be part of this journey had to change. So that was a pivot and the change that we went through.

Louise Broekman: It’s interesting. Doug, we talk about advisory boards being a thinking system, but there’s a whole lot of thinking to go into what that thinking system is and be really open to changes of the scope of that advisory board structure in the establishment phase itself.

Doug Smith:  Absolutely. And this thinking system concept is a fascinating one in that it certainly is resonating with a number of people in the market that we speak with. And I believe together with Dr. Urvashi and the DXC team, we’ve been able to create one. And the expansion globally really did mean a revisit to the entire advisor group to say that as Dr. Urvashi pointed out, in many countries there is public healthcare as the primary as opposed to private healthcare in the US, the dynamics are very different globally than they are in the US. And we proceeded to really evaluate then what are the profiles and the personas that those profiles would fit that would have the greatest impact on a global scale. And as we wrap up this beginning phase of establishment, we really are hyper-focused on ensuring that the profiles are able to meet what I’ll call very aggressive and yet achievable goals in growth for Dr. Urvashi’s portfolio.

When you attach those outcomes, specific to growth and specific to growth in multiple regions, that also sharpens the pin on exactly the type of person that you need as an advisor. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need thought leaders and that this isn’t a thought leadership exercise, but the experience, the breadth of experience and the reach is a bit different when you talk about a global scale and in some cases may even be localized. And so we had to take that into account. I think we’re doing collectively a good job of working through that. We have recast at least half the board to date and feel confident that with this next phase, we’re ready collectively to sign up for significant growth. And the advisory board will be enablers for that.

Louise Broekman: Thank you. It’s an exciting space to watch. And now I’d really appreciate DXC taking on at best practice approach, the advisory board and Doug, you taking it into the American region, the United States, but also globally.


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