Interview with Chief Operating Officer, MST Solutions – Ken Costello


“Humans have to be at the center of any digital transformation or optimization effort, because even the best technology won’t drive results if there’s a lack of internal adoption.”

1. Tell us about your role in MST Solutions?
I am the COO at MST Solutions and in this role I guide our customer acquisition, engagement and retention strategies. As part of this, I work closely with the team to continuously identify how we’re leveraging emerging technologies to support our clients in scaling their marketing, sales and operations. I also support internal initiatives around company culture, team development, and operational efficiency.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
I started my career in higher education at Western International University (later acquired by Apollo Education Group), where I oversaw operations and was responsible for company-wide process improvement and enterprise program management. This was also where I got my feet wet with Salesforce and learned how powerful this tool could be when it’s properly implemented. After undergoing a complete overhaul of the university’s Salesforce, and realizing a major reduction in operational costs, I realized I wanted to help other companies achieve these same results. That’s what led me to MST Solutions.

3. How do you think technology is advancing the business sector?
We know technology is becoming more intelligent, and that intelligence is helping us create more personalized customer experiences, which is important in business. But more importantly, as technology has migrated to the cloud and is built around an open API structure, it’s enabling businesses to bridge gaps in their technology stacks and reduce or completely eliminate the data and operational silos that hold so many organizations back. New technologies, such as Customer 360 Data Manager from Salesforce, will further enable customers to bridge the gaps and improve on CX.

4. How has design thinking and a human-centered approach helped organizations enhance their digital transformation strategies?
Over the last several years, we’ve been seeing more data surface about the success rate of digital transformation efforts –– and the results haven’t been good. There are a number of factors that contribute to these lackluster results, but one of the biggest issues is prioritizing the technology over the people and process.

Humans have to be at the center of any digital transformation or optimization effort, because even the best technology won’t drive results if there’s a lack of internal adoption.

And a lack of adoption usually happens when the new technology is overly cumbersome or makes their job harder. People have to become the priority.

5. How do CRM platforms help develop better customer relationships?
CRMs, when implemented correctly, should serve as a single source of truth for the organization. It should provide a 360-degree view of the customer and provide data that helps inform business decisions.

6. “You don’t need technology, you need solutions and a true partner” Can you elaborate this?
Technology certainly provides the underpinning for digital optimization, but it has to be built and maintained in way that makes life easier for your stakeholders –– internally and externally. We see a number of organizations that integrate with a robust technology, but don’t have a plan in place for change management or for maintaining the system. Overtime, silos are created, they amass quite a bit of technical debt and the system is completely outdated. It’s simply because most internal IT teams don’t have the bandwidth to keep on top of these things while performing their other day-to-day duties. A good solutions partner can support with the maintenance, but should also be able to provide strategic counsel.

7. What advice would you like to give to organizations looking to digitally optimize or transform?
Successful transformation starts with looking at your core processes. To operationalize any technology, it has to improve the workflows and experience for your people and the only way to achieve that is by getting all stakeholders in the room to uncover where pain points and silos exist. Everyone has to get aligned on the big vision, as well as the current state and what it will take to reach the desired state.

8. What is the digital innovation in sales technology according to you that will mark 2020?
I think we’ll see more organizations pulling back the curtain on their technology stack to see where silos and friction exists. We’ll see more teams clean house on the fragmented systems that are currently in use as they migrate to one system that serves as the single source of truth for the entire organization. Technology, such as Customer 360 Data Manager from Salesforce that provides a company-wide 360-degree view of the customer will be a priority in 2020.

9. Are there any major developments in the works?
At MST, we are expanding our operations throughout the Southwest. We recently opened an office in Dallas and are looking to grow strategically through acquisitions within the next year. As we expand, we are continuing to improve our internal processes by rolling out Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

10. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
From our inception, we’ve maintained the goal of balancing purpose and profit –– and we’ve achieved this through a commitment to our “Three Cs”: Customers, colleagues, community, as well as our people- and purpose-first approach to business. Our team strives to make a difference and grow together––personally and professionally––towards a shared goal. I am amazed by our team every day. They are a deeply committed group of individuals –– committed to the communities they serve, to their leadership and development, and to our customers.

11. What movie inspires you the most?
StarWars – I enjoy the stories of the underdog overcoming wild odds. I’ve also enjoyed watching these movies with my kids. It’s been great to take something from my childhood and see my kids have the same experience.

12. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?

13. What are your favorite apps on your phone?
Without a doubt Audible. I typically have three to four books on the go at a time and really enjoy the variety of content I can discover on the app.

Ken Costello is an operations executive who works with mid to large enterprise accounts to help clients deliver large scale sales and marketing automation platforms. Ken focuses on driving growth by investing in client engagement transformation and evolving MST Solutions customer acquisition, engagement and retention strategies. Ken’s experience working in large corporations as an operations executive helps him assist organizations exceed operational goals, streamlining efficiency and driving improvements to the bottom line. Before joining MST Solutions (MST), Ken was executive vice president of operations at Apollo Education Group and was responsible for company-wide process improvement and enterprise program management. In that role, Ken developed and executed the organization's competitive strategy, sales channel management, marketing analytics, inbound and outbound sales efforts, marketing communications, and product marketing.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ken originally came to the United States in 2000 in pursuit of employment and educational opportunities. Ken has a Bachelors of Science in Accounting and a Master of Science, Information Management from Arizona State University. Ken is involved throughout the greater Phoenix community through charitable works and sits on board of directors for the Children First Leadership Academy.

MST Solutions is a global company delivering customer-centric solutions by creating strategically sound business outcomes for clients nationwide. With expertise in cloud services, MST Solutions is Arizona’s largest Salesforce partner that accelerates efficiencies in customer-relationship management and marketing automation for its clients. MST Solutions' Salesforce Sales Cloud Consulting services can help businesses connect with customers and collaborate with coworkers to drive more sales.
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