Digital transformation has landed on business today with a raucous explosive BOOM. News publications, social media and business leaders scream the message that today more than ever digital transformation must take hold for businesses to hit the ground running once the current crisis settles, otherwise they will be caught out of step. The mantra continues that technology adoption that traditional occurred over years, decades, now has to happen in the following weeks and months post the pandemic. The pressure to evolve quickly or face the consequences is very real but the reality is that in order to do so one must develop a sound strategy as well as understand how digitization has worked to date to help business shift traditional practices from yesterday into the cloud and the ML/AI world of tomorrow, today.
Why, because without effective process and strategy, digital change can also lead to unintended consequences. A recent survey from AppDynamics found that 95% of respondents mentioned changing their technology priorities during the pandemic with as many as 71% stating that technology innovation had been adopted in mere weeks/months due to the pandemic, rather than the traditional multi-year slog companies traditionally face. The bigger implication though is that 76% of the same group also mentioned concern over the rush decisions they have made during the crisis and the impact those will have in the years to come.
So, what is it? Looking at a leader in the digital workspace, Salesforce, we can look to their definition:
Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. This reimagining of business in the digital age is digital transformation.
At Cinelytic, we view digital transformation as evolving traditional manual workflows into efficient, rapid ways of work, that allow for multi-user functionality, remote work all in real time with the backbone of ML/AI. What use to take 10 hours, now takes 20 minutes.
We all to seem to understand what digital transformation or aspects of it is, the bigger issue is how does one truly implement workable solutions. Below are six ideas gleaned from research into how to best move forward:
1. Determine Strategy/Think Long Term: rather than implement technology as a goal in and of itself, one should implement a strategy the uses technology to achieve that goal. Banks are concerned with preventing fraud in real time. The goal is to stop crime before it happens, not to simply bring CRM and data analytics in house.
2. Use Insiders: No one knows the business better than those who sell it day to day and front face with customers in real time. How best to serve a customer than to elevate insiders to champion the clients cause. It is through their initiative and attentiveness to the customer experience that one can evolve.
3. Recognize Fear of Being Replaced: a constant threat that we deal with day in and day out is the fear employees have of being replaced by machines. This belief is far from the truth. Employees may have to adapt and shift work habits (relearn) but directly replacing personnel with an application, bot or platform misses the point. The idea of technology is to make life faster and easier, allowing for personnel to do more, much more, in less time, with less work.
4. Design with the customer in focus: It feels obvious, but it is more difficult in its execution than it sounds. The customer develops loyalty and affinity due to the care one places on their experience and crafting/tailoring the technology interface/messaging to those subjective wants and needs.
5. Pivot shift flat culture to implement: Digital innovation requires no judgement, quick thinking, and transparency for it to work. It is a process of many starts, pivots and re-directs to find the right mix. Hierarchal organizations with layers of approval and fear of responsibility or mistakes will not thrive in this environment. Different processes, data and technologies must be tested repeatedly and against each other to understand what works. It is not about higher ups directing the work on platforms they do not understand or will ever use. It becomes about empowering those that interface with the product and customer routinely to drive its development, implementation, and adoption. Meritocracies rule in this environment.
6. Use a suite of products, not just focus on one: When thinking transformation, one may focus on individual end goals: CRM, internal/external communication, security, data analytics, work remotely collaboratively. The reality is that the strategy mentioned above should allow for a matrix of solutions to create one robust long-term strategy. A singular focus (micro) limits the creativity and reach of a solution (marco) and may imperil an organization’s long-term viability.
We live with great examples of successful digital transformation every day. More than we care to identify when we sit back and think about it. From travel reservation systems, to online advertising that follows you from site to site, to Domino’s Pizza delivering ready-made pizzas in a timely manner to Uber and Uber Eats providing customized experiences to every rider/eater in their ecosystem, it lives with us every day. Some major/minor examples are outlined below.
Seven years of work has proved fruitful for Best Buy who once thought Amazon would kill them unless they adapted. They shifted contact with the consumer from direct mail to digital. The consumer and their experience transformed as well; each consumer comes with a customer ID that outlines their social footprint. This in turn can motivate customer associates whether Best Buy or Geek Squad to service a client quickly and efficiently. In the current crisis, it allowed the company to quickly provide curbside pickup at any one of their retail outlets in real time. Need a new router or refrigerator, Best Buy was ready and available.
In banking, consumers are using mobile and online functionality increasingly every day. As a consequence, there has been a greater frequency of fraud. Part of digital transformation has gone to ameliorate that situation with technologies put in place to in real time prevent occurrences of theft. In several cases, AI can now prevent this from happening. Tracking patterns, purchase history, etc., data analytics can quickly and efficiently stop things before they happen. A kind of MINORITY REPORT in the here and now. But there is more that technology can do to evolve the customer. That customer today wants to do more online/mobile than ever before and has affinity for those companies that provide seamless targeted customer experiences. The complaint is not what can technology do, the issue is what is it doing for me! Customers also feel more connected when they get more out of the very processes that are now available to them. If mobile banking or online transactions could really be customized to the consumer then brand affinity would grow. The next frontier in this process is the Apple-ification of systems. Build it to the client specification or with their customer experience in mind and one will grow their reach.
Telehealth has transformed as both doctor and patient realize there is a finite nature to in person care on a daily basis. Health care costs continue to increase at a rate of 4%-5% a year. There is a limit to access as practices grow and or find less time for patient facing interactions. As one delves into the experience there is also a shared ease with technology. In recent surveys, more than 50% of both patients and doctors acknowledge that smartphones will play pivotal roles in terms of their care in the future. 60% of patients are open to treating non acute symptoms in a nontraditional setting and 54% are willing to be treated for acute symptoms online instead of seeing a physician in person. Virtual hospitals are evolving with deep skill and proficiency from around the world to service patients wherever they are. One is now more than ever able to provide 24/7 care and monitoring. This in turn allows for individuals to live freer, independent lives and for the medical insurance and service industry to save hundreds of billions of dollars in premiums and service fees.
All to say, digital transformation should not be something to fear or take too long to implement. Mistakes, failures, and tests are part of the way forward and should be embraced. Single focus ideas should be put aside in favor of bigger stronger multi-layer solutions. Those solutions should be implemented by a flat organization that is not resistant to change and understands their customer well. Last one should not forget that Digital Transformation is alive and well in most of the things you already do every day!!