Just about every business is being impacted by digital technology or is embarking on a digital transformation program and our clients are no exception. In this blog I will share with you some of the common themes we are seeing in successful digital transformation programs and the technologies that are enabling them.
Digital Transformation Drivers
Let me begin by highlighting some of the common drivers for digital transformation initiatives.
Customers, whether they be external or internal, now expect business technology to match the experience of their personal technology. They want to be able to self-service; that is buy, request, change at the click of a button and they want to know status of their action in real time.
For example, a large University client we are working with are implementing digital technologies to enable their students to manage more of their candidature online. Instead of filling in a paper form to change their candidature and waiting days for a response, students can go online to initiate, manage and track their various requests.
Efficiency & Waste Reduction
The reality is that many organisations are still spending way too much time internally on printing, entering data manually and tracking customer requests. This is simply not sustainable in the new era of self-service and great customer experience.
We are seeing our clients increasingly focus on digitising internal processes and automating workflows to streamline operations and reduce reliance on paper. For example, one of our clients is currently automating customer request processing to ensure that information being received from customer self service features is accurate and complete and that it is accessible for automated processing and transfer into their ERP without the delay or errors associated with manual entry.
To remain competitive and grow, businesses must be able to continually improve and innovate. For most of our customers, digital transformation is not just about getting a project done. A key outcome they are seeking is to remain agile beyond a program of work. If chosen correctly, digital technologies are much more adaptive to change than legacy systems and allow organisations to launch new products and services to market quickly, connect with new business partners and improve their customer support channels.
Ingredients for Success
A successful digital transformation program involves much more than replacing your legacy systems with modern applications. In our experience there are several key ingredients that will maximise the value of your investment and ensure your digital initiatives are embraced by your customers and your employees.
Mobility, UX & Channel Technologies
A few years ago a mobile application would have been considered a nice to have next to a company’s website. Fast forward a few years to the era of self-service, and customers expect to be able to interact with businesses in a consistent way anytime, anywhere on the device or platform of their choice. Any organisation looking for customer experience to be a differentiator must ensure they deliver a seamless experience across a range of channels.
Business Process Digitisation Technologies
BPM technology has been around for some time but it has never really been utilised to its full potential. In recent times, BPM technologies have become a critical part of digital transformation to ensure organisations achieve their expected outcomes around operational efficiency by facilitating better collaboration, enabling the digitisation of forms and the automation of manual processes.
In the new era of business process digitisation technologies, organisations don’t need to go for large expensive and gold plated BPM suites. In the last 18 months I have seen firsthand how lightweight and user friendly BPM tools such as BonitaBPM and Oracle Process Cloud Service, are helping enterprise businesses achieve their objectives at much more affordable cost than their predecessors.
The access and composition of data is essential for delivering a great customer experience and achieving process automation. The most common digitisation scenarios around self-service typically require pre-population of customer data from core systems and the automatic processing of requests requires combining this same data with the addition of new data entered by the customer or support employee, both of which require integration technologies.
The rise of API Integration and iPaaS solutions has made integration easier, faster and cheaper than ever before. Organisations leveraging modern integration platforms such as MuleSoft Anypoint Platform or Axway API Management are able to create new business relationships and revenue opportunities through streamlined integration.
Just buying new technology is not going to make an organisation agile or give them the ability to continuously improve. A new way of operating is required across both solution and business teams in an organisation.
Many enterprise organisations are embracing start-up ways of working to allow them to maximise the advantages of digital technologies. Starting small and leveraging delivery methodologies such as Agile, DevOps or the Lean Startup helps you to demonstrate return on investment quickly and improve continuously over time based on customer / user / market needs and opportunities. And you don’t need to break the bank to get started, we recently established a lightweight solution development methodology supported by agile development practices and tools such as Confluence, JIRA, Google Documents & Gliffy for a large enterprise client.
As highlighted by a recent CIO.com article “digital business transformation is the ultimate challenge in change management. It impacts not only industry structures and strategic positioning but it affects all levels of an organization (every task, activity, process) and even its extended supply chain.”
We have seen firsthand the value of taking the time to engage, support and excite the employees who will be impacted by digital transformation. Being transparent, providing appropriate training and showing tangible value over time all help to ensure your team embrace the shift and make it a success.
Implementation Strategy Considerations
Digital technologies are typically lightweight and much easier to implement than legacy systems. However, there are still a few factors you should consider before diving into your digital initiative:
- Program governance – less is more! Ownership and accountability is still key, however, the governance structure should be flatter than in the past to enable decisions to be made quickly.
- Technology selection – there will be multiple technologies to solve your problem, which can be overwhelming. Before investing, take the time to identify and prioritise the capabilities you require and the commercial model that will best suit your needs.
- Lego block architecture – you don’t need to have all of your lego blocks at the start, you can build your digital platform over time. Prioritise the blocks that will support your short to medium business objectives and demonstrate value, then add capability over time.
- Cultural shift – a digital transformation program is as much about people as it is technology. It’s critical to prepare for the transition to a leaner, more agile organisation through education and change management to ensure engagement from top to bottom and bottom to top.
The Role of Legacy Systems in Digital Transformation
Digital transformation does not necessarily mean you need to replace all your legacy systems and many organisations have found that the real value does not come from replacing or renovating a legacy ERP or core system. The new lightweight UX, BPM and Integration technologies are flexible and scalable meaning businesses can implement them into their environment to enable business agility and innovation alongside their legacy systems that can keep the lights on and run the business as usual tasks and processes. Gartner refer to this implementation approach as bimodal IT.
Getting the Recipe Right
Just as there are often many ways to make a classic recipe, there are many ways to approach digital transformation. The key to success is choosing the right ingredients for your unique needs and situation and aligning technology initiatives with business objectives to demonstrate value early.