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Ben Saunders

Why NOW Is the Time to Invest in Digital Transformation

The last few weeks have been pretty torrid. Covid-19 has dominated each and every news column across the world. At the same time, organisations both large and small have had to adapt their businesses at breakneck speed. No longer to just remain relevant and fight back against digital disruption but to avoid going out of business overnight.

Having spoken with our EMEA CTO Brendan Foxen, I felt compelled to draft this blog post. Last night we were discussing how the turmoil that has unfolded in the last few weeks has accelerated the potential demise of organisations that have neglected their digital agendas.

In response to the crisis, organisations are pausing their investments in digital solutions to focus on steadying the ship. But now, more than ever, is the time when they should be focusing their attention on increasing investments across digital portfolios.

This is to:

  1. Better understand their customers as well as their customers’ buying habits across product sets
  2. Enable their people to increase productivity with digital collaboration tooling
  3. Deliver digital services and solutions to drive customer engagement and communication
  4. Build products and capabilities that provide self-service models for both users of internal IT systems and customer-facing solutions

What Organisations Need to Do: Innovate

I do sincerely hope that the welfare packages being released by governments across the world allow traditional bricks and mortar organisations to stay afloat. However, once that well runs dry, many organisations will need to be prepared to prosper into new markets, enter new digital territories and deliver their core services through entirely new formats and products to survive.

During times of hardship, people naturally become their most creative and this is when innovation occurs. It’s human nature. Our risk appetite falls when our backs are against the wall and we consider alternative approaches to getting the impossible done.

The current strife we are all facing will pass. However, organisations and the wider economic landscape need to be prepared to capitalise on new business channels with digital solutions. These digital solutions can be powered by cloud computing, delivered by smaller, highly-skilled engineering teams and—what’s more—you don’t need the physical real estate to home them. If ever there was time for experimentation in your business, this is it. 

There is a lot of literature promoting the cost, scale and speed levers that public cloud computing can afford businesses of all sizes. So how can organisations use this tumultuous period to experiment, demonstrate business value and identify upside once a semblance of market normality returns?

The Golden Rule of Change: The Compelling Event

Having spoken with business and technology leaders across many of the world's largest organisations, I’ve noticed that there is one thing that always needs to exist to incite change: the compelling event.

Whether that be an economic lull, market disruption and penetration by new competitors or...dare I say it, a global pandemic. “Why do we need to change?” and “Why do we service our customers in the way we presently do?” are no-doubt being murmured across board rooms teleconferences around the world.

Organisations always need to identify their own ‘Why?’ to digitally transform and there are a fair few of those “Why’s?” floating around at present…

Here are four key ideas that stand out from the current situation.

Four Reasons You Need to Change

#1 Survival of the Fittest: Go Data First

Organisations that have the capabilities to firstly understand the market conditions, harness and interpret multiple data sources and then act upon this information at speed, are the ones who will ride through these treacherous waves and come out the other side.

To do so, organisations need to have a data-driven strategy that enables more informed decision making across each tier of the organisation. Cloud-based data lakes can now be provisioned in days and hardened for enterprise usage in a matter of weeks.

Solutions like AWS Lake Formation, and Google BigQuery combined with event-driven architectures are allowing organisations to gain a competitive advantage by ingesting multiple data feeds in parallel and making actionable decisions in an almost real-time capacity. Investments in this space are wise, given the differentiated advantage you can generate around understanding your existing customers or better understanding external market influences. 

In addition, if you can better understand who your most loyal customers are and how they interact with your products, your organisation’s ability to model “looky-likeys” for future customer acquisition campaigns and make recommendations for the cross selling of services will only improve your chances of increasing revenue opportunities. Think Netflix’s recommendation engine and then apply that into your business context….how did they know you might like Luther, Sherlock and Love Island?

After all…“data is the new oil”.

#2 Go Remote or Go Broke

The remote working boom has now opened up new possibilities to re-define how organisations collaborate, at scale. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based tooling has been at the heart of keeping digitally savvy organisations ticking.

Since 31 January, Microsoft has reported a 500% increase in the usage of its video conferencing solution, Microsoft Teams. As far back as October 2019, Slack announced that it had reached a landmark 12 million users of its converged collaboration solution. Studies suggest that collaboration tooling such as Trello can help increase team productivity by around 20%. And solutions like Google Docs can allow up to 50 users to collaborate on word, spreadsheet and presentation based digital artefacts in parallel. Can your business do that today? 

SaaS-based tooling affords a solution to many business problems and allows organisations to get mobilised quickly, whilst offsetting technology management needs to third parties. However, SaaS solutions can also work for the enterprise organisations when used in conjunction with a sound Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and best practice Security and Identity Access Management solutions. 

Once the dust settles around Covid-19, organisations that were ill-prepared for the surge in remote working demand will no doubt analyse how they can be better prepared for similar scenarios in the future.

Many of those organisations will no doubt revert to type and ensconce themselves back to their traditional ways of working. While those with a culture of trust, collaborative working and a set of tenets that are centred around customer engagement and value generation will be in a better position to thrive, should they scale their digital workplace investments now.

#3 It’s Good To Talk...With Your Customers

Over the last few weeks, Contino has published a lot of content around digital solutions which focus on keeping customers up to date, engaged and informed about your organisation:

As an example, Contino has worked with one of the UK’s leading financial institutions to implement a cloud-native chatbot solution.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak the cloud-native chatbot has:

  • Seen a 180% increase in customer traffic
  • Dynamically scaled to meet the demand
  • Resolved 50% of customer queries, answering them 33% faster 

This takes massive pressure off the bank’s contact centre.

In another cloud-native chatbot example, with a major utility company, by using keyphrase extraction as part of the solution, our customer is also able to identify what are the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) and can dynamically surface these in a prioritised order via a dynamic FAQ website to keep their customers informed and up to date with the most relevant information.

Indeed, we have heard of examples where some organisations have had to close their entire customer contact centre, because of their reliance around centralised telephony functions that can no longer be serviced from either on- or off-shore facilities. If organisations needed a solution in this space they could consider converging a VDI capability with a Digital Contact Centre solution such as Amazon Connect or Contact Centre AI (CCAI) from Google. 

What’s more, the cloud service providers are offering a number of discounted or free services around their core collaboration tooling up until June 2020. As such, if ever there was an opportunity to road-test a solution and be in a position where you will be able to seek customer forgiveness if it didn’t work perfectly, now is the time to do so.

#4 Harness All Your Challenges With Data

Earlier in this blog, I stressed the importance of organisations using this period to mobilise a data-first strategy to make their business better informed about the decisions they are making. By combining digital contact centres with a data-driven approach, organisations will be able to tap into further business value as they navigate their way through these unchartered waters.

The opportunities to leverage capabilities such as speech-to-text solutions and sentiment analysis could help them better identify vulnerable customers, where the mis-selling of financial products may have occurred, fraudulent activity may have been attempted or, where the largest number of customer complaints are originating from and which product set they belong to!

That said, it is hard to bring all these constituent parts together in a cohesive manner as part of a digital agenda. As such, I’ve drafted what I hope are some helpful considerations to help your organisation get started or course correct during these troubling times.

Tips For Course-Correcting in Difficult Times

Build, Test, Learn and Grow: Maintaining Momentum

As part of any digital agenda, experimentation should be at the heart of your organisation's entrepreneurial spirit to thrive.

I’ve shared some ideas above about how digital solutions could be applied during this period to build confidence in embracing cloud-based technologies. As I’ve said, identifying a compelling event from which to act as a catalyst for enduring transformation is key. However, making it stick once the chaos has passed will be the hard part.

At Contino, we always advocate for tackling a singular business challenge end-to-end as part of your digital transformation initiatives. Having helped many organisations tackle their most thorny business challenges, we follow our prescriptive Momentum Framework to build new platforms, processes and ways of working that can then be scaled across multiple product sets and business units, once the step change in delivery has been proven. 

As part of Momentum, we suggest our customers move through the following phases:

Nurture It: Educate and align your organisation on the compelling event for transformation. 

Plan It: Rapidly build a plan of attack to help implement your digital responses with just enough strategy, design and business case validation. 

Prove It: Demonstrate how your plan of attack functions to address the problems brought on by your compelling event by proving new cloud-enabled solutions, processes and ways of working. We call these efforts Lighthouse Projects as means to act as beacon of change across your business.

Scale It: After a period of demonstration, value creation and benefits realisation, organisations should take the digital solutions they have built and identify new use cases that can make use of the patterns, processes and platforms that have been established to act as a wave of transformation throughout the business. 

Improve It: Rinse and repeat. Continuously use data, insights and telemetry to identify opportunities to eliminate waste and enhance the customer experience across your business.

End-to-end, this process should take you no more than three months. Because if you aren’t generating value in that time, you may as well stop flogging a dead horse.

Apply Design Sprint Thinking

As part of our Momentum framework, I have been pushing the concept of Design Sprints with a number of our customers of late.

Design Sprints are heavily championed at Google Ventures and are a five-day process for solving problems and testing new ideas. In short, the aim of a Design Sprint is to build and test a prototype in just five days. Bringing together a small team of business stakeholders who understand the organisation and the compelling event that they are trying to solve, is a compelling way to introduce step changes in your digital agenda.

Over the course of the five days, a team of no more than eight people clear their schedule for a week and rapidly progress from problem statement to a tested solution using a prescriptive approach. This book titled Sprint by Jeff Knapp shares all the tips and tricks to follow. 

And trust me: if you are able to prove or disprove your hypothesis in just under five days with real customers, and power these prototypes with digital solutions, your business is going to have a fighting chance of getting through this period.

The concept of Design Sprints deserve a whole blog in their own right.

Execute Lighthouse Projects & Build Demonstrable ROI

Above I touched on the use of Lighthouse Projects as a catalyst for building lasting change as part of your digital technology investments. Typically, we guide our customers to aim for a working proof-of-concept of their digital products and propositions to be in the hands of customers within five weeks. This is a tough undertaking but by combining design sprints, data insights and event-driven architectures your business will be able to alter the functionality of your digital solutions to meet customer behaviours and interaction models in a rapid timeframe.

As ever, by harnessing all the information available to your organisation across both customer-facing systems and your internal IT solutions, you will be able to meticulously measure the impact your digital solutions have had on your business in a short period of time. Remember this: you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Closing Thoughts

In just over 2500 words, I’ve covered a lot of ground. I want to stress the importance of using this period of uncertainty as a phase from which organisations can adopt new technologies, apply collaborative ways of working and try innovative solutions in order to safeguard the futures of their businesses.

I’ve touched on only a handful of examples where digital technologies could be used as incubators that ultimately could help pivot an enterprise the size of an oil tanker, or to mature how they interact with customers.

The one common thread here, though, is time. At the moment, we don’t have enough of it and leaders across both business and technology need to act fast in order to survive now and thrive later. The entry point to adopt public cloud has never been more compelling with it’s array of SaaS-, IaaS- and PaaS-based offerings.

So now is the time to invest in technological innovation and increase your organisation's digital footprint.

We don’t know how long this period of uncertainty will last. However, what we do know is that if you are not generating value from something in three months you should probably stop trying it. Also, that three month window ties in quite nicely with the enforced lock down!

Thanks for reading, stay safe and stay healthy!

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