HBR recently published an article, “Delivering on the Promise of Digital Transformation,” which was written in association with Andy McAfee’s Harvard Business Review webinar. Both the webinar and article mention great points on how successful companies leverage digital services to transform their business to better compete and harvest greater workforce productivity. Both items are designed to show service-focused IT departments how they can use transformative technologies to solve challenges and help their companies succeed. Here’s a summary of these transforming technologies with some practical advice on how to leverage them in your organization.
Big Data, Big Data, Big Data
I often wonder: if big data is so big, why is the percentage of data analyzed and understood so small? According to the HBR article, 70 percent of companies say data is driving business transformation. My first reaction is, why not 100 percent? Maybe we’re thinking too big about big data. Think small and start small. Traditional analytics are siloed from one business unit to another, and we’ve (for the most part) mastered how to gather knowledge in each business unit. However, many industries have a problem leveraging composite data to see a bigger picture. The real power of data is when you analyze cross-functional processes or information
For example, how did manufacturing improvements affect the sale of a good in various parts of the world? Traditionally we would analyze performance metrics in manufacturing and then forecast to revenue bookings by region in sales in two distinct reports. Overlap the two together for better actionable intelligence. Did manufacturing process improvements correlate to higher sales at a particular point in time? Or, correlate service information to a how products were manufactured? Did poor manufacturing processes lead to a high level of service engagements?
What could be more social than videos? Some of you may have mastered social community access. You may have online groups where internal teams or external customers can chat with others, share knowledge, and crowd source information. However, how many of us are utilizing social concepts like live agent video for knowledge transfer and problem resolution? Salesforce.com released their version of Kindle’s Mayday button. The Service Cloud “SOS button” allows customers to access live video support directly from a mobile app, giving them a great (different) user experience. In my opinion, there’s no better way to be social. This is a great way to transform your business to deliver services, in a digital, social form. There are dozens of tools for video chat. To start, don’t worry about embedding it within the service tool you’re using, or widely deploying video chat for all the products you service; just give people who manage a particular service the option to video chat. A friendly face can often help lessen the friction between service teams and the businesses or customers they support.
Most vendors or IT organizations have traditionally developed and designed business solutions from the desktop perspective. When the number of smartphones seemingly outnumber the number of people on our planet, and with tablet delivery growing at a very, very rapid pace, it may be time to update our design approach to consider not just how businesses access information while mobile (i.e., away from their desk or working from home), but rather how solution and app designs should be designed as mobile-first. “There’s an app for that” – I love this saying. We often worry about too many applications to build, support, manage, retire, and so on. However, maybe the app itself is too big. And, with mobile apps so prevalent and diverse, maybe it’s time we start thinking about delivering more, less feature-rich mobile apps that support various processes: a couple of apps for warehouse employees, a couple for sales, a couple for execs, and so on. In the back-end you can still utilize a central system (along with workflow engine, data store, security rights, analytics, etc.) to do the brunt of the work, but the user community would have a very simple set of apps to perform their job. Having more apps with fewer features per app from the user perspective isn’t a concern; I’m sure many of you have dozens of apps on your mobile device, and you still manage to get things done! And, think about incorporating native mobile features like voice to text, location-based services, mappings, bar code scanners, cameras, and the other innate mobile device features that allow better remote processing or information gathering.
There isn’t a day that goes by lately without a commercial, conversation, or article about cloud.
If you believe the cloud is going to solve all our problems, I have the proverbial bridge to sell you. The HBR paper points out that 35 percent of corporate spending on technology is outside of IT, and cloud has a lot to do with this. So don’t just be reactionary—be agile. Rather than lengthy IT engagements, think like a cloud vendor and produce something in smaller chunks and with quicker iterations (see my small app concept above, for instance). I’ll bet you get quick wins and happier customers. And tell everyone it’s a cloud app, even if it’s on a server off Highway 10!
What will really help a company transform might not have anything to do with technology at all. The HBR paper highlights changing the org chart to a model where certain divisions have dual reporting structures. While this may be a valid approach, what if we take it a step further and think a bit smaller. One of the most successful business executions I witnessed was a CRM – sales implementation. In this particular case, the company embedded one (just one!) of the sales directors into their IT department. This knowledgeable (the key here) sales director was a vital part of the IT team and worked as a liaison between the sales business and IT. Quite honestly, there wasn’t much liaising since he knew the sales roles very well. With his direct sales business knowledge, and a team of IT experts, the CRM solution was implemented to exactly match the requirements. Usage rates were higher than expected since IT designed the solution with firsthand knowledge of how sales folks would utilize the system across all roles, and management was happy because it received the sales information it needed. Organizational alignments are great, and technology can indeed be transformative—but don’t forget the imperative role and abilities of people to truly get things done.
What transformations have you seen in your organization, and what were they based in? Tell me about them in the comments.