Defining actionable digital transformation
Being approached by a candidate who is enthusiastic about working in digital transformation is a common occurrence. My first question is always: “What does digital transformation mean to you?” The answer is often eloquent, focused on a mixture of data, customer
centricity and system design improvement. The thing is, it never quite matches my own thinking. That’s not to say they aren’t right, they just have a different viewpoint or way of articulating the subject. These conversations occur frequently, sometimes multiple
times a week, and I can’t remember ever getting the same answer twice.
‘Digital Transformation’ is a hot topic within Financial Services, a buzz phrase, and dare I say it, part the dreaded language: ‘Consultantese’. There’s a huge opportunity in this space but before I can even begin to explore the potential benefits of the
subject with a client, I am faced with the challenge of ensuring we are on the same page with what it involves.
At Beyond we have a very specific way of defining digital transformation. We don’t claim this is, or even should be, the ‘correct’ definition – but it is a framework that we use to ensure we align our thinking with our client’s.
What constitutes digital transformation?
Digital transformation is a progression - an ongoing innovative cycle. Importantly, it doesn’t simply mean technology change. Technology and data are certainly key enablers but true transformation requires a more holistic appreciation of risks, policies,
processes, and critically, people and teams. As digital transformation is an ongoing process, evolving over time, it requires an effective overarching change approach to manage, optimise and continually tailor efforts to realise the benefits of digital approaches.
Where are you on the digital transformation journey?
Broadly, we look at the digital transformation cycle across five key phases. These phases could be considered from the point of view of the entire organisation, however, it is worth looking at a much narrower segment (maybe a specific team, potentially even
just one process within that team) when thinking about the current status and how to achieve your goals. This narrow approach allows the identification of actionable steps - however, it is important to be mindful of the impact of change and to ensure that
it fits with the wider organisation, so not to build a silo.
Consider where your target segment is currently positioned on the maturity curve:
1. Paper based analogue processes
Processes are completed using ‘hard copy’ documents or artefacts manually handled to achieve the desired outcome.
2. Paper online and legacy technology
The process fundamentally remains the same as step one, however, electronic communication and/or online document or artefact storage is used to facilitate the exchange of information.
3. Digitally enabled service improvement
The process incorporates basic digital technologies. Documents may be supported by e-signature or online form completion to incrementally improve operations and customer experience.
4. Digitally enabled service transformation
The process is specifically designed to benefit from digital tooling. Data sources may be integrated to reduce duplication of information submission or changes in one part of the process may define how later elements are presented.
5. Organisation level transformation
The digital process enhances the experience or model of engagement for the customer, user or organisation. For example, resulting data analytics may help the function respond more quickly to customer needs or highlight areas where there are recurring challenges.
First steps to transformation
For those on the cusp of their digital transformation there are two common questions we hear:
- What should I be aiming to achieve with my digital transformation?; and
- Where do I begin with such a fundamental change?
The answer to the first question very much depends on your business, the specifics of the activities involved, and ultimately where you want to be placed in relation to your competitors. Maybe there is a specific pain point you want to resolve for your organisation
or your customer, or there could be a broader need to offer a service or function that competes with your peers. Whatever your need may be, it can be helpful to consider three key points:
- What is my ultimate goal? For example, faster service, integrated processing, improved management information, or reduced risk.
- Who/where is this being done well? Look outside of your organisation and maybe even your industry to find solutions to your challenges
- How does this fit with the wider team/function/organisational goals?
The second question is often the most challenging. It requires senior sponsorship of the change, mixed with an often detailed and technical understanding of the process. Often traction will be gained in areas that offer tangible benefits and well developed
technologies. Document heavy, data driven processes involving large teams are a common starting point by leveraging the ability to:
- standardise and streamline processes;
- digitise interactions with customers and other teams through portals, data flows and dashboards; and
- automate decisions and operational metrics based on near real-time data points.
Each of the elements above can drive improved efficiency, risk and control across a function.
The ability to move through this process a step at a time, logically allows for benefits to be realised at each stage while also helping to build the foundation for the next element.
Where is your organisation on the maturity curve? And how do you plan to evolve your business and operations as your industry heads rapidly to a fully digitised and integrated state? Regardless of how you define digital transformation, moving through the
maturity cycle requires careful planning coupled with purposeful delivery.