axe in log
PHOTO: Dan Edwards

Digital transformation is a hot buzzword these days, and, like all buzzwords, it’s often misunderstood. Rarely do people appreciate what it takes to truly digitally transform their organization. And while succeeding with digital transformation requires more than reading a CMSWire post, there are some quick-win concepts you need to master if you hope to take the plunge and help your organization digitally transform.

Focus on Process Over Technology

There’s no shortage of technology (and technology providers) who will sell you on how they can help you achieve your digital transformation goals. But if you fail to think bigger than technology, your digital transformation efforts will be less than optimal. There are two reasons for this.

First, the technology capability landscape involved in digital transformation is incredibly varied. In the figure below, you can see the range of domains involved in even the most basic digital transformation.

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Figure 1: Digital Transformation Domains

Finding a one-size-fits-all provider to address even some of these is a losing battle — so you need to approach digital transformation as bigger than any one technology to succeed. Second, as we know from every other business pursuit that involves technology, how a technology is implemented is as important — and likely more so — than the technology itself. So without a firm grasp on the business process(es) you’re trying to transform, technology will be less than effective.

But in order to address the core business processes you want technology to support, you need to understand the ultimate beneficiary of the process: the end user.

Related Article: Digital Transformation: The Latest Flavor in the History of Innovation

Center Digital Transformation Efforts on the End User

Despite the near ubiquity of an end-user focus in technology initiatives these days, the actual appreciation of end-user needs is as rare (and as difficult to gain) as ever. To do so, it’s critical to approach the process you want to digitally transform from the end-user (rather than the operational) perspective. For example, if a property and casualty insurer wants to create an app for submitting homeowners’ insurance claims, the wrong way to do so would be to start from their current process (the insured person has a flood, for example, contacts his broker, fills out paperwork and submits documentation to get his claim approved). This simply turns the current, old-school process into an app that, despite removing most of the paper from the process, leaves the experience for the end user much the same.

Instead, this hypothetical insurer should consider what a typical policy holder is looking for when they have a flood, for example: they want to be safe (should they wade into the water in their basement to save their belongings?), they want to find a service provider to begin the clean up and repair process (preferably who are covered by their insurer), and they want to kick off the claims process (and as quickly as possible). Simply digitizing the existing process typically fails to achieve these goals.

But it could be different. The insurer could provide an app that helps a homeowner in the middle of a flood 1. know what they can safely do and not do to deal with the incident (e.g., if the water is over 18 inches deep, don’t wade into your basement or you could get electrocuted), 2. understand what service providers in their area are pre-approved for covered services and 3. submit the results of both of these interactions as well as any others behind the scenes to streamline the claims process. Given the ubiquity of GIS location data and other personal data collection mechanisms, the use of a “respond to a flood” app should not only allow an insurer help people be safe and deal with their incident, but also collect the data they need, seamlessly.

Related Article: The Missing Link for Digital Transformation Success? People

Prioritize Initiatives By Following the Money Trail

Just about any business process can be digitally transformed … but that doesn’t mean an organization should digitally transform every process, far from it. An organization should carefully consider the ROI of any digital transformation effort. Otherwise, the organizational support and effort needed will be in short supply which will limit the overall success.

And while the specific business case for any given digital transformation initiative will be impossible to predict here, just remember to focus relentlessly on the dollars and cents of your digital transformation efforts. Simply “going digital,” as appealing as that may be, is not enough to get most organizations to support digitization efforts over the long haul — which is precisely what’s needed to be successful.

Related Article: The First Step in Digital Transformation? Establishing Maturity

Measure Twice, Cut Once

It’s going to be far more difficult to develop a strong ROI without solid metrics — so measuring where you are with your processes today before you digitally transform them is critical. And these metrics need to be both inward looking (the cost and effort of operations) and outward looking (the impact to end-user engagement and market share). 

Even if you can’t collect these kinds of metrics (which is not uncommon), you can at least project what metrics would indicate digital transformation success and use these as your North Star to measure your digital transformation efforts. Typically, some combination of inward looking and outward looking metrics do the trick, e.g., back office staff reduced and number of customers using a claims app, poorly maintained claims documents and number of claims submitted through an app, etc. So, no matter your content, you can find a combination of outward and inward metrics to measure your success.

Related Article: Why a Digital Mindset Is Key to Digital Transformation

Go Beyond the Buzz

Although digital transformation is far more complicated than this post can address, hopefully the steps above gave you a good introduction and an idea of where to start putting true digital transformation into action at your organization. The process is long, difficult and expensive … but ultimately gives your organization what it needs to compete effectively and provide a superior experience to your customers — which every organization needs to deliver if they hope to thrive.

Joe Shepley is a strategy consulting professional living and working in Chicago. In his current position as Managing Director at Ankura he focuses on helping organizations improve how they manage Privacy risk through improved processes and technology.