The Top 10 Lessons Businesses Learned from 2018
This year the advancement of the digital world has accelerated with record speed and we have seen phenomenal interest in companies embracing not only the technology but also the culture and ethos that goes hand in hand with digital transformation.
Below Jonathan Sharp, Director at Britannic Technologies, provides CEO Today with his top 10 lessons learnt from 2018.
Digital transformation is now a reality with customers’ high expectations for a superior customer experience, forcing companies to adopt it. If they don’t, they will not survive.
The benefits of digital transformation are more apparent this year but as with anything so are the challenges.
Starting Out on the Journey
Every year the market becomes increasingly saturated with technology and companies are confused at what they require and why, but at the same time they know that they need to go digital. However, digital transformation is not a race to the finish line; it must be viewed as an evolutionary journey and not an end goal. This is where a lot of companies go wrong, they race to deploy the latest and greatest technology to get on the digital bandwagon but are not sure why and the technology does not deliver. The challenge that we often see is – ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’
Deconstructing Digital Transformation
What we have experienced in 2018 is that companies are fearful of embarking on a digital strategy because they view it as a mammoth task that requires large budgets. However, this is not the case, it can be broken down into individual projects that are easier to gain approval and manage but make a real difference, supporting new business models, customer channels and the digital agenda.
Under the Microscope
This year, along with the increased level of interest we have also witnessed companies attempting the digital transformation process themselves and discovering that due to the digital landscape being increasingly complex they require help and expertise. A Solutions Provider will assist you in discovering your needs and take the time to ascertain what technology you have, who uses it and why, and what your employees and customers would like to use going forward. They will look beyond the technology remit and understand what the company’s vision, objectives and strategy is ensuring that your technology is aligned with its goals and the business.
Telling a Good Story
Another challenge that we have come across this year, is IT managers often come across barriers in getting approval for communications technology because they do not articulate their pitch to the Board correctly.
The art of storytelling or scenario setting is an effective way to break down these barriers by moving through a process – going back to basics to create an environment that people can identify with and understand where they want to get to and why. Everyone in the company needs to see the vision, the way forward and the benefits it will deliver to the staff, the customers and the business overall.
This year Brexit is still very much prevalent and the fear of spending has still been at the helm with companies wanting to reduce costs and extending the life of existing systems. Companies and organisations can’t afford to rip out existing systems and replace them and need to use what they have. The good news is that they don’t have to, they can add on technology and applications when desired. If they move to the cloud, whether that be wholly or partly they have the flexibility to protect existing investments and deploy new technology when desired, augmenting existing systems with unified communications, artificial intelligence and automation solutions to increase customer service.
Proof of Concept
Agility becomes ever-more important when faced with uncertain times. During 2018 we have seen more requests for ‘testing the technology’. Cloud-based solutions make it much simpler to test out new ideas quickly. Demonstrating the art of the possible with live working systems helps contextualize how and where technology can be used to make a difference to customer specific scenarios. ‘Proof of concept’ sessions reduce the fear and risk of buying, enabling testing of what works and what doesn’t work.
Integration is the heart of Technology
Integration continues to be a challenge for companies, they are concerned that new technology won’t integrate with existing, or they have new technology in place but it is not integrated into the back and front office. Therefore they are not realising the benefits it should offer.
Companies need to approach technology in a holistic way. If the technology fails to deliver the expected results it is usually because it isn’t integrated with the existing technology at the front and the back office. The approach needs to be organic and fluid to improve business processes and customer services.
This year more than ever, companies are now realising the importance of offering a superior customer service to attract new customers and retain existing ones. The Walker Study revealed that by 2020 customer experience will have over taken both product and price as they key brand differentiators.
Customers want to contact companies using a variety of communications channels, such as web chat. SMS, email, phone, video call, and self-serve online is increasing. They want communications to be personalised to them and to be effortless to use. The objective is to offer a seamless, consistent service to customers through an omni-channel taking the customers through a series of touch points on their journey from online, to the store, to purchasing, delivery and returns.
During 2018 disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC) are evolving at an exponential rate and forecast to explode. Gartner predicts by 2022, 30% of customer service experiences will be handled by conversational agents.
These technologies improve business processes by increasing efficiencies and improving customer service. For example, by incorporating conversational AI as a virtual digital assistant into your contact centre – it can self-learn the content from your website and from the customer conversations that take place in webchat. It can recognize and pre-empt the needs of customers, and be programmed to answer questions and resolve issues during conversation. When a customer wants to speak to a human they can be easily transferred. The human agent can focus on complex enquiries and hand over information sourcing to the digital assistant.
One of the challenges that we have seen in 2018 is that companies do not have a single view of customer data. A Forrester survey revealed that 64% of the survey respondents stated that a lack of a single view of information was one of their biggest challenges in CRM. A Solution Provider will be able to integrate systems together using APIs presenting agents with a single user interface where all interactions are competed on a single screen.
Companies have started to recognise that they need to reassure employees that AI and RPA will not threaten jobs but will augment their roles. Rest-assured, it will free them from mundane daily tasks and enable them to be more efficient and productive. Companies need to show employees how to work in tandem with technology to maximize its benefit. One key way of demonstrating this is to give them autonomy to get on with their role.
Growth Mindset and Culture
This year we have seen companies acknowledging the culture change that comes with digital transformation and realising that is not the technology that transforms businesses but people.
We work with companies and organisations in helping them to set a vision of what they want to achieve with technology and setting them on the path to realise it. Digital transformation is not a one-off project; it is an on-going journey. It requires everyone to be aware of the vision and understand the strategy, and it is vital that they champion corporate values and all employees buy into it for success to occur.
The change in culture needs to be embraced and companies that are not willing to change will fail. This is another barrier that we have witnessed in 2018, although we are pleased to say that this year it was less than the previous years. This is due to the acceptance that we are in the midst of a digital revolution that is here to stay. If it is not welcome then businesses will lose out.
The team driving digital transformation need to become advocates and adopt a ‘growth mindset’ culture to encourage employees to have open communications, be challenged, pitch innovative ideas and not to be scared to get it wrong or to fail. Companies also need to be encouraged to knock down the silos that are still place and encourage a sharing ethos. The amount of data is increasing exponentially, so it is vital that we use it.
The future belongs to companies that choose to evolve in the digital world. To not only adopt the latest unified communication technology but also embrace the culture that comes hand in hand with it, and cultivate an innovative and ‘growth mindset’ ethos. It is vital to remember that digital transformation is an evolutionary journey and not an end goal.
We look forward to 2019 to see what that brings!