Softening the big bang

Change is good! Poorly communicated change is bad…

How often have you been in a situation where a business change has been forced upon you, has been presented as a fait accompli? How did it make you feel? Included? Receptive? Positive? Ready to run with it?

Probably not.

By its nature a digital transformation project will have an impact on a lot of people, processes and technology. So how do we communicate change in a way that feels less of a “sucker punch”? Some of the terminology we use doesn’t necessarily help. Look again at the first sentence of this paragraph where I use the word impact.

impact

noun

1. the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision:

The impact of the colliding cars broke the windshield.

Do we want to break the people, processes or technology? Erm, no. We talk of “big bang” implementations. That phrase also raises stress levels. Just because a change needs to be implemented in a short timescale doesn’t mean that it will be stressful, out of control, badly planned, a failure.

Planning change is important. Communicating change is paramount to success

So what techniques can we use to manage the successful communication and buy-in needed for a programme of work to be understood, well received and, dare I say it, applauded?

Don’t be afraid to share

With many modern development projects taking advantage of alternative methods of delivery – for example Agile, which encourages open communication, collaboration and working towards the “common goal” – those teams working well together is key to the successful delivery of the project or product. However, it is equally important to share the knowledge, successes and, potentially, failures to a wider business and technical community.

Early and frequent communication can be used to generate a “buzz” around the delivery simply by showing/informing those that will be affected by the change how progress is being made and how their working life will be improved by the transformation. I’d even go as far as to suggest that some employees will be excited by the difference it may make to their customer’s lives: for example, introducing a mobile case management solution to a social worker that reduces the time needed to update notes while offering a more secure way of carrying or accessing case information, may result in less stress about case file security and generate more time in their day to have higher quality face to face meetings with clients.

Some ideas for information sharing:

  • Expanded ‘show & tells’ – a key part of the Agile methodology is to host regular sessions where the latest features of the product are demoed to the product owner (the project’s main business representative). These can be extended to include wider stakeholders or end users who may bring some valuable critique to the process
  • Programme highlight dashboard – where highlight reporting is generated for key stakeholders, is there really much additional effort needed to pick out key information that can be shared with the entire business?
  • Corporate Social Media – do you have an internal collaboration site, for example Yammer? Set up a programme-specific group and ask the team members to post updates on milestones met, challenges overcome, etc.
  • Don’t forget the traditional channels – these could include notice boards or paper flyers even if they’re simply used to point people to an online medium

Identify your digital champions

Sharing information using traditional or modern methods is one thing but identifying people that can talk about the project with knowledge and enthusiasm can be a great way to disseminate information virally through their existing networks. We call these people ‘digital champions’:

Digital champions inform and inspire people to embrace business transformation

Identification of these people can be a challenge in itself but introducing and then nurturing an open channel where the programme team encourages anyone to come and visit the team at work, ask questions or to attend the ‘show & tells’ should help draw out those who are genuinely interested. It’s important not to assume that you know who your best advocates will be. Traditional programme structures may put communications responsibility at the door of senior managers or business stakeholders. I would agree that they have their part to play, but if you’re a front line employee hearing someone enthuse about an upcoming business change, you may listen more intently to a colleague than a senior manager.

Do something!

Whatever method of communication you settle on isn’t as important as making sure you do something to educate, inform, and inspire those immediately and peripherally affected by change.

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family” – Kofi Annan

Don’t we all feel better when we know more about a subject? Let me hear your thoughts by posting a comment below.

The benefits of combining competitive and digital strategy together

As digital ways of working and technology continues to penetrate all sectors, organisations are faced with a range of strategic opportunities and threats impacting their competitive advantage (a key one being the potential impact of digital transformation on their non-current assets).

So what tools can organisations use to strategically respond to their rapidly changing competitive environment? Given the disruptive, unpredictable nature of digital it may feel like a completely new approach is required. But arguably the fundamentals of competitive strategy to identify, choose and implement strategic options to achieve differentiation and cost optimisation are still valid – the difference is how they should be applied in a digital context (for example using Porter’s Five Competitive Forces to analyse Digital Disruptors).  Here are some further examples:

Please note: these tools have strengths and weaknesses – there are no absolutes in strategy development. Their value comes from understanding, tailoring and selectively combining these imperfect approaches together to gain the right critical insight about digital and its impact on an organisation’s competitiveness.

Value chain analysis:  A model (defined by Michael Porter in the mid Eighties) that enables an organisation to identify the primary and supporting activities its business units perform to deliver its products or services. Such activities in isolation may have limited value but when combined become sources of competitive advantage.

This approach can be used to understand how an user centric Agile approach to digital transformation can positively impact an organisation’s operating model. This is because it identifies how using user experience design to make improvements to the “front end” customer experience can only deliver sustainable benefits if business unit activities effectively and efficiently support such change – the application of value chain analysis and user experience design as an integrated response to the challenges of competing digitally.

Resource based view: Popularised by Robert M. Grant in the early Nineties; this approach assesses how an organisation’s resources are sources of competitive advantage based on their fit to market needs and the ability of competitors to imitate or provide substitutes for them. Arguably organisations with high demand for their differentiated resources hold strong positions in a market.

Such an assessment can be used to understand how an organisation can maximise the competitive advantage of its greatest resources – its people – by empowering them to effectively adopt (and adapt) digital ways of working and technology. By applying the resource based view to inform talent development, organisational design and cultural values, an organisation can differentiate itself through its unique (i.e. difficult to imitate) people resources skilled in digital.

Balanced scorecard performance measurement: Developed in detail by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton et al in the Nineties; it applies four different, interrelated organisational perspectives to measure strategic and operational performance:

If the right, well trained and motivated people (HR view) are doing the right things (operations view); customers are delighted (marketing view) and the organisation is profitable (finance view)

It provides a combined holistic view of an organisation’s strengths and weaknesses in delivering competitive advantage.

An organisation can use such perspectives to consider how using different digital ways of working and technology will impact its sources of competitive advantage. This could include how a Chief Digital Officer could potentially address challenges C-Suite may have about Digital Transformation.

If you would like more information about how competitive strategy tools can help your organisation maximise the benefits of digital transformation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

How disruptors use digital transformation to gain sustainable competitive advantage

Digital disruptors like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit are using digital ways of working and technology to aggressively take B2C market share from both big and small companies alike.

Right now they look unstoppable – but how did they did achieve such a feat and what can other sectors (especially those in the B2B space) learn from this experience?

One way to understand their success is to consider how they challenged – and then used – “Porter’s Five Forces” to gain competitive advantage…

(It’s also worth noting that the “Five Forces Model” was developed by Michael Porter in the late Seventies – digital and business Strategy are two sides of the same coin)

1. Threat of new entrants:  Digital disruptors have arguably penetrated markets where barriers of entry are relatively low for smaller companies (e.g. taxi hire, rental accommodation, home repairs, etc) but industrialisation of such services at a global level was previously thought unfeasible.

Yet these disruptors have succeeded at this level not by overcoming such barriers (like start-up/sunk costs, licences/rights acquisition and customer loyalty) but by mostly “subverting” them to deliver services at competitive prices.

For example; Uber provides a platform for customers to contact directly a driver located nearby – effectively eliminating (or replacing?) the established “middleman” taxi firm or other service provider competing in that area.

Uber doesn’t have to carry the costs of running a fleet of taxis, the majority of any local laws or regulations remain the risk of the driver/supplier, and switching costs for customers to use its service are virtually nil.  These barriers of entry have now become a threat to existing taxi firms because they impact their ability to compete with Uber on price and customer convenience.

2. Threat of substitute products or services: A challenge levelled at disruptors is that their commercial model could be easily imitated by other digital service providers.  But this is where they exploit first-mover advantage – they have already created large scale services used by millions of people; a customer could find rental accommodation using a new, different service for their long trip away to an unknown place but why bother when Airbnb is an existing reliable brand they trust?

3 & 4. Bargaining power of customers/buyers and suppliers: The disruptor’s role is to provide a digital service that brings buyers and suppliers together at the right price – TaskRabbit is a marketplace that gives customers and contractors access to the same information (including requested service, desired price and ranked supplier performance) to enable an informed purchasing decision for trade services. TaskRabbit’s success comes from effectively using buyer and supplier bargaining power to drive better collaboration between customers and contractors rather than itself being challenged by such competitive forces.

5. Intensity of competitive rivalry:  A digital disruptor turns competitive rivalry on its head by making it a lot harder for incumbent players to strategically identify, assess and respond to the threats they pose.  Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit don’t buy or supply the services in the sectors they compete in – they are not direct competitors in a traditional sense.  Rather, they are convenient intermediaries that offer customers faster, smarter ways to buy from suppliers.  Their strength also comes from them using their established global brands at a local level in markets where switching costs are low for customers.

What could this mean for B2B service providers?  It should be noted that the disruptors explored here compete in providing B2C high volume, low risk “simple” services. Conversely B2B providers supply high volume, high risk “complex” services requiring them to have a deep historical understanding of the sectors they serve. Such entrenched capabilities give these existing players the strategic opportunity to combine their skills and experience with digital to create new services disruptors can’t imitate.

What strategic risks and opportunities do you think organisations face as digital continues to penetrate all sectors? Please share your feedback below.

For more information about digital transformation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

How to design digital services: imagine talking to your customers face to face?

Your customers have their own personal relationships with your organisation’s products or services. So how can you design the right digital services to deliver this personalised customer experience?

Although the hype of digital talks a lot about such personalisation, it is perhaps ironic that it encourages the use of such ways of working and technology to keep customers’ and employees’ physical interactions to a minimum.

But imagine if you were actually facing one of your customers right now; what questions would you ask them directly to help you deliver a delightful, memorable customer experience? And how could you use digital to respond to their answers?  Here are some indicative examples…

How do you feel about my brand?

How much does your customer actually like your brand? What are the reasons they selected to buy from you? Do their feelings, emotions about your brand align to you own and employees’ views? Such insight can help you assess the effectiveness of your social media strategy and engagement approach – is it effectively building, managing the right kind of relationship you personally want with your customers?

What things should I know about you before I serve you?

What information should an employee intuitively, instinctively know about an individual customer before they start serving them? What things shouldn’t they know or ask about? How can an employee genuinely surprise and delight a customer every time? This is an opportunity to consider how big data and analytics could be used by your employees to better understand your customers – how can you proactively, directly respond to an individual customer’s wants and needs without being intrusive?

How can I better serve you my products or services?

What way is easiest, quickest to satisfy your customer’s requirements? How confident are they that your employees are serving them in a safe, secure way? Does your customer feel special, unique or “just another transaction”? Understanding how and why your customers want to be served can drive effective user experience design – are you making your customers feel like they are valuable to you short and long term?

What other direct questions would you like to ask your customers to help realise effective digital services?  

For more information about Digital Service Design please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

2020: The Digital Office?

Despite the intense debate about digital on social media there appears to be limited insight about the practical, tangible application of these new ways of working and technology on our personal working lives. 

Here are some indicative examples of such potential digital services that could be designed, implemented and managed by system integrators and outsourcers for their clients in 2020…

Personalised work search engine (Cloud): When I “log in” for work (from anywhere, on any device) I don’t access a Windows desktop screen; I enter a customised, secure search portal that uses text, voice or picture commands. This engine can instantly access all the internal and external apps and data I need to carry out my job. It can run, possibly hundreds of searches and tasks simultaneously in the background. My own and colleagues’ work using this engine is also shared dynamically, intuitively across our organisation.  It is the beating heart of our competitive advantage.

Meeting/workshop automated workflow (Internet of Everything):  Sensors in breakout rooms automatically record my meeting/workshop outputs and share them with relevant stakeholders via email, follow up appointments and enterprise social media tools. This includes creating actions/tasks for people that have been identified at these sessions. Consequently I spend less time on administration and related low value tasks.

Social media analysis and response (Artificial Intelligence):  My virtual personal office assistant has learnt by itself my work interests and objectives. It’s constantly applying this insight across external and enterprise (internal) social media channels to identify and engage organisations or individuals of benefit to me. Often it will intuitively speak/respond on my behalf on these channels to help raise my profile with these stakeholders, do a deep dive analysis of a new contact’s social media footprint to recommend ways for me to engage/work with them, or sign me up for events where such groups are participating. Unlike the bland social media robots of today, my assistant is a true reflection of my personality that is a critical networking tool.

Location-based time recording (GIS):  I no longer have to complete my timesheet manually. Sensors at my client site, company office and home office capture my location and time spent there – this data is used to record my time against my assignments and deliverables. As a result, billing and expenses for client work is smarter and faster.

Monthly performance assessment (Analytics): At the end of each month I receive a report on my productivity; how much time I spent on different tasks versus what was achieved during that period. It also compares my current against historic performance to spot any positive or negative trends.  I can use this information with my line manager to address any issues and training development needs proactively. My organisation benefits from using a performance management approach that is based on actual data driven insight rather than anecdotal evidence.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation realise a digital office please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

How can a Chief Digital Officer make a difference to C-Suite?

Digital transformation offers a range of benefits for your organisation’s C-Suite and their business areas. However these stakeholders will also have legitimate concerns about its implementation.

It’s the role of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to empower and support the following senior managers to address the people, process and technology challenges to maximise the chances of success.

Chief Finance Officer: For a CFO, digital transformation offers a potential “rapid” return on investment because it delivers benefits incrementally versus a big bang approach. This Agile approach also helps spreads organisational risk because it drives ownership of digital across all business areas.

However, accounting for rapid service change can be problematic because it’s hard to distinguish CapEx and OpEx budgets from each other (is website optimisation a transformative or business as usual activity, for example?). Consequently it can be harder to trace financial/bottom line benefits to such change – an issue further exacerbated by limited benchmarks and other evidence being currently available about successful digital transformation. Is it all true good to be true?

To address this, the CDO should take ownership of the strategic benefits case for digital transformation in collaboration with the Chief Finance Officer and be responsible (and accountable) for ensuring its effective realisation with the whole of C-Suite.

Chief Marketing Officer: A CMO will want to use capabilities enabled by digital transformation to deliver (big) data powered personalisation of products and services to customers. This blending of customer and user experience design together creates responsive aligned sales channels that should increase competitiveness in disruptive uncertain markets.

Such transformation may require a costly re-branding exercise and the organisation itself may not be able to move quick enough to deliver these benefits before competitors start imitating such innovation and steal market share. Furthermore, social media customer engagement poses reputational risks that if mishandled could damage the organisation’s brand permanently.

The CDO should be constantly selling (evangelising?) the benefits of digital for customers and employees to drive buy-in of digital transformation from C-Suite. Key to this is the CDO using social media to personally spread this message (and commitment) constantly, consistently to market and internal stakeholders. In addition the CDO should proactively lead service and product innovation to help the CMO maximise the full benefits of digital.

Chief Operating Officer: The COO will like the way digital transformation empowers employees at all levels to deliver greater organisational efficiency and effectiveness. This includes the required breaking down of business and IT silos to realise new ways of working using digital technology. These strategic benefits include the design and implementation of a future proof operating model that can meet further market disruption and technologies.

But the COO may find such change highly challenging because it probably means a fundamental redesign of parts of the whole organisation – a major pain point could be the existing IT legacy systems that have to be adapted or worse yet replaced to enable such capabilities. Further problems could also arise from having to deliver high, unrealistic expectations for big data and analytics. Other people and process issues may also present blockers to success (for example incumbent teams having to transition from Waterfall to Agile).

In response the CDO needs to take a thought leadership and implementation role in the design and realisation of a new digital operating model with the COO. Part of this role is providing “hands on” management consultancy capabilities required to successfully implement a model that addresses these technology, people and process challenges. This will make the CDO a critical friend and partner with the COO in delivering successful digital transformation.

Chief HR Officer: Like the rest of C-Suite the CHRO will want to realise the people benefits of greater employee empowerment, integrated working and building of internal capabilities. Not only should digital transformation increase market competitiveness, it should have a positive impact on employee development opportunities, morale and performance.

Yet given the immaturity of digital transformation such business change could be problematic – existing employees may lack the skills and confidence for it to be successful. Training such resources may also be costly and set unrealistic expectations for their performance. Recruiting for new specialist roles (like Data Scientist or Agile Coach for example) could be challenging as there is limited supply right now in the labour market for these resources and high demand is pushing up/inflating salary expectations.

Both the CDO and CHRO need to have a deep understanding of these business change and HR issues. Key to addressing them is having the CDO apply market insight to help find the right best practice approach to up-skilling and training while also leveraging networking contacts to help find the right resources. The CDO must play a material positive supporting role to the CHRO to get people in the right place to deliver Digital Transformation.

Chief Digital Officer – potential benefits for C-Suite:

  • Digital strategy and benefits management/ownership
  • Evangelist driving buy-in and innovation
  • CX/UX target operating model design and implementation
  • HR and business change in-house consultancy

How can a CDO maximise the benefits of Digital Transformation for your organisation?

If you would like to find out more about the role of the Chief Digital Officer in C-Suite please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

The next digital disruption: buying B2B services using social media channels?

Digital Transformation is changing how businesses interact with customers and each other.

In this environment business-to-business (B2B) service providers face the constant threat of “digital disrupters” – new entrants who don’t fundamentally change the underlying product or service but win (or steal?) market share by leveraging new ways to interact with customers/clients and suppliers.

But couldn’t an existing B2B service provider become the digital disrupter by leveraging social media to create a new, differentiated approach to market engagement to deliver sustainable competitive advantage?

Here are some (radical?) ideas…

Customer led innovation: clients could potentially benefit from best practice about digital transformation being shared rapidly from different sectors (for example, the innovative work in UK central government and retail). A service provider could use its social media channel(s) to enable this sharing in an intuitive, dynamic way tailored to specific client needs. Furthermore, the provider could use gamification to incentivise the sharing of insights, advise directly between companies (such as discounting its services for clients providing such support). This would help position the B2B service provider’s brand as a collaborative thought leader in digital transformation.

Deepening personalisation: a provider could engage directly in all the social media activity of a client (at all levels including organisational, team and individual). Although there is a risk of appearing intrusive, it’s a way of building more intimate relationships with existing clients and sourcing new ones. This would also pro-actively complement and enhance other sales and account management approaches it uses.

Intensifying responsiveness: undoubtedly radical and reputationally risky, clients could post their complaints, issues and other feedback directly on a B2B service provider’s social media channels. The value comes from how the provider deals with these issues openly in this public space; a positive opportunity to explicitly demonstrate its strong commitment to quality service delivery.

Buy buttons: underlying these social media channel approaches would be the tools to enable a client to contact a sales representative immediately to purchase the provider’s services. Depending on the agility of the provider, potentially these services could be bought and stood up on the same day – now that’s digital transformation!

If you would like to find out more about how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.