The “observer effect” applied to digital transformation

A different take on GDS’s Performance Platform

The “observer effect” states that whatever you observe, by the very act of observation, it changes. Developing tools to measure the performance of a digital transformation – such as the GDS Performance Platform – is a key step of any transformation journey itself, as it can accelerate the process and guide it to bear positive outcomes.

The act of measuring is change itself

In science, the term “observer effect” refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in a car’s tyre: this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure.

The GDS’s Performance Platform

Started as a simple dashboard to display web traffic data on gov.uk, the Government Digital Service (GDS) Performance Platform has now become a key tool that gives departments the ability to monitor the performance of their digital services in real time, aggregating data from a range of sources including web analytics, survey and finance data.

The digital by default service standard – a set of criteria for all government services to meet – now mandates the following four key performance indicators (KPIs): cost per transaction, user satisfaction, completion rate, digital take-up. These KPIs can be used to measure the success of a service and to support decisions and planning of improvements.

Similar to the tyre pressure, the very act of measuring those indicators is influencing and accelerating the transformation process, focusing the departments’ attention to delivering efficiency and quality of service to citizens. This is a key enabler of any transformation journey and it will be interesting to see how far the Performance Platform will go in the coming years.

(Note: although this example is specific to the public sector, the above is easily applicable to private organisations too – this will the subject of another blog post).

Where next? The difference between performance and evaluation

Performance measurement and evaluation are complementary activities. Evaluation gives meaning to performance measurement and performance measurement gives empirical rigour (evidence) to evaluation.

Performance measurements do not question the objectives themselves and, therefore, stop short of any final judgement as to whether the programme or activity was good or bad – only if it was successful (or not) within the narrow confines of its mandate.

The current debate on Gov2.0/Government as a Platform is precisely around the purpose of governments in the 21st century, with two schools of thoughts arguing that it’s the profitable thing to do or, well, it’s the right thing to do.

Although a clear approach on how to evaluate the impacts this approach will have on the wider society is not yet agreed, tools such as the Performance Platform can and will inform and support this discussion.

What do you think? Does this capture the distinction between programme evaluation and performance measurement – or is there a lot more to it? Is your organisation measuring the performance of its transformation? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

Three ways to tell if your digital strategy is moving in the right direction

So you have a digital strategy in place and being implemented. It’s early days and things seem to be moving in the right direction… but you’re not so sure?

Here are some ways to help quickly assess if your planned business transformation will deliver the right customer and business benefits in the end:

1. Assess senior managers’ understanding of the agreed business case

Different managers and their business areas will need digital to deliver different benefits for it to be considered a success. But all should have a shared, consistent vision about why your business is making this major investment. Ask your senior team individually to briefly explain the key reasons and intended outcomes of your organisation’s agreed digital strategy – any material differences (or lack of understanding) could indicate some fundamental issues with implementation at this early stage.

Worse yet, if a senior manager answers by only referring you to your Chief Digital Officer (or equivalent) to explain what’s going on there could be some serious issues about their buy in to the whole enterprise!

2. Consider how dependent success is on mobile

SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) are arguably considered to be the key integrated capabilities businesses must have to successfully compete today. It’s likely your digital strategy will include these elements with a focus on mobile as the main platform to deliver the right customer and employee experience.

However, there could be a risk that your strategy makes your proposition to market too reliant upon mobile to remain competitive (while taking for granted or neglecting your wider value chain). This is especially important given this platform is subject to further disruption and challenges from other emerging technologies (most notably, wearables).

One way to test this is to review your strategy’s effectiveness without mobile  – how hard would other assets in your digital mix like social, analytics and cloud have to “sweat” to deliver a comparable (or better) customer experience? How adaptive are they to different platforms apart from mobile?

The customer is king; mobile is king. Removing this focus enables the identification of potential gaps in your digital strategy that could be turned into opportunities to integrate these wider SMAC capabilities deeper into your value chain to drive sustainable competitive advantage.

3. Compare your digital strategy’s transformation roadmap to your previous change programmes

Like any other large scale business transformation programme there is a risk you might be trying to deliver too much change too quickly – an initiative overload that results in failure.

Digital transformation is about adopting new ways of working using the right technology to differentiate the customer or employee experience and optimise costs – the same ultimate goals of any business strategy. This means you can and should regularly compare the progress of your digital strategy implementation to previous experience to assess its ongoing performance and feasibility. Continually applying your own baseline understanding/insight of your organisation’s people, processes and technology capabilities should help mitigate delivery risks and enable you to realise the right tangible business benefits from digital.

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.

New kids on the blockchain

At Sopra Steria we often talk about a world ‘beyond digital’. This is so that we can help our clients to prepare themselves and their organisations for the challenges they are likely to face looking out three to five years into the future.

I shared some of the topics we have identified for a world beyond digital with an audience of digital and eCommerce professionals at a Thought Leaders of the North West event a couple of weeks ago. Our themes seemed to resonate with those in the room prompting plenty of discussion and debate.

One theme attracting a lot of interest was the ongoing challenge we face in the world of Information Security, where we see protection from attack being built into new products and services from the ground up rather than as an afterthought.

We also see an emerging era of unprecedented corporate responsiveness and agility as industry giants look to iterate their business models ‘on-the-fly’ in response to unforeseen threats and attacks in the way Sony Pictures did recently in immediately releasing ‘The Interview’ to digital channels and abandoning its plans for a full theatrical release.

Disintermediation is another concept having an immediate impact on the way we live, work and do business. Services such as Uber and AirB’n’B are already beginning to transform different aspects of the travel industry through their creative use of the crowd, the cloud and the semantic web.

In financial services we see the ‘blockchain’ threatening to disintermediate the traditional banking industry as Bitcoin continues to gain profile and transacting in such crypto-currencies nudges its way ever closer to the mainstream.

“whilst barriers to entry are very low, barriers to mass acceptance remain incredibly high”

It was in this field, at a second technology event I attended recently that I witnessed a tense debate between an established retail bank and an up-and-coming Bitcoin podcaster.

The bank, when talking about FinTech start-ups looking to establish themselves in the emerging global Bitcoin economy, outside of a traditionally regulated banking industry, suggested that “whilst barriers to entry are very low, barriers to mass acceptance remain incredibly high”, which is the kind of thing they used to say in the music industry in the 1990s.

Nevertheless, the power of the ‘blockchain’, the virtual ledger where the crowd validates transactions without the assistance of traditional banking infrastructure and regulation, may actually be found beyond Bitcoin trading, as new and emerging use cases emerge for this technology bring it further into many people’s lives.

One such service which could be leveraged by the blockchain may be that of personal data broking, where citizens take control of the value of their own personal data and begin to firmly negotiate with local and global organisations alike based on the value of their own data as derived from their own connections, online activity and their extended social graph.

Sopra Steria is working with some of the world’s most exciting start-ups in exploring these concepts, as these ‘new kids on the blockchain’ begin to collaborate with us and our clients as, together, we continue to play a vital role in the transformation of business for a world ‘beyond digital’.

We’d love to hear how you think ‘blockchain’ technology will transform our lives. Leave a reply below, contact me by email, tim.difford@soprasteria.com or on Twitter, @timdifford

Photo: used and modified under Creative Commons license thanks to BTCKeychain

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.

The UX “snowball effect”

How transforming the user experience can deliver rapid, ever-increasing business benefits

A key strength of applying a user centric Agile approach to digital transformation is that it can deliver incremental improvements to the customer and employee experience without having to reconfigure an organisation’s entire operating model “all at once”.  Furthermore this approach can enable further benefits to be potentially realised across the whole business.

These improvements alone may not always generate great bottom line benefits for different organisational stakeholders, but cumulatively they can have a massive (“snowballing”) sustainable impact.  Also this approach may be the only way smaller organisations can realise the benefits of digital ways of working and technology at an acceptable level of risk.

Here’s an example of how this UX snowball effect could potentially deliver the tangible business benefits of digital transformation in less than one year for a medium sized high street and on-line retailer (note all change activities described in this scenario are tactical, not strategic):

  1. An on-line channel requires users to complete a free text form; the process is cumbersome for customers leading to a significant number of complaints and drop-out to off-line sales channels. Based on customer and service centre feedback, the onsite UX team designed and implemented a new on-line form that uses drop down menus. This made the process of completing the form for all users easier and more responsive – and resulted in more on-line purchases and a reduction in complaints
    Cumulative indicative benefits:  improved customer satisfaction score 
  2. Because the UX team used Agile to deliver this user experience enhancement quickly in collaboration with the customer service centre management team, these stakeholders were able to rationalise back office capabilities in parallel that generated cost efficiencies
    Cumulative indicative benefits: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve 
  3. The significantly reduced admin burden meant sales staff could focus on higher value engagement activities such as engaging new customers
    Cumulative indicative benefits: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition 
  4. The user-friendly on-line form also enabled cleaner, more accurate data to be collected about customers’ browsing and purchasing behaviour; using money saved from back office efficiencies, managers invested in analytics/reporting tools to create a better understanding of customer needs based on this deeper information. This insight meant the company could pro-actively respond to the changing demands of individual customers
    Cumulative indicative benefits:  improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition + data driven personalisation 
  5. Using insights gathered from the data analysis, marketing were able to use this evidence to build a business case for new innovative services that addressed genuine gaps in the market
    Total UX “snowball benefits” realised in one year: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition + data driven personalisation + lower risk diversification

…And all resulting from innovating the user experience for completing an on-line form!

If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this post, or how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria digital practice

Make your enterprise social media initiative a success

Enterprise social media initiatives (ESI) such as the introduction of Yammer or Lync communication and collaboration tools can make a big difference to the digital transformation of an organisation.

Here are my top tips for maxmising the tangible and intangible benefits of an ESI for your business, employees and customers:

1. Focus on improving processes
Use enterprise social media tools to accelerate or optimise existing business processes – it’s not just an intranet replacement; it should drive competitive advantage.

2. Connect with the real world
Talk to your employees daily about insights and challenges they raise on your enterprise social media channels to reduce organisational risks and improve performance.

3. Be Visual. Be Relevant. Be Exciting!
Just like any other social media channel, ESI content should be engaging and informative to ensure employees get benefit quickly.

4. Use your enterprise social initiative to improve customer engagements
Employee generated content should directly inform product/service development – ESI empowers your people to innovate and own the customer experience.

Potential benefits of a successful enterprise social initiative:

  • Less time spent on low value activities
  • Lower risk of silo working
  • Better employee engagement
  • Bottom up innovation

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

Why 2015 is the right time to invest in digital transformation

Through all the hype, buzz and noise around “digital” there are some compelling reasons why organisations should be investing proactively in this area in 2015 to strategically grow their business.

Preparation for an uncertain, disruptive future
Mass market access to digital technology combined with new entrants aggressively disrupting traditional service delivery models means implementation of strategy is increasingly becoming tactical and variable. Digital transformation helps an organisation achieve competitive advantage by integrating business and IT strategy processes together to deliver a shared definition of what “good looks like” for different organisational stakeholders (including customers) in this dynamic environment. Previous approaches where such bottom line objectives were probably separate and often divergent are now unsustainable.

It “forces” an organisation to address difficult pain points in its existing operating model
Successful digital transformation should deliver an optimised operating model that enables a consistent, personalised user experience across different on-line and off-line channels.  For many organisations it is likely there are underlying complex business and technical issues that need to be addressed for this transformation to succeed (poor data quality, ageing IT infrastructure and inflexible, unaligned working practices being typical examples). Dealing proactively with these strategic problems now mitigates future risks of an organisation narrowly focusing on user experience improvements to drive profitability because its structural issues have become too costly, too difficult to resolve.

It’s a buyers’ market right now for innovative digital transformation service
Many consultancies, system integrators, outsourcers, design agencies and start-ups are today passionately trying to sell their own digital transformation services. This is a great opportunity for organisations to lever these market conditions (i.e. “shop around”) to find the right solutions that deliver maximum tangible benefits specifically tailored for them.

If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this post, or how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria digital practice