Anticipating our workplaces of the future

An introduction to Aurora – Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning radar

Have you wondered why it’s getting harder to anticipate the future?  Do you ever wonder what our workplaces will be like five years from now?

Today’s digital world is changing more rapidly than ever. New ideas and technologies are now being created and released so quickly that patents and copyrighting can no longer keep up. A new pattern is emerging of hyper innovation – a collaborative approach to innovation where open relationships and co-operation is the key to competitive advantage.

Navigating through this constantly changing landscape has never been more difficult, and with new, potentially game-changing technologies appearing on a near daily basis it’s vital to be able to focus on what is important, to concentrate our efforts on these areas to work towards a successful future.

Here in the Aurora horizon scanning team we add that all important layer of focus to technical innovation. Through identifying a handful of the key topics which are going to shape our world in the next three to five years, we can nurture the innovative thinking and help seed new ideas which will remain relevant in this future.

Our work could not be successful were it not for the input from our colleagues, clients and partners and we are always interested in speaking to like-minded people.

To read a little more about the Aurora team, and to find out about the six topics that we are researching, please read our brief opinion on the world beyond digital.

If you’d like to get in touch and let us know your vision of the future, leave a reply below or email aurora@soprasteria.com.

Young Scot Awards 2015: celebrating young people in Scotland

Last week I was privileged to attend the 2015 Young Scot Awards in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. The night is a celebration of the success of young people in Scotland who have made various amazing contributions to the improve the lives of people in their communities.  A suite of celebrities were involved in the hosting and presentation of the awards, including Edith Bowman, the band Prides (definitely the loudest contributors, especially from my seat), Conor Maynard, Stevia McCrorie and Pudsey the Dog (the only one I recognised …). young-scot-performingFrom our table in the front row we got the full 360 degree sound experience – music to front and screaming to the rear. All the nominees and winners were very impressive, with the overall award going to Jak Truman for his inspirational fund raising efforts before his untimely death from cancer in February 2015.

The event made me think about the importance of young people to a company like Sopra Steria. Every year we recruit a significant number of graduates into all areas of the company (104 under 24s in 2014). Working with young people challenges us all to take a fresh approach to our work. Our graduates are invariably keen, work hard, liven things up, and bring a fresh perspective to digital technologies. Some of our projects may not involve the sort of systems they imagined they would work on while at university, e.g. paying farmer’s claims, court case management solutions and prison management systems but they always adapt quickly and successfully (although without the reward of meeting Pudsey).

All our graduates start with an induction programme and then move on to work on various projects, potentially involving a range of technologies and types of clients. We make sure our graduates have more experienced people to mentor them, as well as a buddy to help them settle in. See information about our Graduate opportunities.

In a similar way the Young Scot Awards show that with a little support and encouragement young people can achieve great things and make a real difference.

Many thanks to my hosts SOLACE (the UK representative body for Local Authority Chief Executives), Young Scot for organising a very inspiring and professional event, and above all to the many fantastic young people who were nominated for, and won, the awards.

On a personal note, my 16 year old daughter is part of a Young Scot focus group and was also enjoying the show. However no thanks for the text telling me I looked bald from her seat in the Grand Circle.

Don’t let ITIL get in your eyes

Driving to work today, the sun was low in the sky and it made it hard to see clearly.  Pulling down the sun visor helped but if you’re like me – vertically challenged – it can have a limited effect.  So it was a difficult journey because the sunshine, though welcome, obscured the view.

I think ITIL can be like that sometimes.

Some people worship at the altar of ITIL as though it is there to be obeyed at all costs. You must do it like this; you must have this process in place; you must implement this tool.

In our desire to adopt ITIL, we forget that ITIL was never set up to be a religion. ITIL is guidance, not God.

As a consultant, it can be easier to step back and see the bigger picture, because we are not caught up in the weeds of day-to-day service operations. The flipside is that we can be a bit evangelical and over-zealous.  And that’s where the balance needs to be struck.

In reality, a full-blown incident management solution is great, but if a spreadsheet and a one-page procedure will do, then we need to suggest that. Not deliver two-hundred pages of shelf-ware and a sexy top of the range piece of kit that takes months to implement.

A good consultant will know the Albert Einstein quote and suggest a solution that “should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”; one that will get you started on the right path and will lead you to the promised land of an ITIL-aligned solution that best serves your business’s needs.

Rather than being blinded by the ITIL sunshine, if your sun visor does not provide adequate shade, a cushion on your seat can be a better solution than hiring a chauffeur or buying a new car.

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

An introduction to User Experience

Would you like to experience what it is to be a UX designer?

The UX team have been hosting workshops in order to raise the profile and understanding of User Experience throughout Sopra Steria. The workshop format places those attending at the heart of all activities, allowing them to experience what it is to be a UX designer.

Following the success of a UX workshop held at our Edinburgh office, we have developed the hands-on workshop for a wider audience putting them at the heart of all UX activities. From the theoretical to the practical, the session has been built to give teams an understanding of how we fit UX into a business context and how this blends within an IT environment. Our aim is for participants to leave with an understanding of User Experience and some handy tips and tricks to apply to future projects and bids.

This newly developed workshop was brought to York for change managers at our joint venture company SSCL, and organised by the Head of Change, who got in touch after hearing about the previous Edinburgh hosting. We began by giving the team some background context as to how the UX team is constructed, what roles different members play and examples of projects we have worked on across all sectors of the business.

From here, our approach to the workshop was… less talking, more doing! The team was set multiple collaborative tasks that involved redesigning a current relatable experience. They learnt how to create user journeys, formulate elevator pitches, rapid prototype and user test. These tasks were all done with the aim to equip the team with some UX knowledge, provide a hands-on experience and demonstrate an understanding of key design decisions around UX.

Our ultimate aim was to provide the team with a sense of accomplishment in UX, which I think we achieved on receiving feedback:

“I enjoyed the ‘hands-on’ approach to learning about UX and what it involves”

“As someone who often struggles to understand abstract concepts, the opportunity to see what it all meant in practice helped me to get my head around it”

“It was a good session and really simplified the meaning of UX”

If this is something you feel would benefit you or your team, then feel free to get in touch – leave a reply below, or contact me Lynsey.brownlow@soprasteria.com.

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 the utility industry has lots of synergy with the insurance sector

If we had a choice none of us would “choose” to spend our hard earned money on utility bills – gas, electricity and water. Whilst all essential services, they just don’t have any aspirational value to us living in the developed world. A huge amount of infrastructure and capital investment has been made over the past decade assuring our utility services in the UK, so we tend (rightly or wrongly) to expect these services to “just work” and be there when we need them. This makes it difficult for utility companies to create a relationship with us – their customers – as most don’t want, or see, any value in having any contact or a relationship with our utility companies.

Typically, there are four journeys we will take with a utility company:

  1. To register or amend our details, or leave the provider. Currently for water companies this can be a relatively rare event given the current lack of competition and choice in the industry and we see our water bill more like an additional tax
  2. To query our bill. For gas and electricity companies, this is the most likely reason we will contact a utility company today, as the majority of the industry still runs on estimated bills. The planned roll out of Smart meters, however, will dramatically change bill queries, which in turn will drive down customer interactions
  3. To complain – the most frequent reason for us to contact utility companies! According to the Institute of Customer Services the utilities industry remains rooted to the bottom of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI)
  4. To report a fault, for example, when a loss of service occurs. This is the time when we expect and demand a high level of engagement, given the inconvenience the service loss will cause

These “customer” journeys tend to be very similar with the insurance sector. A small amount of contact occurs at the time when we register for an insurance policy, amend our details or exit. We might query the price at the time of renewal, although more and more, we do this through price comparison web services. The insurance industry ranks higher for customer service than the utility companies in the UKCSI so customer complaints tend to be fewer in number, but do still occur. And, when we have a problem – typically an event has occurred where we need to make a claim – we expect that claim to be processed with ruthless efficiency and by staff who show huge empathy to our circumstances.

This final customer journey, processing a claim, is one where the insurance companies have invested in heavily to differentiate themselves. Expensive advertising by insurance companies will often focus on how they manage claims, recognising the distress we may have at such times. Therefore, utility companies should invest in their people, processes and systems as well to provide much needed support during a loss of service – a very stressful time, particularly for vulnerable people.

Finally, insurance premiums, like utility bills, are ones we would all prefer “not” to pay but we know we “need” to ensure we have insurance policies to cover our loved ones, property, vehicles and possessions.

Utility companies should aspire to benchmark themselves against the leading insurance companies. Aspiring to align themselves with the best in class customer service organisations, such as John Lewis or Amazon is a flawed strategy – the companies at the top of the UKCSI all offer a product or service that we “want” rather than we “need”. Perhaps this is why British Gas has picked an insurance industry veteran, Mark Hodges from Aviva, to be their new Managing Director?