There is no doubt that covid-19 has created additional emphasis on digital transformation strategies that was already well underway. Underpinning these waves of digital transformation are two fundamental drivers: the ability to serve and understand customers better, and the need to increase employees’ ability to work more effectively toward those goals.
An MIT Technology Review Insights survey of 210 members of technology executives, conducted in March 2021, further accentuates that respondents report that they need—and still often lack— the ability to develop new digital channels and services quickly, and to optimize them in real time.
In fact, improving customer experience, enhancing analytics and insight, greater team collaboration, and better online security are the most critical objectives for organizations.
The study shows, two-thirds of respondents indicated that more efficient customer experience delivery was the most critical objective. This was followed closely by the use of analytics and insight to improve products and services (60%). Increasing team collaboration and communication, and increasing security of digital assets and intellectual property came in joint third, with around 55% each.
All the digital objectives are integrally linked to improving customer and employee engagement, retention, and activation. Richard Jefts, vice president and general manager of HCL’s Digital Solutions, notes that increasing team collaboration and communication received additional attention over the last year.
“With covid-19, management teams needed to ensure that business could continue remotely, which has meant new levels of adoption of collaboration capabilities and the use of the low code by employees to digitize business processes to bridge the gaps,” says Jefts.
The researchers provided some examples of tech-focused companies that have leveraged digital tools, low code, and robust, flexible cloud-based networks to successfully democratize data capabilities for business success.
Miao Song, Brussels-based chief information officer of Mars Petcare, notes that digitalization has been steadily redefining her company’s global pet nutrition and veterinary services businesses. “Our online business has seen double-digit growth, and the resulting volume of customer data allows us to forecast demand better,” says Song.
Digital tools also allow more and better market data to be gathered and utilized quickly. Song points out that AI-enabled image recognition tools are being used by Mars’ sales reps to scan retailers’ shelves and generate insight for better inventory management.
Survey respondents have indicated that they have already seen significantly increased performance in customer experience processes since undertaking digital transformation efforts. Moving into the coming year, customer experience continues to be a priority.
Respondents are seeking to improve digital channels in particular, followed by analytics and to support personalization, and AI or automated customer engagement tools. Other digital competencies are being built to accommodate changes in customer and partner expectations and requirements, streamlining customer experience processes by delivering multi-experience capabilities.
Alan Pritchard, director of ICT Services for Austin Health, a public hospital group based in Melbourne, Australia, explains that his company’s digital transformation process began to accelerate well before covid-19’s impact set in.
“A model of service review in 2019 identified home-based monitoring and home-based care as critical to our future service delivery—so even prior to the pandemic, our health strategy was focused on improving digital channels and increasing our capacity to support people outside of the hospital,” says Pritchard, noting that in order to execute on Austin Health’s outreach strategy, a common customer relationship management (CRM) platform needed to be built.
“While some future service models can be delivered with telehealth initiatives or with device integration, there’s still a lot of work to do looking at how you communicate electronically with people about their health status,” says Pritchard.
The organization’s common CRM platform needed to accommodate numerous autonomous specialty departments, “and each of them wants their own app to communicate electronically with their patients,” observes Pritchard.
Managing numerous separate app development processes is complex, although “there are common patterns in how departments engage with patients in appointment booking, preparation, and follow-up processes”, says Pritchard, “so we need a platform that’s highly reusable, rather than a series of apps built on custom code.”
This coupled with the need to distribute some control and customization through the multiple departments, led Prichard’s team down a low-code path.
This largely correlates with the experiences of our survey cohort: over 75% of respondents indicate that they have increased their use of digital development platforms (including low code), and over 80% have increased their investment priorities in workflow management tools over the last year
“Digital transformation is more top of mind for CIOs today than cybersecurity. It is critically important for leaders to use digital innovation to bring new thinking into customer experience and streamlining operations,” sums up Jefts.