Strategy is just as important as technology

In the midst of a storm of digital transformation, companies may feel compelled to adopt new technology immediately, but without the right strategy in place first, these initiatives will be doomed to failure

All around us we’re seeing the power of technology changing the way we do business. Tech giants are launching digital banks in an assault on the financial sector, with the global digital banking market set to grow from its current market value of more than $7 billion to over $9 trillion by 2024. Traditional financial institutions can no longer anticipate a comfortable, unchallenged position or retain loyalty based on traditional relationship banking models.

The retail sector is seeing similar levels of disruption. The high street is dying and consumers are flocking online in their droves. 2,481 stores, banks and other high-street businesses disappeared from Britain’s top 500 high streets last year, 40 per cent more than in 2017. As technology continues to innovate, customer expectations are changing at an unprecedented rate.

In fact, businesses across all sectors are finding themselves in a sink or swim situation, desperately clamouring to find the right technology to adopt in order to stay above water. Amidst the panic, many companies are rushing into implementing new technologies without a well-thought-out strategic plan, which almost always ends in failure.

Putting the customer first

Companies need to take a moment to stop and assess what technologies will make a real tangible difference to their business. One of the main goals - if not the main goal - of any organisation should be customer satisfaction. After all, it’s the customers who can make or break a company.

Looking at major disruptive companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Amazon, there is a common theme – great customer experience. It’s what enabled them to enter an existing market and completely re-establish the status quo. This is what made them successful and it’s what is keeping them at the forefront of their respective industries. Their primary focus wasn’t necessarily profits, bottom-lines, or even the creation of new products or services. It was providing the customer a new way of doing something they were already doing, but in a faster, more agile way.

The best way to enhance customer loyalty is to understand customer expectations fully, then orient the business around them; making the customer the compass. In order to achieve this, and toavoid lagging in the race towards digital transformation, it’s not surprising that organisations are increasingly looking to invest in new technologies to improve customer experience and drive business outcomes. As a result, customer journey mapping is becoming a fundamental aspect of doing business.

The process of customer journey mapping helps all areas of an organisation align and fosters the shared goal of reacting to the customers’ needs. Seeing the entirety of the journey, from both internal and external perspectives, allows you to see your product through your customer’s eyes, gaining invaluable, game-changing insight.

Nowadays, all it takes is a click of a button and users can see processes related to a customer’s journey and who is responsible for each touch point. You can quickly identify areas of concern or duplication of effort, as well as unnecessary steps that negatively impact your relationship with customers.

What many businesses discover is that what they thought was a simple end-to-end process, instead involves multiple processes and departments from across the organisation. It’s only when all parts of the organisation operate seamlessly together that you can deliver the experience that customers expect and demand.

Putting the ‘P’ in RPA

Naturally, in this digital era, companies arelooking to technology to automate business processes in order to save time and money, reduce duplication, improve accuracy, and free up employees to focus on growing the business. It’s been reported that 92% of companies are aiming to adopt Robotic Process Automation (RPA) by 2020 with the aim of increasing operational efficiencies.

With the hype surrounding robotics and automation, organisations become eager to see these much talked-about benefits introduced across their company as soon as possible, often without a proper strategy in place. However, in contrast to the claims made by some RPA suppliers, rapidly deploying cheap robots across the company doesn’t create cost savings and efficiency gains to the extent that is desired.

The crux of the issue suffered by the robot-loving, yet disappointed RPA-using companies, is the lack of emphasis placed on the “P” (Process) in RPA. Any deployment of RPA without an emphasis placed on the determining and optimising processes puts highly efficient robotic workers in place to do inefficient tasks. When it comes to the everyday processes in an organisation there’s usually a disjoint between what business owners think is happening (or what should be happening) and the reality. Only by determining the processes’ reality can RPA be genuinely effective and achieve a full and financially viable ROI.

Too often, with the goal of rapid implementation, ineffective processes are automated without any changes. With this approach organisations end up automating bad processes and decisions, with suboptimal results.  But if an organisation takes the time to really focus on its existing processes, RPA implementation provides an excellent opportunity to discover, analyse and redesign a process, before robots are implemented to automate appropriate parts.

While we continue to witness companies all around us failing to keep up and drowning in the seas of disruption, it understandable that businesses feel under pressure to implement large digital initiatives and follow technology trends. But in order to really excel, they need to be ensuringbusiness processes are directly connected to the customer experience and when it comes to automating these business processes it should be a case of ‘optimise first, automate later’.