What is Digital Transformation?

Leor Melamedov

Digital transformation is everything that goes into a company’s effort to develop and bring on new technologies that make their business more digital. Businesses across practically every industry, from banking to insurance to telcos now understand that a digital transformation is critical for staying agile in the modern era, and meeting the growing customer demand for a digital experience.

Why is digital transformation so important today?

Let’s take a moment to step into a typical consumer’s shoes.

Imagine a customer named “Joe” who starts his day by scrolling through a personalized news feed on his iPhone that was generated based on his interests. He’s running late to work, and orders an Uber to save time. Back at home in the evening, he orders dinner through the Grubhub app in just a few taps. As he’s waiting for his food to arrive, he realizes he’s running low on toilet paper. He asks his Amazon Echo to order it for him, and two hours later, he gets his delivery thanks to Prime Now.

Suddenly, Joe sees an ad for a national bank offering a benefits-rich account, and decides to sign up. He goes to the bank’s website and tries to find the form, but it’s nowhere to be found. So he hops onto his bank’s Facebook page and sends a message. Unfortunately, the customer service representative directs him to the bank’s website — the original source of his trouble! He calls the customer service number, but now the representative directs him to a physical branch, where he’ll have to fill out paperwork. Thus begins a very circular and frustrating process for a very routine goal: opening a new account.

This is just one example of a broken digital journey in the banking industry. Many other traditional, compliance-focused industries struggle to provide their customers with a complete and intuitive digital experience.

But it’s critical that these industries remember that when customers are completing any transaction with any type of company, they’re comparing them to a slew of other consumer services they interact with on a daily basis. Those services are overwhelmingly seamless, digitized, and frequently even delightful. Unfortunately, not all industries have kept up with consumers’ digital expectations, whether it’s due to deeply entrenched norms, concerns about compliance, lack of time, or lack of sufficient advocacy for innovation.

Yet this digital divide will only hold traditional industries back. On the other hand, embracing digital transformation will put them in a powerful position to compete with newer businesses, maintain customer loyalty, and win new business — especially from Millennials and Generation Z.

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3 steps to a better digital transformation strategy

Part of the reason why so many companies lag when it comes to digital transformation is that it can be difficult to decide which digital transformation elements to prioritize. In addition, larger companies typically have more stakeholders, and the procurement process for new technologies is often slow and tedious. Here are some tips for executives to make it easier to transition to a truly digital-first organization:

  1. Focus on the frontend

Both frontend and backend technologies are important for the synergistic operation of a digital-first company. Yet modernizing the frontend deserves special emphasis. Customers don’t usually know or care what goes on with organizations’ backend IT. Even if it indirectly affects them, it’s certainly not what customers will remember the business for.

In contrast, customers certainly will and do notice when a purportedly digital frontend system breaks, and they’re directed to a branch. They are frustrated when they’re bounced from a phone call to email to printer. They can’t stand it when they make a mistake on a physical form and then have to start the whole cumbersome process over again from scratch.

Companies that rely on tools such as eSignatures, eForms, eDocuments, digital payments, and electronic ID verification provide their customers with a single seamless experience, from the sales to the servicing process. Not only are customers more satisfied and loyal, but turnaround times are decreased, agent productivity grows, and conversion rates soar. Eliminating unnecessary direction through digitization isn’t just good for the customer, it’s good for the business.

2. Have digital advocates throughout the organization

Digital transformation isn’t and shouldn’t be the domain of an innovation officer. Ideally, the organization has advocates for digital transformation in every department. Obviously, it’s critical for cross-sectional department heads to agree on the importance of digital transformation and push for concrete changes. To that end, digital transformation efforts should be discussed as something that’s mutually beneficial for all areas of the organization. To increase stakeholder buy-in, it will be necessary to show evidence, whether through case studies or industry KPIs, that the new piece of technology will help multiple teams come closer to their goals.

But getting agent buy-in shouldn’t be overlooked. Even before the new technology is adopted, agents should be informed about the technology, and learn how it will make their lives at work easier, more efficient, and less stressful. Their training with the new technology should be hands-on, not just theoretical. They should have an opportunity to test out how the technology will fit into their roles with realistic scenarios. After all, agents will be the ones using the technology in their daily work, and they need to be comfortable with it. If a new technology makes agents excited, that’s a great signal about its value.

3. Don’t forget about compliance

The vast majority of robust technologies are very aware of companies’ legal, compliance, and security concerns. As a result, they come with certifications, such as GDPR compliance and HIPAA compliance, depending on the requirements of the particular industry. But it is important to dig deeply into all the compliance aspects of the technology, particularly if the organization is an enterprise managing financial assets and under public scrutiny.

By making sure compliance is maintained in the review of new technologies, it will prevent security breaches down the line. Such breaches involving technological solutions are particularly egregious not only because data is compromised, but organizational and customer trust in technology as a whole may be compromised. Like the new kid on the block, technological solutions have to prove themselves in this area. But once they do, they are more likely to be widely embraced compared to the old, cumbersome systems.

The bottom line

All industries are aware of the importance of digital transformation; where they differ is the urgency with which they undertake new digital transformation efforts. By focusing on the frontend, getting cross-department buy-in, and maintaining a high standard of compliance, the right new technologies can become an integral part of the business.

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