For digital transformation to work, projects need to be run on a human scale. You need to understand the possibilities, aim high, and take cautious tangible steps towards the goal. So say Ralf Hustadt, HPC & Big Data Lead, and Frank Roessig, Head of Financial Solutions from Telindus.
Q: What does digital transformation mean for you?
Ralf Hustadt: Using digital means running your business differently and better, eventually changing your core business. Using the data in your position to move your business to a different mode.
Frank Roessig: For me it’s about doing the things you do now better, as well as coming up with completely new ways to engage with clients, partners and staff. For example, users give away their data for free and this data is then sold onwards. This model should inspire all businesses.
Q: What factors do businesses need to consider?
Frank Roessig: There’s operational efficiency and quality. For example, transactions over blockchain are not only cheaper, but they are more accurate as these movements are checked and reconciled by multiple participants. They are also more transparent, helping with the regulatory process. Then there’s the need to give the client what they expect in terms of quick, instant service and control. Client on-boarding in the financial sector can be digitalised and performed remotely: a photo of a passport of the new client plus some background checks and you’re done.
Ralf Hustadt: There is no reason for your front office staff to not have a clear picture of each client’s behaviour. For example, interactions on banking apps and websites must be reflected by in-branch systems. When a client needs a replacement lease car following an accident, the branch should know the client is nearing the end of their contract, and thus could offer them an upgrade to reward their loyalty. The public sector can learn from this too. Why do we have to visit offices, take a ticket, and stand in line for quite simple services?
Q: What are the biggest challenges with digital transformation?
Ralf Hustadt: Mindset is the first step. It’s natural to be resistant to changing what has worked in the past, but with the world moving into a new data driven era, businesses must move with the times. These days it’s not big companies eating the small, it’s the fast eating the slow. For example, AirBnB has three times the market cap of the Accor group, despite having no hotels.
Frank Roessig: There’s also the fear factor that robots will take employees’ jobs. That’s why I like the term “co-bot”, something that will make your job easier and more interesting. For example, nobody mourns the passing of typing pools, where people spent all day typing out handwritten text. There are now more interesting jobs thanks to new technology. The same process is happening with digital transformation. Another challenge is making sure the tech actually solves a problem. First look at what the user wants and then work from there, rather than letting the technology drive the service.
Q: How should organisations seek to transform?
Frank Roessig: Although, we should aim high, we recommend the agile approach which features small, tangible steps towards progress. So if you fail, you fail fast and you can learn from that. This helps the project progress, but also helps project teams get feedback from users and communicate to business decision makers that the work is achieving quick returns on investment. Putting millions on the table and hoping a service will come out at the end is risky because transformation is such a complex business.
Ralf Hustadt: This last point is important. You have to prove that you’re not wasting a whole lot of money going into the wrong direction. For example, an insurance company decided that they wanted to implement chatbots to help clients make their online decisions based on their personal preferences. However at an early stage they saw resistance because clients wanted to talk to knowledgeable humans. So the developers had a rethink and saw that chatbots were the solution for their call-centre staff, helping them to make suggestions linked to each client’s characteristics.
Steering a project is often a bit like driving through a large town with a caravan in tow and only a roughly drawn map. You need to make steady clear progress, and be ready to change direction quickly, because this way you’ll avoid dead ends that are difficult to back out from.