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From the inside out: 5 Keys to effective digital transformation

Pam Maynard, President, Product and Innovation, Avanade
Pam Maynard, President, Product and Innovation, Avanade

Pam Maynard, President, Product and Innovation, Avanade

What do you think digital transformation means? This is one of the first questions we at Avanade ask clients seeking to incorporate digital technology into their businesses. Digital transformation is a huge buzzword, and businesses are realizing they need to innovate and evolve to stay ahead of the technology curve and their competitors. But how do companies make these digital changes in the right ways to positively affect change for their business? They need to ask themselves two questions up front:

• What does digital innovation and that journey in their particular industry look like?
• What’s the purpose for digital innovation and the outcomes they are seeking?

Once companies answer those two questions, it is easier to determine an area of focus. As the leading digital innovator on the Microsoft ecosystem, Avanade counsels businesses on both strategy and technology.  Simply implementing a technology solution does not always solve the problem or accomplish the “digital innovation.”  It starts with the people – customers and employees.

A great example of this is a global urban city water department who was still using paper ledgers and traditional data collection and billing methods. Avanade started the digital transformation project with the customer by asking which problems they needed to solve and then built the strategy from start to finish focusing on the internal employee change management piece and the technology implementation – all with the end user in mind. This project evolved their digital systems, helping improve efficiency and accuracy. Avanade was also able to increase billing and environmental efficiency by connecting the water system to cloud-based IoT technologies, helping with peak and low usage times. 

While every customer situation is unique, there are five basic components to consider for digital transformation:

1. Start with data. Companies should first think about what they want to accomplish with their next digital innovation or large-scale transformation.  Is it a customer satisfaction rating, net promoter score, collaboration with employees or efficiency of staff? Arriving at these scenarios and potential solutions to enact change starts with good data. Look at the story the data tells and what insights are yielded from the data. Only then can businesses properly define the problem they need to solve, the potential solution and the benchmark to use while measuring change.

2. Put employees first. Many businesses think you need to put the customer experience first. And that’s partly true. But in order to provide a great customer experience, you must start with your own employees first. At Avanade, we teach employees that one cannot possibly think about good customer experience in tech delivery without first focusing on employees and their experience internally. This goes for Avanade internally, as well as how we approach customer strategies and solutions. When our employees think experientially, they are able to deliver beyond expectations. Not to mention, when a business is incorporating digital innovation, it needs to ensure that from a change management perspective, employees are on board and aligned so the external customer experience can also transform positively.

3. Bring in outside thinking.  Avanade has a partnership and research relationship with Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Information Systems Research (MIT CISR). As sponsors of many of the research projects, we offer employees access to this research. They can investigate how MIT’s research can impact their thinking and further aid the design journey to deliver quality products/solutions. We also commission independent studies in various industries and trends affecting tech throughout the year to give our employees a fresh perspective of where the market is. Companies should think about ways to introduce this type of outside research and thinking to propel digital transformation.

4. Engage in digital technologies for collaboration and inclusion. Enterprises should consider how they are engaging employees and venues offered for collaboration and inclusion. We live in a modern world where face-to-face meetings are not always possible. As sponsors of digital transformation, we encourage use of digital technologies – mobile, analytics, social, internal tech collaboration tools and so much more. This helps transform internal employee relationships, as well as those with clients, making our technical staff more engaged and connected. Digital technologies also foster more inclusive opportunities to accomplish work by accommodating a variety of flexible work styles. By connecting employees first for our clients, they are able to believe in digital transformation and help enact it for their customers. You must first transform the employee experience to transform the client experience.

5. Use technology to improve efficiencies. When companies think about how technology can streamline their more mundane tasks and offload them for more strategic thinking benefiting the company, this is when solutions like automation, AI and machine learning come into play. It is not about robots taking jobs. It is about how technology can offload menial tasks from employees so they may focus on more high-level strategic thinking. AI does not always mean robots. It can start by simply automating a task such as streamlining the claims process at an insurance company through the automation of workflows. At Avanade we believe that, in the long run, there is a human element to AI that enhances the workforce rather than replacing it. Other examples of AI would include customer service chatbots used by retail and banking companies or machine learning for global language translation services.

While there is certainly not a formula for every company to begin digital innovation, these five areas provide a great place to start. And if businesses don’t feel equipped to address each of these components solo, they need to find a strategic partner to work alongside them.

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