2 mins

The road to digital transformation can be a daunting one, and it’s tempting for businesses to immediately jump on the bandwagon and adopt the hot technologies of the day in a quest to compete.

While it’s important for companies to be aware of new technologies, it’s just as important for them to patiently and consciously choose the technologies right for them – and their customers. No doubt technology can open new doors to innovation, but it should ideally serve as support for overarching business strategies. It is more essential that firms focus on two markers – design thinking and design-to-zero, which when overlapped with technology, constitute actual digital transformation.

Design thinking
Uber’s business model is a great example of design thinking. Based on multiple technologies such as geolocation, mobile, and payment integration, the core service that Uber provides is born out of a keen awareness of the customer. It understood what was truly frustrating to taxi riders – the unpredictable waiting time when hailing a cab, having to pay in cash and no satisfactory way to lodge complaints – and in turn created an app for quick, convenient and transparent booking of rides, cashless payment, and an in-app feedback mechanism.

Pivoting to design thinking requires a rigorous examination of your company’s existing systems, products and services from the end-user’s perspective. When customer touchpoints and bottlenecks have been identified, appropriate digital solutions can naturally come to the fore. This approach not only allows for more strategic investments, but also promises to deliver true customer value for a one-two punch in competitive edge.

Customer expectations have evolved in step with the proliferation of such mobile, on-demand, to-the-doorstep services – and companies must adapt. With seamless, frictionless customer service journeys now the gold standard, businesses are targeting the human touch as a critical source of inefficiencies and friction.

The primary objective of design-to-zero is not to eliminate human touch at every stage of the customer journey. It involves a strategic, targeted deployment of digital technologies to enhance the customer experience from the moment they engage with your brand.

A good first step would be to identify bottlenecks in the customer journey. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think: what are the processes you would much rather have a digital option to turn to? Is it a banking transaction you don’t want to have to travel down to the branch to complete? Or a check-in at the airport you don’t want to queue up for? Next, what are some innovative, digitally-led solutions to streamline these processes? Adopting a customer-focused mindset will quickly unearth pain points that may be best resolved by digital technologies.

Start on the right foot
The road to digital transformation is understandably daunting. Companies must undertake extensive research into customer needs as well as consider wide-ranging organisational change. Here are three practical steps for businesses as they embark on this path:

  1. Take one small step at a time
    Businesses should start small and progress from there. Take a small back-office process or capability in the business to test how efficiency or productivity can be improved there, or how that part of the business could be made more agile. From there, you can extend testing to other parts of the business.
  2. Set up cross-functional teams
    These small projects and pilot tests are best led by business teams rather than IT. If they are IT-led, the conversation tends to become very tech-centric. With business-led, cross-functional teams, the principles of design thinking can be applied to the process.
    At Telstra, for example, we’ve created a new technical consulting role within our Telstra Enterprise team, called the “customer chief technologist,” aimed at enhancing customer engagement. This customer chief technologist works with senior account leads to drive and influence strategy, ensuring that the target outcome of delivering valuable customer engagement is factored in, right from the onset.
  3. Use external subject matter experts
    Businesses will benefit greatly by bringing in advice and guidance from external consultants because it allows them to benchmark, replicate what others have done as best practice, and course-correct from the onset. This is especially useful for organisations that don’t have the budget for dedicated, full-time internal resources.

The fear of falling behind in the digital transformation curve is real, but businesses can take heart: with the right mindset, strategy and technology curation partner – and not kneejerk reactions – they can successfully navigate uncertainties in the marketplace, drive change and set themselves up to embrace bigger business opportunities.

This blog was first published on VanillaPlus.