Digital is the new normal

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, this statement will seem pretty much matter of fact. Digital is the new normal. Everything we do today involves digital in some way or the other. We transact in digital. Even if we go beyond the usual

suspects in banking, financial services, retail, manufacturing, and telecom, there’s a bit of digital in every aspect of our lives. Food, taxi services, entertainment, groceries are some of the segments that in past lagged the technology adoption but today are a leading example of digital. Healthcare segment is also providing innovative ways in which health plans, healthcare providers and suppliers are using technology to imbibe digital to serve their customers better. Today, it is unthinkable of a service that doesn’t provide a digital way to reach the provider. Digital is in everything we do.

…and, it’s all nice, but there’s a catch!

Yes, it’s all great and we do see a positive impact of digital on quality of lives as a whole. However, there’s a key aspect that enterprises today can’t forgo.

Digital by terminology and by interpretation is driven by technology. Advancements in information technology and the underlying systems are driving the digital wave, and it’s accelerating as we speak. However, sometimes organizations can get too consumed in the technology aspect of digital. Enterprises need to recognize the importance of the other key element in Digital – ‘The Human Element’.

Enterprise IT has undergone many waves of transformation over time. A key phase has been the decade between the late nineties and early millennium when business process optimization (served by BPM approach) became one of the end goals for enterprises. Workflows (system workflows as well as human workflows), EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) / SOA (Service Oriented Architecture),

Web Services, ECM (Enterprise Content Management) and web technologies have carried the enterprise objectives of business process optimization. Digital has added additional thrust to the systemic approach in creating effective technology architecture to drive effectiveness as well as efficiency in business processes – albeit with a difference. The customer has taken center stage. If the previous decade was focused around enterprise performance in terms of business metrics, the digital wave has brought customer angle directly in the equation. However, the approach continues to remain very technology-centric in execution.

The process syndrome or loss of context

Most enterprise systems today, especially in larger enterprises are focused around building processes that are designed to complete transactions with the premise that that’s what people also want, including customers.

In the process, what happens is that everyone in the organization becomes systems driven. The co-workers are looked upon as another piece in the workflow dependency. The end-customer becomes a subject for the transaction. And any outgoing communication treats the audience as a profile set. People become a piece of the puzzle – another resource just like other systems and things (as in Internet of Things). Most times in the process or in the communication, the actual context gets lost.

And that’s not digital. Even though, all the ingredients of digital are present from technological perspective, the core ingredient – the human element is often overlooked. It’s digital in body but without the requisite set of senses to operate as an effective organism.

Delighting your customers, digitally

All customers be in business ecosystem or consumer side of things, are at core people. Rationality defines their modeled behavior. That’s how processes and systems are built. However, customers have their own motivations and drivers – beyond rationale – many times psychological and emotional. A customer service that addresses the customer by name and preempts the conversation with the probable context of an open transaction, makes a customer feel good and at the same time makes the whole transaction more efficient. Digital, in this case means that while the conversation could be enabled by social or mobile technologies, the conversation is personal and contextually relevant. A generic intelligent and predefined message as governed by most digital technologies today, does the opposite and alienates the customer.

The real digital lies in a process that integrates with the underlying identity and content systems to work in context. So every process

  •  whether it is a customer service request management, or an incident management, or part of a CRM or ERP driven process
  • needs to have an integrated underlying content management system that provides the context. It’s relevant more so in a digital world because a variety of content gets created and is relevant for most customer facing processes today. Apart from traditional documents that need to be scanned and made available, there are lots of other transactional content that can complete the context for a customer – pictures or videos clicked through phones, for instance.

A case management driven solution with an underlying business process framework and an integrated content management system can provide the contextual customer engagement that is needed in digital world today. That’s how you delight your customers in digital world by acting in their context and above all treating them as people.

Agility, beyond automation and speed

There are various ways in which enterprises look at business agility. Being fast, today, comes with connotations of strategic agility as well as operational responsiveness. Organizations spend lot of time and energy in building systems and processes that are fast – supported by automation and technology based collaboration. However, any automation model with speed as an objective has inherent risk of being too preset in its model.

Traditional BPM frameworks and workflows had one objective of automation, resulting in operational streamlining. Being fast today has multiple sub-requirements:

  • Smarter Processes: Processes today require more than just workflows. Smarter processes, unlike the phrase may suggest, goes beyond data driven intelligence and should involve human smartness. You need the ability to respond to emergent situations and that requires the ability to vary the navigation as the context changes. An ongoing investigation in a claim, for instance, may change course based on new information. A case management system does that if built well.
  • Empowered Knowledge Workers: Being fast and being flexible is not enough. Digital needs the processes to leverage knowledge workers in the organization and include them fast enough in the process without affecting the operational efficiency. In most customer service scenarios, organizations find their systems and process deficient in involving their most relevant people in the process in time.
  • Superior Context: As mentioned earlier, context enables people to see the situation and act in response to it. However, it is also critical for a speedy resolution of an emergent situation. Access to a relevant, albeit older document in time is equally critical as the current transactional content. A case folder combined with content linked with customer profile, as well as the respective transactional date is core to such agility requirements.

So, being fast and responsive in digital world requires smarter processes, empowered knowledge workers, and accessible superior context – all in consideration of the fact that an automated fast is not as effective as the one powered by human element, especially in digital world.

Business that is infinite, an enterprise beyond boundaries

A truly digital business is the one that can operate without boundaries of organization, geography and time. A lot of times

mobility and social are looked upon as the vehicles for such expansion. However, making a mobile interface for your existing business processes is not going to make it digital. Similarly, adding a social media layer to your existing operations is not going to feel digital beyond surface.

A business process that is truly digital is the one that involves the participants outside traditional boundaries and does that seamlessly. When a customer is able to scan a picture of an incident and add it to the transaction while initiating it on the go from mobile, and without having to wait and compromise on quality that’s one piece of digital done well. When the same process can carry forward and include other participants seamlessly regardless of their department, organization, geography and time zone, then the enterprise acts truly digital.

A powerful workflow, seamlessly enabled through mobility with the ability to flow content through the process makes it possible to create an organization that can extend beyond traditional boundaries, to be truly digital.

Human Digital Element

Connect to put the human element back in digital

True digital requires a human way of treatment and building the processes with enough balance of automation and flexible human intervention. A case management system backed by a powerful workflow, seamlessly integrated with mobility and enterprise content management system can deliver such promise of digital.

A business that acts truly infinite and with processes that evolve and involve, an enterprise that can act in order to delight its customers digitally, an organization that empowers its knowledge workers to achieve responsiveness with speed, an organization that can respond to emergent scenarios with flexible processes. People are after all, the core ingredient to digital. Connecting systems, processes, people and things is what is needed to put the human element back in digital and reinvent your workplace.