What is Digital Transformation?

You own a large, multi-family residential complex. When tenants need to pay rent or submit maintenance requests, they come down to the manager’s office and stand in a line behind the desk.

On the other side of that desk, the manager does not have a good idea of the maintenance work orders and overall financial strength of the complex. Because he or she is evaluated based on lease signings, they often focus on showing apartments to potential tenants over dealing with current tenant issues, despite the fact that retaining tenants is less costly than finding new tenants. The leadership team decides that the manager needs to have a more accurate picture of complex operations in order to streamline their work, and pursues a digital product to make it happen.

Is that problem worth solving?

This question gets to the heart of digital transformation. True transformation requires a thorough examination of not just potential solutions, but the validity of the problem itself. Without that, businesses will find themselves with superficial solutions, dancing around the edges of business issues, but never finding the core. Wrong or superficial problems beget wrong and superficial solutions.

In the example, the answer is no. Think about what would benefit the company the most: higher customer retention rates. Their dashboard idea would have only an indirect, if any, effect on that goal. The manager may have a better idea of the operations of the company and the leadership team would have a more accurate P&L picture.

But that won’t move the needle for the customer retention rate.

Here’s the real question: What parts of the leasing and renting process cause frustration for customers? Instead of doing an app for the manager, why not develop a better way to manage the wait time for customers? Instead of waiting in lines behind the desk, customers could submit everything via an iPad app that is out front of the desk. If it integrates with the workforce management system, then customers can even receive an exact time to expect the maintenance to be performed. More detailed analytics on common work orders can also move the company toward better purchasing and hiring decisions. Improving the customer experience when interacting with management does move the needle.

Companies pay lip service to transformation all of the time. It’s good PR— and business. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, author Scott Anthony explained how some companies are using “innovation” as propaganda. “An increasingly popular move is to issue a press release announcing an ‘accelerator’ or ‘incubator’ or other means to build or interact with the ‘startup community’ without any thought as to what should be accelerated or incubated. Or, finally, they might hold an idea jam session or hackathon without anyone having a clue about what happens next with ideas that get jammed or hacked,” he wrote.

What is digital transformation?

Time and time again, we found that the issues for those on the ground are completely misaligned to those in the minds of the leadership team. Once our researchers get out into “the field,” whether it’s an oil rig or a retail store, we not only find the blind spots of their strategy, but uncover tremendous revenue generating and cost saving opportunities. Clients are often surprised, and even ecstatic, at what the objective and trained eye of our research team will see.

Think of the interactions with mobile and digital products as the lettuce, but the full experience as the salad. This extends design of that experience beyond just the interface; with the rise of VR, AR, voice and other contextually aware technologies, companies need to extend their own strategy to integrate and examine the technology-driven experience with the physical one. That examination needs to be driven by both the goals for the business and the challenges in the way of achieving those goals. Those roots of those challenges can be found on the user level. Breaking each user challenge leads down to its core will lead to a simple, elegant solution.  

It’s time to break down the silos of company ethos around how IT strategy can add value to customer and employee experiences. The future lies in full experience design and experience innovation. Restraining the potential of digital to only one specific interaction or need is frankly, throwing money away. There is so much missed opportunity in the potential that digital and emerging technology can provide.

The key here is to evaluate emerging technology and its role in experience innovation as a core part of business strategy and ROI. Calculating the payback from potential applications, and then prioritizing based on that, allows for emerging technology to play a critical role in achieving business goals. I challenge you to look at the business processes in your company and see if you undertake your digital projects from the lens of the user or from that of the executive. Find out how to use ROI to make a compelling business case with our latest white paper: Making the Business Case for Your Digital Transformation Strategy.


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