In this article, we will discuss the who, what, when, where and why of Digital Maturity, how transformation has become a key factor in business success and the innovative ideas that are leading the way for large enterprises and SMB. Customers nowadays expect and want to interact digitally, they need to know that you can supply their demands quickly and no longer accept disruptive approaches in marketing, advertising, sales or promotions, rather, they expect and welcome a customised and personalised experience.
And so began the age of the Digitally Mature business, a business that can provide personalised experiences seamlessly, quickly and consistently.
“Digital Maturity has become a necessity for businesses looking to become lean, mean money-making machines”
The general perception that the B2B industry does not require the same level of innovation when it comes to CX is a notion of the past. B2B clients demand a highly personalised CX just like B2C customers, if not more. Disruptive and emerging technologies need to be embraced by business in order to survive in today’s market and gain a competitive advantage. We see shifts in organisational culture, technical expertise, change management and strategic partnerships as the key elements that decides the success of your digital transformation journey. Companies must invest in these elements to leverage their ability to innovate and craft a personalised CX.
In Australia, there is a boom in digital transformation and innovation across all major industries in the B2B and B2C sector. SME’s, sole proprietorships and global enterprises are all trying to enhance the way they do business with the help of technology. A defining factor in creating a competitive edge has come down to how nimble you can be while providing a cutting edge, real-time customer experience (CX) led by data and insights.
Digital maturity or “digital readiness” is the completed process of breaking down silos and working cross-functionally. Working from an operational standpoint, to help enable the proactive and efficient use of technologies which support business processes such as sales, service, commerce, data, marketing and experience. A truly digitally mature business has integrated systems set up to work in tandem with a technically trained workforce, that efficiently uses data and tools to deliver on business objectives.
Does this sound a bit too good to be true?
The parameters set to assess digital maturity are often vaguely defined. Factors that directly influence digital maturity include; corporate culture and governance, digital roadmap and strategy, availability of appropriate resources and the current state of digital adoption for your business.
A recent report by COMMONWEALTH SCIENTIFIC AND INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION (CSIRO) Data 61, indicates that Australia has a $315 Billion opportunity if it is ready to ride the digital wave of innovation! Great opportunities lay ahead for the industries of precision such as healthcare, agriculture, urban management, cyber security and distribution according to the report.
However, Australian companies are adding about a third less of the economic value, using digitally innovative technologies, than other advanced economies. The economic benefit reaped from digital innovation is 7.4% of GDP over the last two decades compared to digitally advanced countries who stand at 11.2% of GDP. According to recent research by Cisco, Australia’s small and medium businesses stand 4th in 14 countries in terms of Digital Maturity.
However, don’t let this discourage you, we are seeing digital maturity in numerous businesses across Australia, in fact, some Australian SME’s are among the most digitally mature, and innovative companies in the world.
Australian executives recognise that their businesses lag behind in digital transformation compared to their global counterparts. One of the reasons identified is senior management and executive teams having CX as a lower priority compared to other organisations around the globe. However, the biggest reason for this digital gap was a lack of digital skills in the workforce. This was identified in a recent study on 103 senior managers at large Australian companies by Infosys, suggesting that 42% of respondents believed the lack of digital skills in the workforce was hampering the acceleration of digital transformation. The survey revealed that another determining factor is the lack of proper change management. Other factors include inadequate collaboration between IT and other business divisions and a general risk-averse culture which is apprehensive to change.
Flexibility with Technology
Digitally mature businesses work in a seamless fashion with a variety of technologies and software that they keep updating and changing with the support of a strong backend. Creating a seamless flow of data and actions that allow companies’ employees and customers to benefit from minimal lag. Simplified user experience is a sign of frictionless integrations and a prerequisite for the next 5 years.
Beta testing or end-user testing has to be given immense importance in B2B digital deployments. Organisations need to play around with new software and test cutting edge developments in their technology ecosystems. They need to try new features and see how they can use them for process improvement. As the end users, in the case of the B2B industry, interact frequently with your digital platforms and are well-informed customers, it’s imperative to make sure your digital initiative is completely ready and relevant before making it public.
The early adopters are at an advantage in the case of digital technologies. Companies that catch the technology train early on, are more prone to adding value to business processes through successful use and implementation of disruptive tech. Those who miss the digital innovators’ bus eventually hemorrhage money in the form of operational inefficiencies and lack of customer satisfaction
Internal alignment and technical support for adoption:
All stakeholders need to be aligned on the broader organisational objectives of digital transformation and work in unison towards achieving these goals. To meet these objectives, a solid technology roadmap should be laid out and renewed every year. There should also be an intuitive technical support structure in place. Support like proper training plans for adoption of digital initiatives internally across the organisation.
Destroying silos to share experience internally:
With heaps of data being produced from various online and offline sources, there needs to be a centralised data repository. In order to gain greater cusotmer insights, analytics and data from multiple touchpoints across the customer journey need to be combined. Departments should be able to get relevant data through a single dashboard to get a holistic view of the customer.
Adapt or perish
Adapting to ever-evolving customer demands: “The only constant in the world of business is change itself”.
Changing customer needs demand, real-time insights and automated actions to provide a hyper-personalised CX to stay up to date with the dynamic business environments of today. Customers only want highly relevant and tailor-made communication and offerings. A digitally mature business practises constant flexibility and allows for plans to change and mould based on customer needs and wants.
As browsing through mobile phones even in work-related B2B interactions increases, it is important to utilise this medium effectively. Most of us spend a ton of time using our mobile phone to answer work-related queries. Which is why providing a great mobile experience is part and parcel with digital maturity. Can your customer invoke the same or even a more unique experience with your business online regardless of screen size?
Gamification in QA and Customer Services:
Gamification is another tool that can be used internally to incentivise performance of your employees. Not only does this help in performance evaluation but also motivates employees to become productive. Digitally mature companies are increasingly investing in different versions of gamification software to help improve staff performance and provide an enjoyable experience across tedious tasks or procedures. Remember CX for your team is just as important as for your customers.
Chatbots that actually chat:
Almost every company that is maturing digitally is trying to invest in human-like chatbots. Currently, conversational interactions in text or speech form with chatbots lacks the human element. Although customers are increasingly opting for self-service portals, they still demand a human touch to their interactions. Hence a shift towards chatbots that actually chat with you and provide you with a feel of human assistance is necessary. The bugs have been worked out and intuitive bots that don’t lag or error and allow for users to get the detailed and personal experience quickly and efficiently. This software frees up employees, phone lines, inboxes and even the barbaric tasks of manually finding information.
The devil in data
Singular customer view:
We now collect data almsot effortlessly, unfortunatley this has led to “hoarding” of unwanted ifnormation and messy databases. Big data deposits are often a mess with unusable information. It’s important as innovators or digitally nimble companies, to ensure the right data is coming in, getting connected and feeding the correct systems to give a simple transparent view to different departments. A customisable single dashboard should be able to give you actionable insights into your customer journey. Once a holistic singular customer view is created it is easier to design campaigns and apply AI/ML algorithms to hyper-personalise the CX to create real value not only to the business but the customers as well.
KISS Keep it simple…..
84% of companies fail at digital transformation globally according to a study by Forbes. Especially in big enterprises, conglomerates are stuck in their old ways and in the B2B market, we see big legacy brands, failing and re attempting, bringing in professional help but still unable to truly become digitally mature. Large silos within large organisations, overly tedious hierarchical structures, lack of cross-functional communication and continuing use of old legacy systems are some of the major reasons behind digital transformation failures. Simplicity in interactions internally and externally without overly complicated procedures and structures is one-way B2B companies can succeed in digital transformation. The clearly defined purpose or objectives of digital initiatives communicated across departments is another way to keep your digital agenda simple and aligned. Simply remember to not overcomplicate your processes or create tedious activities. Remember, the simplest method is eventually the most effective one to transform digitally.
They say innovate or die, and unfortunately for many businesses, this is true. We have all heard the disastrous stories with the likes of toys ‘R’ US, Kodak,Nokia, Xerox and Blockbuster. According to recent research by Microsoft Australia, only 28 per cent of businesses have a company-wide strategy for sharing data leading to project failures.
37%of Australian organisations claimed more than one out of five CX projects fail which costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the heart of these failures there was Data. Study of 505 Australian medium and large scale organisations conducted by B2B research agency, Colmar Brunton found that lack of data integration is one of the major reasons behind project failures. Responses also suggested that 64% of respondents believed that there were not given enough senior management support, while 61% believed that their companies lacked a top-down corporate-wide digital strategy.
Let’s take a look at companies that have missed the boat.
Sears was a global giant in the department store industry with multiple towers spread across the globe. The company did not feel threatened by discount stores such as Walmart and Kmart. However, these discount stores were earlier to launch digital initiatives and capture the market. Unfortunatley Sears failed to adapt and continues to struggle with its e-commerce initiatives and it’s in store and online CX is known to be declining. As a result, they are downsizing in terms of their physical stores and staff further worsening the CX they are providing.
Toshiba was a Japenese tech giant that excelled at making laptops that performed as well as desktops. In the ’80s and ’90s across both B2B and B2C, Toshiba was considered one of the most innovative companies in the world. However, their competitors started selling cheaper products online thanks to the popularity of e-commerce. Comeptitors in the US and Europe were providing a chaper alternative and stealing alot of market share. In 2016 Toshiba announced that they would stop selling laptops to European consumers and only sell to businesses in the US and Europe. They still could not meet the demands or CX requirements of the European and US B2B clientele and in 2017 were looking to sell the company to settle debts.
Palm, one of the first companies to launch and lead the market for Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). In 2005 the first smart phones came out and amongst them were Palms devices. They mainly catered to business users as the demand for working on the go was on the rise. However, soon Blackberry and iPhone outplayed them in the market. Specialty Blackberry provided better data connectivity and synchronisation with Microsoft Outlook. Business users who needed to work on the go completely abandoned Palm as they did not offer seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook or offer data connectivity options like Blackberry. Palm failed to realise what features their business users who constituted a major target segment of the company were looking for and to respond to their changing desires.
So you must be wondering if it’s even possible for large B2B organisations with complex hierarchical structures and complicated structures to become digitally mature and nimble. The answer is certainly yes!
Here are some examples of digital innovators/trendsetter whose example other B2B Australian businesses can learn from:
The Australian government is already taking initiatives to accelerate digital transformation in the country. The goverment is taking major steps to interact more with the public. Some notable initiatives include assigning citizens digital IDs to give a single login for multiple portals, shorten identity verification steps and better utilisation and protection of data. “Service NSW” in particular is a transformation project aimed at improving the speed and quality of services provided by the NSW government in tasks such as setting up a business, organising a public event, etc. This project in particular aims at facilitating in setting up businesses by providing them superior customer services which would improve digital economic activity in the country.
GraysOnline was one of the first digital adopters in the country working both operating in the B2B and B2C space. Graysonline did not have a strategic digital roadmap in place but adapted according to the changing business environment around them. A customer-centric approach with customer feedback moulding their digital course was the key to their successful transformation. Particularly they improved their B2B interactions by investing heavily in warehouse management, cataloguing, supply chain and logistics for both internal and external processes. Graysonline is certainly a great example to learn from, especially for companies with limited digital innovation budgets who do not have a well-defined technology roadmap. Companies can learn from their adaptive approach by keeping customer needs at the center of the initiatives. Aligning your business on digital objectives with different stakeholders, including senior management and various departments, will help your company craft a unified aproach and create digital maturity in your business.
Macquarie group has been a digital front runner for almost a decade. In 2013 they replaced their legacy core banking system and decided to rewrite their front end to provide a better CX. They have invested in utilising innovative technologies to improve their internal and external processes and platforms. They only plan 90 days in advance using agile methodology. Successfully leveraging immersive technologies such as VR meeting rooms for making agile teams and provided employees with work station flexibility for internal use which helped improve efficiency by reducing project time frames. Externally they have banking platforms with open APIs to connect easily with 3rd party application, service providers and developers. In 2017 they migrated 60 business applications and 150 services to the cloud in their new solution. Furthermore, they had an initiative which allowed 3rd party developers to collaborate and work together with their teams to develop innovative banking solutions through peer-to-peer architecture.
Another B2B company leading the way is Telstra Enterprise. Telstra realised early on that digital transformation is not all about the tech stack, but requires a business transformation as well as changing the way you interact with your customers. End-to-End system integration, scalability on high volumes of transactions, innovation in customer billing and a true paperless initiative are some examples of Telstra digitally mature initiatives. This has driven positivity amongst their customers. To some integration for data consistency, collaboration with customers for digital migration from previous systems and scalable solutions might seem like a common norm or industry trend. However, the KISS principle applies here that just by perfecting simple factors such as integration, automation and scalability they helped transformed the way Telstra enterprise interacts with their clients.
We are witnessing digital maturity in numerous business, in fact, SME’s in Australia are among the most digitally mature, and innovative companies in the world. The government too realises this potential and is trying to accelerate the digital transformation in the country. In the world of B2B, it’s a slower climb to the top but still as the market matures and the omnichannel experience becomes a defining factor even large industrial B2B enterprises are making changes and trying to advance to a digitally mature standard that meets customer needs and demand.
To embark on the digital transformation journey alone for any organisation would be cumbersome and not cost effective at all. The fast-changing pace of technology combined with a lack of digital resources makes it nearly impossible for companies to complete a full transformation on their own. Selecting the right partner to help in enabling your transformation will be a key factor in the success of the project. Make sure to consult a subject matter experts who would have the necessary means and resources to help you undergo your digital transformation smoothly.
While digital maturity isn’t a “hot topic” it has become a staple for business success. The more digitally mature business can be in its operations, team, and technology, the more customer and employees alike will reap the benefits in speed efficiency and simplicity.