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The Revolution of Digital Evolution

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Organisations around the world committed to maintaining a competitive edge in today’s digital age, have established their customer experience function as an intrinsic practice of their core business. As part of their digital strategy, organisations have introduced new technologies, realigned structures and streamlined processes, together with securing new talent and leaders to drive digital channel growth and optimisation.

The purpose: to detect, analyse and action upon insights uncovered about organisations’ customers to ultimately lead them on “a journey of awareness through to advocacy” (CMO Online).

As such, Ampersand’s Digital Practice has experienced significant growth over the past six years as an increasing number of leading Australian organisations are transitioning their digital capability from a (historical) one dimensional marketing or technology lens, to an enterprise-wide mandate. Centralisation, enterprise buy-in, investment and elevation of ‘digital’ underpinned by an optimised customer experience strategy has been the goal and in turn, conversion to more compelling customer engagement, costs per acquisition and cross-channel growth.

Different structural trends are driving organisations to build digital capability – centres of excellence – as either a dedicated channel or; by creating centralised, enterprise-wide accountability to ensure digital transformation at every touch point of the customer lifecycle. In pure play environments, technology and customer experience lead the way. In omni channel environments, digital transformation and centralisation has been a consistent theme – and not without its teething problems – as organisations redefine the way they do business and importantly, how they engage with their customers.

Building best in class user experiences and the ability to optimise customer experience at every touch point remains the central goal. Some organisations who are more advanced on their digital journeys, such as the big banks and major telcos, are leading the way with compelling results. They have however walked some painful roads to get there with resistance felt often due to political shifts of power and decision making. Pure plays are just geared this way – their businesses are built from the outset with this engrained in their culture, structures, platforms, people and customers – they get it. They often however, having come from entrepreneurial heritage, experience significant growing pains in other areas when scale is required to satisfy growth.

The move towards centralised digital functions has to date been led by telecommunications, financial services institutions (namely the big banks) and pure play organisations, which are widely considered as the most progressive businesses in the world of digital transformation. Ampersand recently spoke with a respected and profiled leading digital executive, currently on a mission of introducing “a unified approach under enterprise-wide digital governance and operational model” to a leading Australian services company. He is tasked with selling in a vision of benefits in up-skilling existing talent and driving the centralisation of new core digital competencies. A common story heard across organisations faced with the need for digital change. This senior digital executive however, is committed to driving progressive transformation, convinced that proposed changes to their overarching digital structure will ultimately lead to improved customer experiences with the organisation benefiting from greater staff and customer transparency, increased velocity, channel revenue growth and cost savings through re-use and supplier consolidation across the business. 

Organisations in retail, energy, FMCG/Consumer, education and superannuation have also taken bold steps to develop their digital capability. Despite an estimated $863 billion spent shopping online across Asia-Pacific markets in 2015 (with Amazon’s revenues rising by almost 200% worldwide in the past five years, highlighting the growing consumer preference for digital shopping over high street) – many large Australian retailers are fast trading their traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ offering to, at the very least, incorporate a complementary digital channel. In contrast, front runners from the financial services, gaming and media industries are fine-tuning their digital assets to compete on the global stage.

As such, Ampersand has observed a heightened need for digital generalists with a breadth of experience across a number of digital disciplines to provide acute strategic direction, combined with the ability to engage, influence and transform senior stakeholders to ensure executive buy-in in order to secure and govern the transformational journey.

“One of our challenges is to ensure the business value of an ambitious technology-rich and customer-centric digital strategy is clear to the University, and enables appropriate investment”, tells Lynn Warneke, Director of Channels & Platforms at Deakin University, Melbourne Australia. One of the most effective starting points to engage senior stakeholders are tangible projects with immediate positive impact for key customer groups, and benefits for the whole of the organisation, Lynn explains. “Our Deakin Smart Campus strategic plan, for example, is delivering a range of technology ‘foundation enablers’ like proximity and location-based services, on top of which delightful digital experiences can be built for students, staff and visitors – such as contextual way-finding and mobile notifications.”

Meanwhile, digital trend-setters who are fine-tuning their digital capabilities look to bring on board digital specialists with deep hands-on expertise in targeted digital strategy development, UX design, digital analysis, SEO, SEM, social media, content design and strategy, digital marketing and channel optimisation. Digital professionals with strong writing and editorial skills are also highly sought after to deliver high-quality content as both public and private sectors are revamping their internal and external communication practices.

 

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With the continued necessity of digital education, to bring stakeholders of all levels onto the same page, it is essential for digital professionals to bridge the gaps, redefine how we do business and articulate the relationship between realising return on investment and commercial success, by alignment to the overarching business strategy and the role that digital plays in this.  Often, it’s a matter of simplifying the relationship between the technical and business requirements.

“Some time ago there was a trend for large businesses to recruit Digital Evangelists to come in and shake things up”, says Alessio Bresciani, Senior Manager, Online at Coles Financial Services, Strategist, and Blogger, “We’re not seeing many of those roles anymore because to drive real change today’s digital leaders have to speak the language of business and digital.”

As organisations centre their focus on customer experience, UX (user experience) designers of all levels are in high demand. Many large and medium-size companies are opting to build or extend their team of UX and UI (user interface) designers, together with creating dedicated ‘R & D’ divisions often referred to as UX labs. As a result experience designers generally hold a valuable currency for digital businesses and have the option to closely assess career opportunities, often with the choice of multiple offers in the market. A trend brought about by the growing demand and a limited pool of genuine expertise.  

So, how do companies implement digital transformation successfully? Design-thinking (the human-centred methodology, also called Agile) is now more widely introduced across digitally invested organisations as the most effective and progressive way to get digital projects and strategies off the ground (once reserved for experimental start-ups), and develop digital products and services that customers genuinely want and need.

Simon Mackay, CEO at Digital Racing & Sports Media, takes it even further demanding “Agile must move up to into the CFO’s office” in the shape of “agile funding” which provides an opportunity to spread the risk of digital project costs between customers (or stakeholders) and service providers”. 

A growing trend witnessed by Ampersand’s Transformation and Project Services Practice, is the introduction of digital change and transformation pursuit teams to manage the often disruptive move to new digital operating models.

The observe-design-test-iterate-retest-redesign approach (Design-Thinking) is currently opening up the road of innovation to some of Australia’s most traditional businesses but it will take time for them to internalise this method. To what extent large complex organisations will accept one of the most integral parts of design-thinking – the belief that every “failed” solution brings you a step closer to that ground-breaking new idea or product – will be an interesting challenge to watch play out. Simply put, “agile is tolerance to risk”, states Benjamin Crapp, UX Design Lead at Hooroo, formerly Acting Head of User Experience and Design at NAB.

True experience design professionals are bold enough to claim that “using design as a mindset we can change the world to be a better place” (Tim Evans, Experience & Service Designer). Bold indeed, but perhaps an example of the transformative thinking and belief in the power of digital engagement.

Samantha Bartlett, Australia Post’s General Manager of Customer Experience is optimistic too: “After having convinced senior management of the value of a CX strategy and introducing design-thinking as the way to go – my vision is for my position to be redundant in about five to ten years’ time.” At that point, Samantha hopes for “customer experience to be second nature and that tools and measures we take (such as design-thinking) are just used naturally.”

 

How do you make sure your business is capitalising on “digital innovation” both internally and externally with partners and your customers – and in a way that puts you at the competitive, progressive forefront of your industry?

As a like-minded specialist in your space, I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss this question with you as relevant to your business and to share in the insights we garner from our wide-reaching relationships and client partners both in Australia and into our offshore markets across Asia Pacific and Europe.

For an exchange of ideas please contact:

Inci Kaylan Drerup
Principal Lead – Digital
Thought-Leadership & Social Engagement Manager

+61 3 9008 5119 | M.  +61 408 553 961  |  E. ikaylan-drerup@ampersand.com.au

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