Event report – Digital Transformation: Perfecting Digital Experiences for Enterprises and B2B Customers

Yafaa Ahres

Recently we were pleased to welcome an invited group of clients and other digital business leaders – at Elsewhen’s latest Rebase forum event, discussing the role of digital transformation in B2B.

The theme was “Perfecting Digital Experiences for Enterprises and B2B Customers” – and this inspired our guests to share a diverse range of opinions, insights and experiences.

As companies strive to provide better experiences; the expectations of users and customers keep getting higher. How can technology leaders provide the best experiences to their customers and workforce, and which approaches and technologies are best supporting them in this?

The answers to these questions may be some of the most important competitive differentiators for organisations.

Our discussion included practical recommendations on real-world approaches to delivering consumer-grade experiences for B2B customers and employees.

We discussed the building blocks for data-driven digital experiences that delight users. Our guests also considered how and how leaders should prove the commercial value of their digital transformation initiatives.

Highlights from our discussion are featured below. Speakers have been anonymised under the Chatham House rules of our event.

Question 1. What does digital experience for B2B enterprise customers mean to you?

Banking industry executive’s insights

Towards better experiences

The banking industry is making a really interesting movement beyond just automating processes that exist today. From a digitalisation perspective, this is where there's a certain amount of pulling the customer along with you.

The capabilities, pace and power of digital services nowadays mean that we're having to do much more work – thinking more deeply around the experience and the offering.

A wider view

It isn't just about digitising and automating things that used to be on paper. It isn't just about mapping the process a little more cleverly, and saying we want to push this through different screens or different forms.

It's much more about looking at the digital capabilities that are available, stepping back and asking – what could we do differently?

What are the outcomes we're trying to achieve as an organisation? Not just – how do we digitalise the tasks we've been doing for 20 years.

Investing in experience

We're finding ourselves now having to invest more in experience and design roles. It's about sometimes stepping back from the IT when you roll out a piece of tech to support a business process.

It requires much more joined-up thinking between different teams, to ask – why are we here as a department? Why are we here as an organisation? What are we trying to achieve? What are the blockers to achieving those goals? And then stepping back and saying – actually, these digital platforms are available. 

New digital approaches

These capabilities that didn't exist a few years ago can now enable completely different ways of delivering the outcome that you wish to achieve.

Usually it’s less manual, and therefore hopefully safer from a compliance perspective. It’s also cheaper, and a better offering for the customer.

Quick wins

We still have a lot of work happening around automation of current processes, where we can see quick wins. And therefore value generation is really quick. This can excite the audience, and you can inspire people to think more boldly about what's possible.

But true digitalisation is really about stepping back and asking – why are you here? And actually thinking about the outcomes. Then and only then, start to think about the capabilities you need to deploy it – the forms, or the pricing, or the case management system, or the product offering, or whatever it might be.

Better conversations

We're trying to help our leadership ask more intelligent questions about their delivery functions – whether it's CX or UX or data or whatever.

Leadership needs to be involved at the start of the conversation around what a business unit wants to achieve – as opposed to at the end after they've designed everything.

It's really changing the nature of the engagement, so that it's not a kind of customer-supplier relationship.

It's much more about getting embedded in their mind, understanding what they really want to achieve. And then you can build better services.

Healthcare executive’s insights

Two-sided story

Digital experience within the context of healthcare is a very important one to unpack. Because we are looking at it from a clinical caregiver perspective, but also from the patient’s viewpoint, so it's a two-pronged situation all the time.

From paper to process

We are all familiar with the move to digitise healthcare that started over 15 years ago, with the mandate of going paperless. And then we quickly realised that when the systems go down, you have to revert back to paper. So those who were resistant to change held onto paper just in case.

We started understanding that digital technology is only as good as the data you put into it. So then to reap the benefits of digitising processes, it is very important for us to have a baseline of how things are on paper – but very few are willing to surface that comparison.

Digital push

You have to keep on iterating through the whole digitisation process. Many factors can hinder the free-flowing movement of data.

But we are seeing more of a consumer-led digital push within healthcare, Expectations have shifted greatly, compared to even five years ago. It's about healthcare services being able to connect with the patient on their terms, and being able to harness the data, which is coming at a phenomenal rate.

First and foremost, digital is all about being able to have processes that you are able to standardise, because you have a methodical way of capturing the data.

Breaking down barriers

Almost overnight, the pandemic broke down barriers to healthcare digitisation, such as virtual consultations. This capability was open to the healthcare sector for years, but it was blocked because of concerns about data privacy, patient confidentiality, and so on. COVID changed that.

We had to pivot and enable people to connect using digital tools. So we are now on a very fast trajectory to really harnessing the power of digital.

Time to care

Many current manual processes can be automated, to liberate time for nurses, doctors and other care teams. Digital technology also allows patients to connect with the service in a completely new way.

The whole point of digital transformation is to introduce new capabilities. But these are rarely articulated fully within a business case, because you don't know what will happen when you fully digitise the process.

So it's about being nimble, being flexible, agile, and being able to measure some of those benefits.

Financial services executive’s insights

Transforming perspectives

It always seems a little odd when we talk about digital transformation – because many people today have never been in a situation where we've had to transform digitally. Many of us have always worked in a digital industry, and have never had to consider things like going paperless.

So digital transformation is perhaps a misleading term – for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, many of us think of transformation as something that happens instantly. And if you're chasing something that happens instantly, you're setting yourself up for a marvellous failure.

Secondly, it is digital – but there is no inherent value in digital-ness. 

Meeting needs

When we talk about digital transformation, what we're actually trying to do is to better attend to people’s needs.

Once we've understood people’s needs, it just so happens that digital technology – and the processes and methods that we've evolved around it – help us to better meet those needs.

This process of understanding and attending to people’s needs is incremental and evolutionary. It really is a process of understanding your customer, what their pains are, what they'd like to achieve – and then trying something to meet their needs.

If you do that, effectively and iteratively, you end up having transformed their experience.

So really, the concept of digital transformation is almost immaterial. It's what this achieves that is the important thing. 

Retail industry executive’s insights

Seamless experiences

In retail, the digital experience is about enabling customers to access their shopping basket the way they want to, whenever they want to. We want to make it easier for them to shop – for it to be as seamless and frictionless as possible.

Rethinking digital

With the modern focus on digital transformation, we forget that digital has actually been around since 1980 or so. IT was becoming a thing in the workplace – that was the digital revolution at the time.

We just didn't necessarily call it digital. It became something different with the concept of digital marketing. And then you had a focus on people thinking digital, and designing things, and automating things – but not always understanding what they're doing or why.

In some cases, we see digital solutions such as RPA – robotic process automation – used just to address tech debt, rather than to fix a problem.

So you have to ask – what are you actually trying to achieve? How do you make sure that you do it in the fastest and most pragmatic way possible? Who are you doing it for, and why?

Customer at the top

We need a human-centred design approach to how we solve problems using technology. This, in essence, is what digital experiences are about. But we often miss the point by focusing on the digital.

We forget about the technology part. Particularly the hard, dark legacy tech that we have to integrate with – because you can't just replace everything wholesale.

We have to think top to bottom in the way we do it. And at the top should be the customer, or the end user, or the person that we're supposed to be solving a problem for – rather than the technology or the digital thing we want to deliver.

Question 2: What are the building blocks for excellent digital experiences?

Business services executive’s insights

Analogue to digital

My organisation is in what is traditionally a quite physical and analogue business sector. But we have an amazing amount of data, knowledge and expertise. So what we're working through at the moment is how to make use of that – and create some great digital experiences for customers.

Journey to active

It's interesting working for an organisation that is very ‘old-school’ – that still produces most of its content as PDFs.

How can we take that kind of knowledge that's encapsulated in static formats – and make it much more engaging and interactive for people?

How do we get the organisation thinking differently – to come on that journey of creating active content and experiences for customers? 

Cultural shift

For many organisations, cultural shift is much harder than the technology shift. They may be accustomed to projects evolving on an annual or biannual basis. How do we start to create and roll out different experiences for customers every month? We need to be thinking in agile ways, a very different kind of thing for us. Right now, just trying to get the organisation thinking differently is a challenge.

Technology industry executive’s insights

People power

From the perspective of someone that's been working in UX customer research and user research, wherever the user might be – it's never been fundamentally about technologies. It's always been about cultures and people.

Beyond boundaries

We tend to set false boundaries between those things as well. Typically, we make use of a ‘systems thinking’ approach – where the output of one thing becomes the input of another.

We put boundaries around one group of people creating change, and another group that has to consume it; we overlook the diffusion of innovation, and how ideas are actually captured and harnessed within groups. 

Types of transformation

When we talk about transformation, we need to consider the type of transformation we mean. Is it transformation like a child growing into an adult, where you're incrementing and improving? Or are you transforming like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly – in which case we’re focusing on the boundary of the transformation, which is completely different.

Taking away tasks

From a usability perspective, there's a term ‘function allocation’. Where does the functionality exist? Is it with the person or is it with the technology?

In most cases, when we're doing customer research, it turns out that the customer wants control – but they don't want to have to do the task. So quite often, we can talk less about the ‘jobs to be done’ – and more about ‘jobs to be gone’.

Customers don't expect jobs to be gone – they expect us to do the task. And that's where we can create value.

Gaming industry executive’s insights

Transformation in action

A while back, we worked on a digital transformation project. It was one of the most challenging things we've worked on. We were embedded as a team in another organisation to try to change the culture. We had to work with a group of their people to make change comfortable for them – and then widen that out over a bigger group.

Even though they'd been empowered by their senior management team to do this, they still didn't believe that the things they were going to recommend would ever be accepted. And although they had been seconded to this project, they were still expected to do their day-to-day work as well.

Fortunately, there was one person on the team that was really on the case, and knew how to do it. And she became the leader of the group. Within a few weeks, we were really making progress  – in terms of being able to work in an Agile fashion, getting people working through sprints, and driving towards change.

But did some people fall along the way, because they couldn't accept this way of working? Absolutely – we didn't end up with the same people we started with.

Banking industry executive’s insights

Change makers

It’s really important to have business change capabilities in your technical team – including softer skills and empathy. When we drove a digital transformation project recently, we even had a behavioural scientist on the team.

We were constantly asking – how’s our internal engagement? What's stakeholder management looking like? That was much more important than any kind of technical aspect – because the organisation needed to change and people needed to think differently.

It may be an evolution most of the time, more than a transformation – but those change functions are still super important.

Retail industry executive’s insights

Method of choice

We need to understand different methodologies. Agile may be the word of the day, but it's not always right for everything.

Let's say you want to digitise one of your back office applications. You want to make sure it's as automated and intelligent as possible. But don’t just make a broad-brush assumption that you're going to do that with an Agile methodology.

Does it make sense? You need to understand how to select the right approach for delivery – for the right reasons.

Question 3: How should leaders prove the commercial value of the digital experience to secure future funding?

Healthcare executive’s insights

Value made clear

Your value proposition for digital transformation is vitally important. When you want to get funding, or gain further engagement with your product or solution, you will be expected to have a value proposition.

A simple structure for this is – what problem are you looking to solve? How do you do it? What is the transformational effect of what you're offering?

Business services executive’s insights

Perception projects

This year in our organisation, we've been given a mandate to do some projects that don't need to prove commercial value, but that change people's perception – which is quite interesting.

Vision of the future

In our experience of the financial sector, project funding was never the main issue. The issues were much more about the culture and the ability to make change – to make people think and behave differently.

We always found that if we could create a compelling experience for people, then the funding would become available. It was about painting that vision of the future. And if you can do that, then funding will usually come.

Banking industry executive’s insights

False memory

There's been quite a few times where we've worked with business units on transformation projects and achieved lots of good outcomes. But then they'll just say – actually, it used to be good anyway. There's almost a mindset switch where they forget how bad it was before. 

Baseline for better

So it's vital to start the project with the right baseline data to prove the value of digital transformation. We take some time and step back at the start – making sure everyone understands the data.

What's the throughput? What's the SLA? Then you can really double down on showing people the value generated.

Even in big organisations with lots of project funding, being able to prove the value of transformation makes the next conversation easier. It also removes some of the emotion that occurs in a situation where jobs are changing.

Business services executive’s insights

Storytelling vision

When it comes to communicating the value of digital transformation, remember the value of storytelling, rather than just hard data. Data is important – but sometimes storytelling and building a vision is equally vital.

Technology industry executive’s insights

Moving mindsets

One of the challenges is about toolset, skillset and mindset. Often, the toolset and skillset within the team are already there. It's the mindset that needs to shift.

And when it comes to cultural change within an institutionalised group, that will operate in a similar way. You want to get as much diversity into that pool as possible, so you improve the range and variety of inputs.

Environment shift

But the core challenge is that people don't tend to change their behaviours on their own. They change behaviours based on environmental change.

When the environment changes, they adapt to that. So to create a mindset shift, we must also make a shift in the environment.

Know your destination

A potential problem with Agile methodology is that the compass isn't built into it, It is constructivist in nature.

Constructivism is when you assimilate or accommodate based on new data. It can feel like we’re laying the tracks in front of the train as it goes along.

The challenge here is that often the end goal isn't established. That's why Agile on its own can be a problematic piece for innovation.

If you don't decide what that end state should be, or what the true value is, then it's very difficult not to go off on tangents – and deliver things rather than value.

Financial services executive’s insights

Diverse definitions

When we hear different people talk about Agile, we realise that there is little consensus on what Agile truly is. It can be just a word that we use. We all think that we're talking about the same thing, but often we're not.

From my perspective, Agile does involve an envisaged ideal future state you're working towards that acts as a compass.

Technology industry executive’s insights

Agile adaptation

Agile is just a way in which we adapt the methodologies that we use – like Scrum, for example. There's nothing built into scrum that says you must have a value state at the end of it.

Gaming industry executive’s insights

Vision vs revenues

It would be fascinating to look at a business that just had the vision and didn't have to worry about revenues. Unfortunately, this is where the rub comes.

Quick change

In the gaming industry, we get metrics back very quickly. That allows us to change products accordingly – based on the need to drive revenue. But we can be too quick in changing important parts of the product.

This can restrict things when we workshop ideas, because we know the expectations of our stakeholders so well.

When a product launches and they start to track the metrics, we know that potentially the results on day one aren't going to be what they want. So we make sure in those early workshops to define what success looks like over time.

This gives us the latitude and the time to iterate the product – without having to immediately cancel it or change it dramatically.

Banking industry executive’s insights

Measuring outcomes

Outcomes are critical. Sometimes the value will be easy to measure – such as revenue increase or cost reduction.

Some of it's harder to measure. It's about your risk position, understanding your business better for the good of controls, and things like that – particularly in banking.

Sometimes it's improving satisfaction with your customers or user base. Sometimes you don't make things faster – you make them easier – so people are just generally having a better experience at work or in daily life.

Getting there

So you have to understand your outcome – you have to decide what it is. Sometimes it’s measured in customer survey results – or the way employees feel when they do their 360 reviews. It's about people finding it easier to get to where they need to get to.

Tasks to results

In a way, the pandemic has helped us a little bit here, because the presenteeism of management has had to drop off somewhat.

Task-level management has been harder to do through this kind of virtual environment.

Management teams have got more used to thinking about the outcomes achieved by their departments, rather than the volume of tasks achieved.

Attributing value

You have to decide what your prioritisation framework looks like, and what factors you attribute value to. Then for any kind of change activity you're doing, you can map the outcomes against those. You can then build a good consensus for the kind of change you need to do.

Question 4: What are the common pitfalls when creating digital experiences?

Financial services executive’s insights

Pitfalls and people

The pitfalls are often not about technology. Technology has generally been the easier bet. The harder bet is organising people, so that they can deliver outcomes rather than just outputs.

For example, if you have a technology or product organisation, it is usually separated out into functional silos.

So you may have one team delivering the database, one team delivering the front end, and one team delivering the middleware.

And there's no way that any of those teams has outcomes within their domain of control. They're just going to deliver the output and how that comes together as a system.

 Incentivising outcomes

It also comes down to incentives. How can we incentivise people to work – using extrinsic and intrinsic incentives.

This form of organisational structure has been the most significant obstacle when getting people to think in an outcome-oriented way.

Technology industry executive’s insights

Challenges of change

One of the challenges with measurements like Net Promoter Score is that, depending on when you poll the customer, you'll get a different result each time.

The metrics that we do measure need to be symptomatic of the change that we're expecting to create in an environment – not to measure the performance of the business doing that thing.

Healthcare executive’s insights

Engagement gap

In terms of transforming the experience for healthcare, how do we engage with the consumer? A potential pitfall here is that patients don’t like to feel like passive recipients of treatment.

They want to be more involved as partners in their own healthcare. We are going through a transformation to recognising that the patient’s engagement is vital to help drive their care.

That's a lesson for all organisations creating digital experiences. We need to create an environment where consumers are treated as equals, based upon their experience of your products or services.

Join the digital transformation discussion

If the issues we discussed at our recent forum sound relevant to your own digital business transformation, let’s talk about how Elsewhen can help you with your digital experiences.

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