How to get digital transformation right


Ashridge’s Mike Cooray and Rikke Duus of UCL School of Management discuss how digital transformation is moving to the top of the agenda for organisations across all industries.

Added on 20 November 2015 by Mike Cooray

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The race is on to take advantage of Cloud, mobile, Big Data and Internet of Everything technologies. There are some great examples of how proactive organisations are already using digital to improve customer service, productivity, product innovation and revenue. Competing in a digital age does, however, also bring its challenges. Companies often struggle to convert data into true insight, to respond quickly enough to opportunities, and to effectively join up their physical and digital worlds.

As recent events have shown, the datafication of business also means organisations need to get much smarter about keeping customer’s data safe. Numerous data breaches have hit large consumer-facing companies in recent months, Talk Talk and Morrisons to name just two, and organisations need to rebuild consumer trust by being more transparent about how data is gathered and utilised.

The good news, however, is that digitisation also presents many opportunities for businesses who want to add value to their products and services and boost their bottom line.

Opportunity 1:  Creating inter-industry collaboration

If companies are to get digital transformation right, they need to improve collaboration both internally and externally. New business models are needed to facilitate these collaborations and ensure they are mutually beneficial. Organisations that are better equipped to bring together expertise, systems and data are able to develop stronger business models faster and be more effective in fiercely competitive sectors. A great example of this is the collaboration between British Airways, American Express and the supermarket chain Tesco. By gathering and sharing customer data and information on shopping patterns, the three organisations have been able to create added value for the end consumer. Customers can, for example, convert Tesco shopping into air miles and can use American Express vouchers on British Airways when a British Airways American Express credit card is used.

Opportunity 2:  Designing superior customer experiences

Pro-active organisations are using data and digital interfaces to create customised and  individually tailored experiences for customers. Data can be used to add value to key stages of the customer journey, as a result creating a competitive advantage for the organisation. A good example of this is Disney, who has responded to tough competition from other theme parks by developing the MyMagic + app, an automatic identification device which gives the visitor access to Wi-Fi and GPS and also acts as a credit card, room key and ticket for park rides. The MyMagic+ bracelet creates a personalised experience and enables visitors to book rides, make restaurant reservations and schedule greetings with Disney characters prior to arrival. The technology also allows Disney to collect visitor data so that it can understand customer expectations, improve operations and provide better real-time support.

Opportunity 3:  Empowering customers

Digital technology allows organisations to intensify their engagement with customers and put more control in their hands. Consumers like the chance to get more closely involved and are increasingly looking for opportunities to immerse themselves in events and experiences across a variety of communication channels. Tennis Australia and the All England Lawn Tennis Club, for example, are both using interactive apps (the IBM SlamTracker and IBM CrowdTracker) to engage with visitors during the Australian Open and Wimbledon tennis tournaments. The apps allow fans to access up-to-the-minute match data and player stats, as well as video, radio and social media updates. The CrowdTracker app even gives fans a birds-eye view and interactive map of the site, helping them to better plan their tournament experience.

Opportunity 4:  Enhancing employee productivity, health and collaboration

New wearable technologies are emerging that enable employers to track their staff’s health, productivity and even their ability to create beneficial collaborations. Using wearable sensors and digital data, companies can create people analytics and insights to enhance the well-being and efficiency of the organisation. Humanyze (a spinoff of the MIT Media Lab), for example, can measure the number and quality of staff conversations as well as  where staff spend time, their daily movements and stress levels. Virgin is also exploiting this business opportunity and has launched Virgin Pulse, a suite of health and well-being products for the ‘modern worker’.

How well is your organisation competing in a world of ever-changing digital technologies and Big Data?  Find out with our open programme ‘The Digital Organisation’.

Ashridge Executive Education faculty member Mike Malmgren is writing a book on ‘Creating Value from Big Data,’ which aims to help managers link the insights from Big Data to value-creating business opportunities. To help identify the issues organisations are facing around Big Data he is conducting a short survey and would be grateful for your help. Contribute your views (and be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the book) here.