The key ‘digital’ element corporates can’t afford to ignore; find out what

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Updated: August 8, 2016 7:12:51 AM

Everything we do today involves digital in some way or the other. We transact in digital. Even if we go beyond the usual suspects in banking, financial services, retail, manufacturing, and telecom

Yes, it’s all great, and we do see a positive impact of digital on quality of lives as a whole. (Representative image)Yes, it’s all great, and we do see a positive impact of digital on quality of lives as a whole. (Representative image)

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, this statement will seem pretty much matter of fact. Digital is the new normal. Everything we do today involves digital in some way or the other. We transact in digital. Even if we go beyond the usual suspects in banking, financial services, retail, manufacturing, and telecom, there’s a bit of digital in every aspect of our lives. Food, taxi services, entertainment, groceries are some of the segments that in the past lagged technology adoption, but, are today a leading example of digital. It is, today, unthinkable of a service that doesn’t provide a digital channel for interactions between customer and provider. Digital is in everything we do.

Yes, it’s all great, and we do see a positive impact of digital on quality of lives as a whole. However, there’s a key aspect that enterprises today can’t afford to forgo. Digital by terminology and by interpretation, is driven by technology. However, sometimes organisations can get too consumed in the technology aspect of digital. Enterprises need to recognise the importance of the other key element in Digital— ‘The Human Element’.

A key phase in enterprise IT transformation has been the decade between the late nineties and early millennium, when business process optimisation (served by BPM approach) became one of the end goals for enterprises. Digital has added additional thrust to the systemic approach in creating an effective technology architecture to drive effectiveness as well as efficiency in business processes—albeit with a difference.

The customer has taken centre stage. If the previous decade was focused around enterprise performance in terms of business metrics, the digital wave has brought the customer angle directly in the equation. However, the approach continues to remain very technology-centric in execution.

Most enterprise systems today, in trying to build processes that are designed to complete transactions, run the risk of turning everyone in the organisation systems driven. The coworkers are looked upon as another piece in the workflow dependency. The end-customer becomes a subject for the transaction. And, any outgoing communication treats the audience as a profile set. People become a piece of the puzzle—another resource just like other systems, and things (as in Internet of Things). Most times, in the process or in the communication, the actual context gets lost.

And, that’s not digital. Enterprises need to tap the human element to become truly digital. Even though, all the ingredients of digital are present from technological perspective, the core ingredient—the human element—is often overlooked. All customers, be they in the business ecosystem or consumer side of things, are people at the core. Rationality defines their modeled behaviour. That’s how processes and systems are built. However, customers have their own motivations and drivers—beyond rationale—many times psychological and emotional. A customer service that addresses the customer by name and preempts the conversation with the probable context of an open transaction, makes a customer feel good at the same time as making the whole transaction more efficient.

Digital, in this case, means that while the conversation could be enabled by social or mobile technologies, the conversation is personal and contextually relevant. A generic intelligent and predefined message, as governed by most digital technologies today, does the opposite and alienates the customer.

The real digital lies in a process that integrates with the underlying identity and content systems to work in context. So, every process—whether it is a customer service request management, or an incident management, or part of a CRM or ERP driven process—needs to have an integrated underlying content management system that provides the context.

It’s relevant more so in a digital world, because a variety of content gets created and is relevant for most customer facing processes today. Apart from traditional documents that need to be scanned and made available, there are lots of other transactional content that can complete the context for a customer—pictures or videos clicked through phones, for instance.

That’s how you delight your customers in the digital world – by acting in their context and treating them as people. Traditional BPM frameworks and workflows had one objective of automation resulting in operational streamlining. Being fast or agile today has multiple sub-requirements:

Smarter processes: Processes today require more than workflows. Smarter processes, unlike the phrase may suggest, goes beyond data driven intelligence, and should involve human smartness. You need ability to respond to emergent situations and that requires the ability to vary the navigation as the context changes. An ongoing investigation in a claim, for instance, may change course based on new information. A case management system does that if built well.

Empowered knowledge workers: Being fast and being flexible is not enough. Digital needs the processes to leverage knowledge workers in the organisation and include them fast enough in the process, without affecting the operational efficiency.

Superior context: As mentioned earlier, context enables people to see the situation and act in response to it. However, it is also critical for a speedy resolution of an emergent situation. For example, access to a relevant, albeit older document in time can be equally critical as the current transactional content.

So, being fast and responsive in digital world requires smarter processes, empowered knowledge workers, and accessible superior context – all in consideration of the fact that an automated fast is not as effective as the one powered by the human element, especially in digital world.

A truly digital business is one that can operate without boundaries. A business process that is truly digital on the other hand, is the one that involves participants outside traditional boundaries, and does that seamlessly. True digital also requires building processes with enough balance of automation and flexible human intervention. People are, after all, the core ingredient to digital. Connecting systems, processes, people and things is what is needed to put the human element back in digital. You need to reinvent your workspace to align with the contemporary times.

The writer is vice-president, marketing, Newgen Software

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