A version of this post appeared on CMSWire.
A lot of organizations pay lip service to “soft” values like customer experience, risk, and collaboration. But very few projects get the green light based entirely on these types of justifications. There are a couple of reasons why.
The most important one is that every organization has hundreds of potential investments it can make with its time and money. Executives would be foolish to not focus their investments in areas with direct payback within a stated time.
The second reason soft benefits often fail to justify investment is that organizations don’t have good metrics for what they claim to be impacting.
How do we quantify the customer experience we currently offer? What would a significant impact to that experience be? How are we going to measure that? Some organizations do have discipline around defining and collecting these data points. But the vast majority do not.
Thousands of good proposals for IT projects have been rejected because they have failed to provide a solid justification for the return on investment (ROI) that they expect.
But projects that promise digital transformation offer an opportunity to really impact the bottom line, with a measurable decrease to costs and increase to revenue.
Digital Experience Can Decrease Costs, Boost Revenue
Before we dive into the details, I want to define clearly what I mean by “digital transformation.” This has become a buzzword in the industry in the worst way. Everyone uses it to mean whatever they want it to mean.
When I reference it, I am using a very clear definition:
- Digital transformation is reimagining a business process as digital first/born digital, or rethinking service offerings to find ways to deliver them 100 percent digitally, cradle to grave.
- Digital transformation goes beyond simply digitizing paper and automating tasks associated with a business process.
Digital transformation is not simply recreating a manual process in a digital environment, or even automating that process. It is fundamentally rethinking how we can execute that process differently, and more efficiently, precisely because it is 100 percent digital. For 99 percent of us, that is very aspirational. But if we think about the goal clearly, we can describe the stages of maturity as we move toward that goal.
Four Stages of Digital Experience Maturity
There are four stages of maturity on the way to full-blown digital transformation.
The encouraging news is that there are benefits to be gained with each step you take along the way. You don’t need to jump from Level 1 to Level 4 to find a good business case.
In fact, I would suggest that you not try to leapfrog these steps for your current processes. It may be that you have a new product or service that you can release and support in a born- digital environment. Start there, as opposed to with an existing process.
For legacy stuff, it’s much better to mature incrementally—taking baby steps, rather than trying to play leapfrog. The reason for this is that the impact on the business is too drastic and tends to be rejected. Successful transitions ease the business into an increasingly digital and increasingly automated environment, instead of springing it on them whole cloth.
While this approach is slow, it’s been proved successful by real-life organizations that are dealing with legacy processes and infrastructure. One of the reasons the FinTech revolution has attracted so much participation from top talent in the banking and financial services area is that many executives think it would be easier to do away with all of the legacy stuff and start from scratch.
Digital Experience Connects the Dots
Digital transformation pulls together capabilities that are ordinarily managed separately. Many of the capabilities below have business, tech, and compliance owners. So bringing them together can be a task in itself.
Again, you don’t need to jump into this with both feet. You can think about capabilities that naturally support each other and where you are going to get the biggest bang for your buck.
For example, capture is a very mature technological capability, but chances are you’re not getting all the value you could from your current capture investment. Trends in capture have been to move the capture of information as far upstream as possible, in many cases having customers scan their own documents with a cell phone.
But all of the good capture tools can also grab electronic files like email with attachments or electronic fax. Thinking about your capture tool’s ability to span all types of information, regardless of channel or form, is a big opportunity for getting an ROI on a simple “digital” project.
The ROI in this case comes from moving digitization forward in the process and then keeping that information digital for all subsequent steps in the process. Right now there are many organizations with nice-looking digital capture set-ups, but then, somewhere downstream—say, during underwriting, or adjudication, or exception processing, users print those images and process the information as paper, and then finally scan the completed document for long-term storage.
We at Doculabs have written a lot about proving out the business case for capture, and the numbers are very favorable for moving that capability as far upstream in the process as you can.
Enhancing Document Capture
But we can also think about the intersection of two capabilities. Let’s add customer communication management or forms management to capture.
The example works with either capability. A lot of the trouble organizations have in auto-recognition during the capture process happens with forms or communications that were designed in-house.
Two simple fixes can reduce document processing time and increase our pull-through rates. The first is to design the documents to be more capture-friendly. You can find lots of best practices out on the web for that.
The second is to begin using 2D barcodes so that the capture environment doesn’t need to do any of the OCR/ICR work. It simply scans the barcode and inputs the data directly and saves a dumb image of the form for workflow and archiving.
Digital Experience Is Actionable
As you move upward along the maturity curve, you can focus on any specific capability for digital, or you can begin to bundle these together. In either case, the impact of these steps toward digital transformation is to reduce processing times, reduce calls to customer support, allow for reallocation of headcount, etc.
Of course, it may be that you can prove a solid justification for digitizing a process in your organization and still not get it approved. But at least it won’t be because you weren’t thinking about the value and impact of the project.
Sometimes there are just more urgent priorities. But the exciting aspect of digital transformation is that for many of the processes we want to impact, there are defined metrics to measure and hard costs that can be reduced.