This article first appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of DOCUMENT STRATEGY.
The term digital transformation is becoming something of a buzzword, but for many organizations this process is already well underway. The push to integrate digital technologies with business process has intensified in recent years due to a few driving factors — most notably, the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid adoption of technologies to enable remote work, digitalization of services and virtual customer relationships. Supply chain issues have also spurred this transition, with constraints that include an industry driver shortage, higher shipping costs, and delays through major US ports. Combined with inflation and labor shortages in the wake of the Great Resignation, each of these factors has emphasized the need for organizations to leverage digital technologies as a means of streamlining, automating and reducing the costs of their processes.
While the specific outcomes of digital transformation vary across organizations and industries, the Best Practices Assessments (BPAs) we’ve conducted at Madison Advisors have identified a few key steps at the core of most successful transitions. The first of these steps is an assessment of organizational support when it comes to digital initiatives, particularly the level of buy-in and leadership that can be counted upon from the C-suite. Infrastructure is also a crucial consideration at this stage, as a successful digital transformation requires a consolidated line of business (LOB) budget under centralized IT.
Once necessary structural changes are in place, it’s time to set measurable, strategic goals for the transformation with a particular focus on objectives with aggressive, short-term payback. At this stage, it’s important to prioritize goals that reduce technical debt within LOBs, as well as investments in new technologies offering a quick and demonstrable ROI. For goals around enhancing customer experience, one strategy is to start by mapping the typical customer journey in its entirety before zeroing in on improvements that can be made at each stage. Another critical area for goal setting is implementing digital skillset development for your organization; beyond simply integrating digital tools, you’ll need to ensure your employees have sufficient training to use them to their full potential.
Arguably, the most crucial step in the digital transformation journey is improving data quality and infrastructure. It is a known fact that data silos disrupt customer interactions and lead to confusion, detracting from customer experience overall. To drive client engagement, organizations must take time during this stage to eliminate (or at the very least, decrease) silos through the process of centralizing and normalizing customer data. With centralized customer and account data offering information that is linked across all LOBs, enterprises can offer a more streamlined customer experience while also realizing cost savings.
Implementing a digital workflow
In the earliest days of the pandemic, the sharp increase in remote work exposed various weaknesses of paper-based workflows, as well as the ability of digitalization to remedy these issues. However, a common pitfall of planning a digital transformation is the belief that simply digitizing existing processes will be enough to improve efficiency and customer experience. However, to achieve true interoperability, it’s crucial for businesses to take a close look at their existing processes and then streamline, update or eliminate where appropriate. After completing this process improvement stage, it’s possible to implement an effective digital workflow for both inbound and outbound communications.
When in tandem with process improvement, an effective digital workflow can result in various gains for the enterprise, including greater transparency and the ability to establish and measure key performance indicators (KPIs). In addition to basic production metrics, digital and automated workflows establish metrics for customer satisfaction, allowing for continued improvements to customer experience. Automated systems can also swiftly identify bottlenecks and suggest adjustments that will improve or eliminate them. These efficiencies are shown to reduce project timelines dramatically, often enabling the fulfillment of multi-year commitments in a matter of months.
Meeting customer requirements
With these digitized internal processes in place, the organization can focus on building customer engagement through multichannel communications. While print can and should remain part of an enterprise’s communications strategy, digitization enables a wider range of options for customers, making it possible to tailor their experiences to their individual needs and preferences. In a true omnichannel delivery system, customers will have the option to receive and view their communications via any combination of channels, including print, email with full bounce handling, personalized SMS messages, social media, mobile apps or web archive.
The final step in digital transformation is to measure performance. Automated systems typically include dashboards with multiple options for assessing the effectiveness of internal activities. Among the metrics available through a system’s dashboard are Net Promoter Scores (NPS), customer retention and renewal rates, acquisition costs per customer and customer satisfaction rates — all of which can help you gain insight into the success of your digital transformation.
At a time when enterprises must offset rising costs while also meeting the ever-evolving standard for customer experience, it’s especially important to accelerate your digital transformation efforts wherever your company is in the journey. To assist with digital transformation initiatives, Madison Advisors has developed an assessment tool that evaluates the enterprise’s overall implementation across four key elements: strategy, structure, processes, and systems. The resulting confidential report provides enterprises with our assessment, a maturity level for comparison with other organizations and a SWOT analysis to help the enterprise identify areas for improvement in their CCM/CXM initiatives.
A holistic, multi-phase approach based on quality data is a sure foundation for the success of any digital transformation. With the implementation of robust processes and continuous performance monitoring, enterprises can address the dynamic requirements of the post-pandemic business environment — all while providing the high standard of personalization and service that customers increasingly expect.
Richard Huff is Senior Analyst at Madison Advisors, an independent analyst and market research firm that addresses the needs of the electronic and print customer communications management marketplace. Visit www.madison-advisors.com.