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Five minutes with… Andrew Herd – Chief Digital & Information Officer

We sat down with Andrew Herd, our Chief Digital & Information Officer, to ask him about some of the core challenges facing document-intensive businesses as they look to embrace digital transformation.

What are you seeing in the marketplace? Where are the barriers to digital transformation?

Technology teams are organised differently company to company. However, they will all be running at capacity and dealing with a raft of system upgrades and new product changes. If you take the example of financial services, these organisations have a broad array of enterprise support systems typically built around a core system of record, a contact centre, CRM, payment systems and a data warehouse. Simply maintaining and updating these, with their many integration points, whilst ensuring service continuity and protecting customer data is a significant challenge. As such, major transformational change - such as a shift to digitisation - is complex, costly, time consuming, and can introduce risk to the existing business processes. With this in mind, whilst a financial services business may be motivated to digitise, particularly in the face of competition from new market entrants that do not have a legacy platform, they are often constrained by these factors.

Can the scale of the challenge also be daunting?

Yes – this is the second core challenge that we see. In the case of traditional paper-based customer communications ‘digital transformation’ means many different things to different business leaders and in our client base we often see a range of differing views and levels of ambition. Some organisations approach the challenge from the perspective of cost savings, some are focused on improving the customer journey and creating ‘frictionless’ processes. Some are happy to accept a level of ‘disintegration’ whilst others are adamant the customer communication experience should be ‘unified’. Whatever the motivation, to go from a well-established, paper-based outbound communication channel to a multi-channel process including digital is not for the faint hearted.

When considering scale we also have to take into consideration that any organisation embarking on this challenge needs a team and an individual to lead this change. As change of this nature can sit across many business functions (and business units) these are high stakes change programmes requiring strong influencing skills alongside drive, determination and resilience on the part of the lead. Finding this level of resource and capability in an already busy organisation is never easy.

The final challenge regarding scale is related to customer data. In some cases there are millions of customers in the data record and the challenge of ensuring that the correct digital delivery detail is available and consistent is enormous, to say nothing of the risk this creates around customer data issues.

So – what advice are you giving to clients to overcome these issues?

We advise clients to start small whilst not losing sight of their end-goal. We typically advise them to concentrate initially on a simple first step of taking existing communication formats and delivering them digitally with an automated fall back to existing paper channels. This first step invariably unlocks cost-benefits which can then be re-invested, helps manage issues with data quality and, more importantly, often does not require a major change to long established communication templates and content.

Having taken this first step, many of the initial concerns regarding digital delivery begin to fade and confidence builds. It also creates momentum towards preparing the data set for further digitisation over time, develops new skills and capability within the organisation and, for many customers, enhances the customer experience.

Once organisations are on this journey we find clients want to discuss other challenges - perhaps in the management of inbound communication and often in the area of specific business process re-engineering. At this point we usually advise our clients to focus on Customer Experience led transformation and work with them to map existing business processes using Customer Journey Mapping tools. This is usually followed by collaboration on the creation of low and hi-fidelity mock-ups of new digitised processes. Usually, having seen the mock ups, our clients are eager to progress and we build prototypes in our cloud hosted digital enablement platform in a matter of weeks. Again, this approach takes the client on step-by-step journey which mitigates any concerns regarding ‘over committing’ to digital or ‘over extending’ their own resources as we allow clients to pause and ‘take stock’ at any point.

Ultimately, we are there to help. Businesses shouldn’t feel that they have to go it alone with the only option being to put yet more pressure on an already stretched technology team. We are helping organisations of every size, and across all sectors, to take that initial step. Those doing so now are already gaining ground on more legacy-constrained competitors and pushing against the rapid growth of new market entrants and disruptors.