Digitization: What it means to you

The Dictionary meaning on the web for digitization is – “It is the process of converting analog signals or information of any form into a digital format that can be understood by computer systems or electronic devices.”
Well, you must be wondering that what’s so special about that when organizations have for long invested in computing, whose sole purpose is digitization, isn’t it? Yes, that’s true but while the definition is correct in technical terms, in today’s times it encompasses much more than just the conversion from analog to digital form. Industry experts across sectors and geographies have much broader perceptions of digitization today. It’s not only about converting the analog information into digital assets but also, transforming the processes – both internal and external – for insightful engagements, greater cost reduction and profit margins.
Advancements in technology and increased expectations of people have resulted in paradigm shifts in solutions –from static informational websites, dynamic & transactional systems, real time highly interactive RIA solutions to the intelligent connected world called Internet of things(IoT) – the latest buzzword doing the rounds.

Mobile Effect

People’s usage patterns have also undergone a sea change owing to the spread and advancement of mobile technologies. Enterprises cannot afford to sidestep mobile aspects when designing solutions for themselves or their customers. People today have got more mobile devices then desktops/laptops. In a survey, it was found that an average person looks at his mobile nearly 150 times a day and accesses /engages more in short bursts with varying levels of internet connectivity – Wifi , 2G/ 3G or 4G

Social Effect

Social media has become a part of everyday life for majority of people on the globe; they use the platform to connect with people for variety of reasons. In terms of user concentration, Gen Y people – who are born after 90’s – emerges the largest group active on social platform. This generation is not shy of voicing their opinions, giving reviews, feedbacks or fighting for the cause on social platform. The platform has given people the power to question, demand or clearly express what’s valuable and acceptable. The organizations and institutions that understand this power shift and listen would stay relevant and thrive in time to come.

What does it mean for enterprises?

The changing demographics in culture and technology will have profound impact on the enterprises in both customer and employee engagements.

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ustomer View

• Know me better and Show Relevant: Customers will expect to be treated with exciting offers which are relevant to them and helps them to save money. The enterprises will be required to gather intelligence about the customer and then target only that which is relevant to them.
• Save time with Digital products and services: Enterprises will have to aim for optimizing the processes and get rid of queues or hold ups as far as possible – ranging from shopping, banking, healthcare, hotels, customer care etc. New and innovative ways of doing things will be required. The ability of the enterprises to deliver quicker to allow doing more with less effort will appeal and attract the customers
• Be Responsive – Multichannel: Mobile First Approach in solutions is customary for success. Mobile internet connectivity is improving day by day across the world and, people (especially younger generation) will expect to do more from their mobile itself. It’s going to be extremely important to design solutions and architectures for future that could allow accessibility on mobile, desktops and other devices alike that could come into picture when Internet-of-things (IoT) sets in
• Be Usable, Consistent and Engaging: User Experience and Usability is one of the key factors in the success of the solutions and will continue to be so. The solutions which makes customer think on how to use it will be a turn off. Customers will seek consistent and engaging experience regardless of wherever they come from. An extremely thorough and focused approach towards usability is necessary – starting from Interaction Design, Information structure, Wireframes, storyboards, design (appearance, graphics and suitable fonts) to testing.

Employee View

•Be Social: The ways people behave, interact or are accustomed to will spread out in their professional lives too at some level. As people are getting used to social platform, it’s no surprise then that urge for social flavor is heighted in day to day interactions and applications. Associates at organization look forward to – connect to right people for inspiration, creating their mark by sharing knowledge, get reviews / feedbacks/opinions, forming communities, asking and answering questions. In a nutshell – be seen and heard. It augurs well for the organization too, as the true stars emerge from the nook and corners within the organization.
•Be Democratic and Transparent: Once the processes and applications begin to have a social flavor in it, organizations will have to adapt to become democratic and transparent. The facts, questions and information on the platform will be right at the face all times and will be too hard to ignore. The leaders will have to learn the art of influencing without authority.
•Be Online – Anytime / Anywhere: People have gotten used to online ways of working and therefore, all of it will be expected in enterprises too (especially in geographically dispersed teams). All the key processes and activities needs to move into online space and be more effective. Anytime & anywhere access to participate in trainings, knowledge management, assessments, surveys and perform other key activities is going to be crucial.
•Be Fast and, Engaging: The applications within the enterprise will need to have social flavor not only in terms of functionality but, also the usability aspects. People have gotten used to high engaging / Fast and usable platforms in their day to day life so the expectations from the system that they interact are to be at least on par, failing which, the revolution at workplace will miss the mark.

Challenges

Becoming social, digitizing business and enterprises is a journey and, even if you convince yourself on its viability, it would present a fair share of challenges on its way from all corners – people, processes and technology.

•Security: As people start to share more and processes become digital, it also increases the risks of security in cyber space. Securing data and protecting it from thefts and intrusions will be paramount. Continuous monitoring of the networks, sound firewalls and access policies is imperative to safeguard customers and enterprises from security threats.
•Adapting Processes: Depending on the industry or area of application, there would be processes which have relied on traditional way of interaction & participation from actors involved. There would be departments, authority bodies and existing regulations around those. To take everybody onboard across segments and, deriving new ways of working is one of the biggest challenges you ought to face in the journey. Digitization will call for formulation on new policies around how to work /use the platforms, classification of information’s, what’s’ acceptable and what’s not etc.
•Driving Adoption: Any system becomes effective only when people use it else it’s a dead rubber. When you have people using the systems from teens to old alike with varying levels of digital awareness and know how then, it’s going to be challenge on how to create / present something which appeals to all and they come onboard quickly. For many who have accustomed to traditional ways to working and interacting the change will be difficult and uncomfortable.
•Architecture and Technology: Building engaging, interactive, intelligent and social flavored ecosystem of applications requires meticulous architecture and technology focus. SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytic and Cloud) are positioned as the future, technologies in these areas along with the changing demographics of Web and UX engineering will have to mastered to craft future ready solutions
Operational Training: Enterprises will have to spent effort on training and awareness initiatives to help people understand the norms of working and interacting in new ways. Like they say with “Great power comes great responsibility”, it’s very important that people understand the right ways of interacting in digital world and consequences of their lapses. For e.g. , awareness about the data theft attacks, processes and policies, do’s and don’ts is of paramount importance and a crucial activity not to be overlooked.

Stages of Digitization

There are various stages of digitization which the organizations goes through in its digitization journey

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The above diagram illustrates the quadrants with respect to digitization of individual processes and their inter-connection. The maximum value will be realized when there are inter-connected automated processes feeding of each other. When that happens, it makes it possible to take informed business decisions through attained intelligence. Depending on the current state of affairs enterprises will fall into one of the quadrants, huge concentration of enterprises will usually be in quadrant 3 wherein they would have the processes automated but, will have limited/non-real time inter-connections with other systems. For e.g., the customer care, sales, supply, fraud etc. may be digitized but, may not be very strongly connected and that’s the opportunity we are talking about in the digital age. It gives an enormous advantage of creating a 360 degree view of enterprises, customer and all other entities involved.

The crucial enabler for realization is people participation and that’s where, enterprises will have to provide solutions that cater to changing culture, usage and expectations of new age customer / employee.

The Game Plan

The task of digitizing various parts in the organization may look overwhelming but, with right approach steady and noteworthy progress in possible.

Discover: Begin by carefully and meticulously analyzing the improvement areas by using variety of tools such as – process mapping, flowcharts, cause and effect diagrams, force-field diagrams, statistical analysis on relevant data etc. Surveys and polls can be conducted within relevant teams for brainstorming.

Age Old 80/20: Out of all the areas gathered in discovery stage figure out that 20% which has the capacity to bring about 80% changes. The 20% is not only about the strategies or actions that needs to be taken but, also includes identifying the 20% user segment which could help in bringing 80% culture change that is needed.

Innovation: Include innovation in your business and technology strategies. Build pilots, Define and try out new processes. Foster innovation at workplace by having competitions such as codejams/ hackathons or geekday etc. Invest in creating skills required to craft new age solutions for customers.

Don’t Build – Integrate: Building something from scratch in these times should be thoroughly evaluated. The expectations have grown but, so have the available system and products. The SaaS, Paas, iPaas models along with products (open source/commercial) should be assessed for viability. For business agility and cost factors it could be worthwhile to integrate with the available than build from scratch.

Remove Boundaries: For Customer connect and Organizational Effectiveness, invest in becoming social and erect systems for them to self-serve. This means removing boundaries on the digital platform for both customers and employees alike. It allows opportunities to connect, learn, be involved, be visible and, be recognized without much of the effort at all. It’s an excellent medium to bring the culture of openness, equality and facilitates faster decision making.

Conclusion

The combination of advancements in smart devices, internet networks, Cloud computing and Big Data – coupled with the people’s social fixation and changing usage patterns /preferences/expectations – has created a stir which makes the need for digitization very strong. The rules of the game are changing at levels both intrinsic and extrinsic to enterprises.

For business it’s about putting customer in the center and treating them individually. Listening to behaviors, feedbacks, and usage patterns from variety of channels and adapting the products/services to changing demographics as quickly as possible.

For employees, it means creating an environment with social flavor where they can express themselves openly and break barriers. The success hungry and socially active Individuals of new generation imagine a workforce where they learn, ask, answer, compete, praise, reward, mentor and seek inspiration for pushing the limits every single day at work.

The enterprises which broaden the scope of digitization to both employee and customer specific operations/processes will experience organic and self-sustained growth on all fronts.
It would be interesting to know your experience in the digitization journey at your organization? What did it mean to you? Did it fulfill the promise?

Lalit Ruchandani

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