Technology: added value or added admin?

Ryan Folster, Business Analyst - Digital Division

In a world where Digital is the new playground, has the industry lost focus on what is truly important?

Organisations are chasing the digital dream, building mobile applications and responsive websites with advanced functionality, improving their customer touch points, operations, logistics, and the supply chain.

Understandable though this Digital journey may be, a question that must be asked is, are we chasing the technology and letting technology dictate the way business is being run, or are we using technology as an enabler to do business better?

A recent experience caused me to think about our Digital endeavours. In an attempt to book my car service I visited the dealership’s website and submitted an online booking. When I didn’t receive any confirmation, I called the dealership and found that no booking had been made. A backend processing mismatch had lost my booking and turned their ‘convenient’ online solution into a negative experience, which made me think.

Why did the dealership consider this website functionality necessary?

A solution to the problem of allowing customers to book their car service already exists in that customers can call to make their bookings. The solution is already enabled by technology, namely through the telephone. So if they already had a successful telephonic booking capability hence solving the problem, then why was it necessary to seek out a newer digital solution?

This is a perfect example of digital driving the business, instead of enabling the business to perform better. How can we avoid falling into the trap of ‘chasing digital’ and creating superfluous solutions? How can we know when, where, and how to invest in new technology which will add real value to our customers?

Understand the problem

Businesses who focus on understanding and solving the problems of their customers in the context of their products and services are able to position themselves favourably to the market.

Where problems exist, there lies both the opportunity and potential to add real value. It is therefore crucial to find these problems, which is often made possible by engaging in root cause analysis and other techniques, like the ‘Five Whys’.

The start of understanding the problem is to ascertain if the problem even exists. This in itself can seem like a simple task but it can be much more complex.

Know and understand the customer

The economic landscape is constantly changing, meaning that for a business to be successful and relevant they must continue to innovate, develop, and improve on the value they provide to customers.

Customers are thus the starting point as it is only in understanding the customer and their needs that real value can be delivered. Too often organisations build solutions without putting themselves in their clients’ shoes, resulting in products and solutions that are out of touch with their customers. The rise of popular methodologies, like ‘Design Thinking’ which involves empathising with the client as a key principle in order to pull insights, has changed this.

This approach makes it clear that understanding the customer goes beyond their need for the product or service, and into their lifestyle, what drives them, and their overall needs and wants.
An example is seen in Facebook’s recent experiment, which may set them apart in the lower end market. To invoke empathy and understanding in their employees, Facebook is providing ‘2G Tuesdays’.

With frustratingly slow Internet speeds, employees will experience Facebook in much the same way that their client base from underdeveloped areas do. This is intended to motivate them to design products and enhancements that work for all their customers.

Allow customer value to prioritise

Organisations who want to succeed into the future must grow their customer base by providing as much value as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to let the customers become part of the way your organisation thinks and acts.

Once you have gained these insights into where they need the value and where their priorities lie, the next step is to develop products, solutions, and enhancements that maximise the value to the customers.

In many instances you will be able to build a business case for a specific solution that justifies the roll-out of that particular solution. This solution might not be in context of the other initiatives, which leads to a question of priorities. Which solution should be prioritised? Often the decision is based on which is more profitable. Simply, if the business case for one initiative gives you greater return on investment than another, then it is worth prioritising the more profitable solution.

Moreover, where we are constantly bombarded by technological innovation and the rise of Digital it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the customer be placed first.