And many of the traditional businesses are turning themselves around. Foxtel, the “legacy” cable TV provider in Australia, has grown its subscriber base by 19% off the back of its streaming services – where subscriber numbers are growing at over 60% YoY. ComfortDelgro – a transport provider based out of Singapore – is seeing its revenue start to increase again after being hit hard by digital competitors and the pandemic. CBA’s “Ceba” virtual assistant is winning plaudits in Australia and globally.
It’s Not Too Late to Catch-up!
In many respects, the fact that the digital disruptors got SO far ahead is an indication of just how slow the rest of the market was to respond, and a credit to the significant investments these innovators made to get ahead. But now that the rest of the market is catching up shows that there is no secret sauce when it comes to innovation. What Uber, Tesla, Amazon and every other digital innovator has done is replicable. Your business just needs to make the necessary changes to give you the ability to catch up to the digital innovators in your industry – do it well and you will even keep up with them or get ahead. And innovation is the leading business priority for most organisations today!
What all of the digital disruptors did fifteen years ago, and many other businesses have done since then, is develop the ability to create and improve digital customer experiences at pace. Nearly every customer experience is digital – at least in part. So creating great digital experiences will go a long way to creating great customer experiences. Sounds easy right?
However, what this actually means is they changed their culture, structure, KPIs, technology, skills and the nature of their business. Many organisations have beaten the path to becoming digital businesses – in fact, it is a well-worn path. When you set off on the journey you are no longer taking risks or heading out alone. There is a very clear playbook as to how to become a digital business today.
What Does a Digital Business Look Like?
If you are part of your organisation’s tech team and wondering how digital your business is, ask these questions:
Do you mainly deploy new technology services with the Waterfall project methodology?
Do all of the development work with the IT team (and not in business or customer teams)?
Does it take months or years to deploy new services?
Are your KPIs the same as they were 5-10 years ago?
If the answer to some or all of these questions is YES, then it is likely that you are working for a business that will not catch up with or get ahead of your competitors. You might have a few initiatives that see you make some ground on them – but innovation today is not about leaps and bounds – it is about continual improvement. If you catch up today but don’t have the ability to continually improve, you will have fallen behind again tomorrow…
The good news is it is never too late to start this journey. It typically starts from the top of your business – the CIO cannot make the entire business agile. The head of the digital cannot change the culture of the entire organisation. But the IT and digital teams can get the ball rolling by changing their structure and work processes. Start by moving some developers into the Customer Experience team (if you have one!). Stop funding projects and start funding squads, tribes and teams. Structure the team around the customer journey – or at least make it easier for customers to get value from the digital assets and services you offer. Hopefully, someone will notice the fact that the tech team is helping a business unit or team to operate with agility and they’ll start asking why they cannot have that same ability?
And by then the ball is rolling down the hill and you are on your way to being a digital business – and on your way to giving customers the products, services and experiences they demand today and tomorrow.
The period between W. Edwards Deming and Dotcom (let’s say 1950-2000) ushered in ERP and the modern software revolution. Over decades, highly refined processes and perfected workflows shifted from paper and clipboards into mainframe environments – from conveyor belts to computing and from ledgers to LANs.
In the progression to slightly less monolithic server-based business applications, millions of lines of customised code are transferred into configurable data fields, coupled with ready-made workflow connections, and processes based on standards set by leading companies and their representative bodies. The standardisation of business systems lowered the entry point for new enterprises, spawned new industries, and ultimately allowed SaaS to proliferate.
ERP was a true revolution in automating process and quality management systems and building the modern world. Cloud was then a transformation for ERP. It was an innovation on an original idea, but it wasn’t the next revolution. In many ways, by standardising business systems, we went too far. The vendor market over-estimated what configuration over customisation could achieve and ultimately set unachievable expectations in relation to client outcomes. On the client side, end-user organisations seized on vanilla processes and workflows and got lazy about working out solutions to their own problems. In chasing out-of-the-box software they sought to expedite, and even outsource, the hard work. In doing so, the core driver of 20th century post war economic prosperity was forgotten.
In business transformations there are no short cuts to results
One of the defining social drivers of the 21st century is a move towards the concept of individualism. We see it everywhere. In the transformation of traditional marriage, family, and identity structures. In the migration away from the concept of houses and homes, in the rise of the gig economy, and even in the regulatory schemes of government, financial and insurance services. The individual sits at the centre of new globalisation economic design and is giving rise to the next business systems revolution. At ServiceNow Knowledge 2022I was fortunate to hear Dr Catriona Wallaceand the Hon Victor Dominello MPdiscuss it in the context of their recent research. Dr Wallace described the trend as, “know me and care about me”, and discussed the requirements to operate within a world of both hyper-personalisation and ethical restraint.
This time however the business systems revolution to support this change is not being driven by process efficiencies and quality management, though they remain important tools. It is being driven by the pursuit of Experiential Excellence. You’ve heard it many times before and once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it – Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Digital Experience. These are all ambitions of populist organisational and service transformation agendas with Experiential Excellence at their core.
For business and technology leaders it requires a mental shift. Traditional ERP alone will not get us there. It means a new business systems methodology is required to accompany, and reflect the challenges of the modern world, not one created more than 70 years ago.
An Experiential Excellence platform isn’t just a new ERP. It’s a new type of system capable of operating at speed and with breakthrough power; but it is also capable of breaking the intellectual shackles of pre-configuration to help organisations recapture the essence of what Deming started so long ago and we somehow lost along the way: The ability to think about and solve any kind of complex, innovative and multi-objective, multi-stakeholder problem. And I think that ServiceNow, and the Now Platform, is the first company (and business system) to do it.
The sense of something special was clearly evident among ServiceNow staff and partners, at the event. But I don’t think they have yet nailed the messaging. And the reason is because there is still such a strong gravitational pull towards the old ERP model among end-user clients. This reinforces a need for ServiceNow to still define itself by the last 50 years of system technology rather than the next 50.
That needs to change. So, next time when a client asks, is ServiceNow an ERP or is it an RPA platform or something else, the answer is – it is neither, and both, and all, and sometimes at the same time. This wonderful superposition, the same quantum computing characteristic that allows a particle to be one thing, or either, or both, all at the same time, is the very essence of their opportunity – should they wish to take it.
To be a leader in the new quantum age of computing will mean taking the brave step of unshackling themselves from the 20th century view of ERP and lead the redefinition of business systems for the quantum age. Let the revolution begin.