Building the engine that drives digital transformation

This is the agreed view of the MIT Technology Review Insights survey of 210 member technology executives, conducted in March 2021. These respondents reported that they needed – and often still lack – the ability to rapidly develop new digital channels and services, and improve their in real time.

These waves of digital transformation are underpinned by two primary drivers: the ability to better serve and understand customers, and the need to increase the ability of employees to work more effectively to achieve these goals.

Two-thirds of respondents indicated that delivering the most efficient customer experience was the most important goal. This was closely followed by the use of analytics and insights to improve products and services (60%). Increased collaboration and group communication, and increased security of digital assets and intellectual property came in third, with about 55% each.

All digital goals are closely linked to improving customer and employee engagement, retention, and activation. Richard Gifts, vice president and general manager of digital solutions at HCL, notes that increased team collaboration and communication has received additional attention over the past year.

“With Covid-19, management teams needed to ensure remote work continued, which meant new levels of adoption of collaboration capabilities and the use of low code by employees to digitize business processes to fill in the gaps,” says Gifts.

Miao Song, chief information officer at Mars Petcare in Brussels, notes that digitalization is steadily redefining its global business in pet nutrition and veterinary services. “Our online business has seen double-digit growth, and the resulting volume of customer data allows us to better anticipate demand,” Song says.

Digital tools also allow more market data to be collected and used quickly. Song notes that AI-enabled image recognition tools are being used by Mars sales reps to scan retailers’ shelves and gain insight into better inventory management.

As Mars becomes increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence and analytics across the organization, it is teaching many employees to use low-code tools to enhance their internal capabilities. Low code is a software development approach that requires little to no coding to build applications and processes, allowing users without formal knowledge of coding or software development to create applications.

Song says, speaking of Mars’ efforts to increase digital literacy in an effort to enhance visibility across the company’s supply chain, improve pricing strategies, and develop new products and services.

Song notes that promoting the use of low-code development tools through hackathons and other activities has been an important part of Mars’ efforts: “We need to break the notion that only IT can access and use our data resources,” she adds.

Customer experience is (still) king

Survey respondents indicated that they have already seen a significant increase in performance in their customer experience operations since initiating their digital transformation efforts. Moving into next year, customer experience continues to be a priority.

Respondents seek to improve digital channels in particular, followed by analytics and personalization support, artificial intelligence or automated customer interaction tools. Other digital competencies are built to accommodate changes in customer and partner expectations and requirements, and to simplify customer experience processes by offering multi-experience capabilities.

Alan Pritchard, director of ICT services at Austin Health, a public hospital group based in Melbourne, Australia, explains that his company’s digital transformation process began accelerating before the impact of covid-19.

“A service review model in 2019 identified home monitoring and home care as critical to the delivery of our services in the future – so even before the pandemic, our health strategy was focused on improving digital channels and increasing our ability to support people outside of the hospital,” Pritchard says, noting In order to implement Austin Health’s outreach strategy, a common Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform must be built.

“While some future service models could be offered through telehealth initiatives or through device integration, there is still a lot of work to do looking at how you communicate electronically with people about their health,” Pritchard says.

An organization’s common CRM system is required to accommodate many independent specialized departments, and “each wants their own application to communicate electronically with their patients,” Pritchard notes.

Managing many separate application development processes is complex, although “there are common patterns in how departments interact with patients in the processes of booking appointments, setting up and follow-up,” Pritchard says, “so we need a platform that is highly reusable, rather than From a series of applications built on custom code.

This, along with the need to distribute some control and customization across multiple departments, led Prichard’s team down a low-code path.

This is largely related to the experiences of our survey group: more than 75% of respondents indicated that they increased their use of digital development platforms (including low code), and more than 80% increased their investment priorities in workflow management tools over the past year .

Download full report.

This content was produced by Insights, the dedicated content arm of the MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial team at the MIT Technology Review.

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