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Incrementally Better: How Agile can help you digitally transform without breaking the bank

Incrementally Better: How Agile can help you digitally transform without breaking the bank

By Stephen Magennis, MD for Quality Business at Expleo

It isn’t the big that beat the small, but the fast that beat the slow. Change, and the pace of it makes business and life itself, exciting. Digital change, we’re promised, will reduce cost, boost margin, and deliver a competitive advantage – or at the very least ensure you keep pace with your customers, for whom change is as fast as a 5G network.

However, badly managed digital upgrades can be synonymous with overrun deadlines, requests for additional resource, hefty equipment and installation costs and slow training processes.

No surprise then that for many CFOs, digital transformation sounds like an expensive and incredibly painful buzzword. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In a world where more than half the global population accesses the internet on a mobile device[1], embracing digital (and whatever that means for your organisation) makes sense. But huge, heavy implementations and seismic top-down changes, don’t – so the way it is implemented and embraced has to change.

Retail is one area that has been digitally transformed beyond recognition in recent years. Think about the last few things you bought and the huge differences from buying them five, ten, or fifteen years ago, if indeed those products even existed that far in the past.

The change has been seismic: you probably placed the order with no more than five clicks or swipes. You may even have paid for it with facial recognition on your phone while you were connected to an underground Wi-Fi network and listening to streamed music via Bluetooth earphones. This wasn’t a change that happened in one go.

Every step of that process has been digitised, improved and evolved to deliver a major shift. This shift happened because lots of small changes were made to thousands of different things, each intended to make a better user experience, and together resulted in a colossal evolution.

In short, that is what an agile approach to digital transformation looks like and it nearly always starts with the customer, or end-user experience.

Now, the opportunity, in the case of retailers comes from the fact that, according to Adobe, only a minority of companies actually say that user experience is their primary point of differentiation.[2] And we certainly know, from our own purchase behaviours both on and offline, that the more seamless the experience, the more likely we are to make a repeat purchase.

The agile, digital-first approach isn’t just good for customers, as retailers have embraced the same evolutionary ways of thinking when it comes to improving their own processes. For example, chat bots reduce customer service costs and algorithms help customers discover products quicker, whilst data gathered provides once unimaginable levels of insight that can all be used to boost sales and revenues. The result, from all those small changes, is improved audience segmentation, reduced costs and a healthier bottom line.

So how can these lessons be adapted to service-based industries?

Regardless of size, or industry, the key is culture. It starts with fast-thinking people who are empowered to have, suggest and make ideas happen, and to encourage this way of thinking from the bottom to the top of the organisation. With enough thought-leaders setting the right examples, others will follow in their path and the number of small suggestions and ideas will multiply.

However, when it comes to managing these ideas, there are several well-established methodologies and, as much as their names may just sound like jargon, such as Agile, Scrum and Kanban they are all based on sound, proven theory and none of them involve being mauled by a six foot rugby player.

An Agile Strategy is beneficial as it encourages fast, small, iterative changes by focussing on achieving incremental goals and milestones, reducing the overall time to implement a change or develop a service. It allows the flexibility to change path or modify a plan without drastically increasing budgets.

Any business looking to undergo a digital transformation can, therefore, undoubtedly benefit from agile teams, a working environment which fosters change, and streamlined processes.

However, whilst this can all appear daunting and theoretical, there are organisations out there who can help you identify the most suitable team structures, ways of working and culture shifts in order to achieve sustainable ROI from your project.

Bringing the right expertise on board to manage digital transformation is essential. While many consultants offer general knowledge in change management and restructuring, choosing expertise in digital transformation will ensure long term success.

Working with the right digital partner will guarantee that the benefits are not limited to the initial project costs. The right digital partner will deliver the cultural shift to support the long-term flexibility of thought necessary to administer ongoing agility and efficiency.

Through this new way of thinking, organisations become subscribed to an agile approach which leads to more efficient internal processes and a streamlined customer experience. In turn, sales rise, costs fall and margins increase.

For example, we were recently asked to help a global insurance organisation transform its IT delivery. Using an Agile approach, over two years we have helped them adopt a number of change-management processes and behaviours, which have enabled the organisation, in the words of the CIO, “to surpass our initial expectations as Agile has now permeated all facets of their business.”

Simply put, businesses should not be afraid of digital transformation. Correctly executed, it can only deliver positive change.

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